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The Lost Letters of Aquitaine (Alais Capet #1)

3.58  ·  Rating details ·  1,145 Ratings  ·  149 Reviews
The only thing I felt was a strong hand around my neck, another around my waist, and -- before I could cry out -- I smelled the thick, sweet scent of a mandrake-soaked cloth. Unforgiving hands clapped it against my face, and all went dark.

Alais, the king of France's sister, is abducted while on her mission for the wily Eleanor of Aquitaine, the former Queen of England, to
Published (first published December 23rd 2003)
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Originally reviewed here.

Okay, all you lovers of Grave Mercy. Listen up. I think this book is for you. I first read THE CANTERBURY PAPERS about six years ago, though it was originally published back in 2003. This is Judith Koll Healey's first novel, though she was a previously published poet and author of short fiction. It was the cover that caught my eye in the bookstore. When I picked it up and read that it took place during the 12th century and involved the crafty Eleanor of Aquintaine and th
Rabbit {Paint me like one of your 19th century gothic heroines!}
I really enjoyed this book. Well plotted with decently-written characters. :D

This book is also not a chunkster. :)
Ana T.
I am always very fond of stories that bring some light to those minor, forgotten characters of history. I am fully aware that if they are minor characters a lot of the writer tells me is pure fiction but I like to imagine that it could have been so.

When I found a book about Princess Alais of France, of which I only knew she was Richard, the Lionheart's betrothed and that they never married because she became his father's mistress, I couldn't help but be interested. As many of the HF being publis
Mirah W
Jul 22, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this was a light, quick read. I had never heard of Princess Alais so I found the plot very engaging. I liked reading something about a little known figure in history as opposed to the more popular Henry, Eleanor, or Richard. Even though some turns in the plot were not a surprise for me, I still enjoyed it overall. The way Healey painted Alais made her interesting and I was curious how everything would play out for her in the end. While there may have been some discrepe ...more
Jul 18, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: light-fiction
I'm getting tired of saying "this was better than expected" so I guess I'll have to expect better in the future! A gutsy, smart heroine; a bunch of royalty, knights, and monks; mysterious kidnappings and letters; and love, passion, and old betrayal. There's a lot in this book. The dialog is fun, the emotion good (if a bit over-dramatic at times), and the action is well-played. Oh, and it takes place in 1200, so there are horses and maids and everything, thankfully excepting the body odor and dis ...more
Apr 19, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
A highly entertaining historical novel, set in the year 1200 in France and England and full of several familiar names from medieval history. Palace intrigue, lively characters, and a decent mystery kept this reader entertained. The novel's protagonist, Princesse Alais, feisty old gal that she was, the daughter of a king and sister to another, provided the central narrative. One came to completely admire her courage and determination, even as one wondered how she could not see what was right in f ...more
an easy & enthralling read - alternative history of Princesse Alais who was bethrothed (but not wed) to Richard the lionheart.
The Canterbury Papers by Judith Koll Healey is the first book of the Alais Capet mystery series set in 1200 France and England.

Historical facts revealed during the action of the story: Princess Alais Capet, daughter of King Louis VII of France, was raised in England by her stepmother Queen Eleanor, former wife of King Louis, later wife of King Henry II. Alais was once betrothed to Eleanor and Henry's son Richard (The Lion Heart). Her childhood dreams were forever disrupted when Henry imprisoned
Aug 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
At first I picked this up because I thought it was going to be related to The Canterbury Tales (which I love), but it is not. It is set in Medieval England and France (which is a setting that I think is overlooked in fiction, particularly in historical fiction). This novel tells a great tale of intrigue, royalty, chivalry and the Knights Templar. What I really enjoyed was the strength of the female protagonist. She wasn't a damsel in distress, like how many female characters from this era are po ...more
I really enjoy historical fiction, so I was excited, and I enjoyed it, but it was not as much a historical fiction as a novel. It definitely followed historical characters and was loosely based off of historical events, and I believe the author kept pretty closely with the time that she was writing in. I did enjoy the novel, the pacing was well done and I empathized with the main character quite a bit. It also had some twists that I wasn't expecting (though it wasn't terribly unpredictable). Ove ...more
Betty Dickie
Jul 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What if Alais Capet, originally betrothed to Richard the Lionheart, but mistress of Henry II, had a son? And what if that bastard son of King Henry not died as had been thought? Enter the Knights Templar and a scheme to get rid of troublesome king John, Eleanor of Aquitaine defending him, and Princess Alais, once again at the center of it all. Healey writes strong women well, and this is a fast paced tale of intrique and abduction, with a little romance thrown in for fun. REally good read.
Catherine Rowntree
Jul 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
I loved this book. Easy to read and just the right amount of historical details and romance. I had a lot of empathy for the central character, Alais, and the hard knocks she was dealt. I will be looking for more titles by this author.
Barbara Cart
Sep 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For anyone who like historical fiction, this is a fun read. For anyone who remembers the movie, "The Lion in Winter," with Peter O'Toole and Katherine Hepburn, you'll particularly enjoy this story.
Mona Bomgaars
Novel written about a Princess from the Middle Ages; real person but the story is fictional. An easy pleasant read relaxing pause in between the stress of currant news and politics.
Slow in spots and rather predictable. Did finish it though
Not usually the time period that appeals to me, but I found this book really interesting.

I read this as part of the 2017 #MMDChallenge (fun): "A book recommended by someone with great taste" (thanks Kim! :))
Rosanne Lortz
“This plot is ridiculous.” I was about a third of the way through The Canterbury Papers when I uttered those critical words to my husband. Eleanor of Aquitaine wanted Alais, the French princess who used to be betrothed to her son Richard, to travel to Canterbury and obtain some secret letters hidden in the altar near Thomas Becket’s tomb. In return, the princesse Alais would receive some information about a mysterious child that had long been presumed dead. “Why?” I kept asking myself. “Why in t ...more
Holly Herda
One of my favorite types of historical fiction is the type that deals with people who were real, but simply aren't given very much attention. For example, Eleanor of Aquitaine has been done to death. If she had been the main character of this book, rather than Alais Capet, I would not have picked it up. The author's use of Eleanor as a background character--albeit with considerable influence--was refreshing, as the book became more about how the next generation was influenced by her and her acti ...more
Jul 10, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookstore-finds, 2012
I have to say, it's not so much the unrealistic plot that got me about this book. I'm still wondering what the plot is. Alaïs is a French princess, raised at the English court with Eleanor of Aquitaine as her mother figure. But after King Henry had imprisoned Eleanor for trying to put her sons on the throne while he still lived, Henry takes Alaïs as his mistress, causing a rift between the two women that will never heal, and ruining Alaïs's chances of being married to his son Richard. Twenty yea ...more
Jenny OH
May 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love historical mysteries, and I love ones that incorporate historical events and people who don't typically get enough "screen time" and imagine their stories from the fragments that are recorded. So while Eleanor of Aquitaine and King John of England (as well as a few other recognizable figures) feature in this book, the main characters are much more obscure and therefore, to me, much more interesting to follow.

The narrator and protagonist, Alais Capet, is basically a footnote today; a quic
Jul 14, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who enjoys British historical fiction
I first picked this book up because I'm fascinated by any story that has anything remotely to do with the story surrounding Eleanor of Aquitaine and her family. However, when I first started this book, I wasn't so sure I was going to like it. It seemed calculated and obvious. The further I got into it, however, the more I began to enjoy it, and I found I was having a difficult time putting it down.

It's much in the same genre of books as The Other Boleyn Girl, where the protagonist is a relative
May 20, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Canterbury Papers brought to life an historical figure I'd never encountered before- Alaïs Capet, stepdaughter of Eleanor of Aquitane. This book did an excellent job of bringing a little-known figure into life, especially as an older (for the day) woman caught in the typical Plantagenet drama of the day.

There's a fair amount of actual history in here, and the author is good at calling out the fictitious bits from it. It's got a lot going on- mainly intrigue and mystery, but also adventure, a
Althea Ann
Set in the early 13th century, this book has more of the feeling of a
contemporary mystery/suspense novel. The middle-aged heroine, an obscure
historical figure (Alais Capet, a princess who was engaged to Richard the
Lionheart but whose marriage did not occur), is a smart and feisty woman
who would appeal to many fans of that subset of mystery novels which seem
to favor such women as protagonists - but I didn't find her believable as
a character of her time period. The historical details seem squished
Nov 15, 2007 rated it it was ok
I think there's a certain value in not starting a narrative when the main character is young, and then hauling us through their entire life. However, equally I think it makes us less interested in a character when everything interesting about them has happened in their past.

Alais, a princess of France, is sent by her would-have-been mother in law, Eleanor of England to retrieve certain indiscreet letters of hers from behind a particular stone behind a church altar. Hello, ridiculous plot! There
Kathy * Bookworm Nation
This story is about Princss Alais Capet. Alais is asked by Queen Eleanor (her step-mom) to retrieve some secret letters of hers hidden at Canterbury Cathedral. In return she promises to share some personal information with Alais. She agrees and when she finally arrives at Canterbury to searth for the letters she is abducted and taken prisoner by King John (her brother).

I debated between a 2 and 3 for this book. It took me about halfway through to really get into it. The begining was somewhat co
Alethea White-Previs
Set in medieval England and France, this novel uses as its main character a real person from the time, Princess Alais, former ward of Eleanor of Aquitaine. I admit to having a little difficulty at first, keeping up with all of the characters and their relationships, as I am much more experienced with Tudor history than medieval English and French history. Eleanor sends Alais to Canterbury Cathedral to secretly retrieve a cache of letters hidden behind the altar, but this only opens up a whole pl ...more
Dec 13, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
I'm a big Eleanor of Aquitaine fan* and was intrigued to read a story about the younger generation, the children of Eleanor, Henry, and Louis. In the end, though, I felt this book was undermined by a thousand cuts of historical inaccuracy. The 12th century characters keeps breaking into 20th century high-school French; they bathe all the time and dress in fabrics that weren't available until hundreds of years later; they nosh on salad and dab their lips with white-linen "serviettes." The main ch ...more
Nov 01, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was disappointed with this book and would not recommend it.

In my opinion, it is very poorly written. The characters are broadly drawn, lacking depth and personality, especially the main character/narrator, Princess Alais of France, who is anachronistic and unsympathetic. The story reads like a bad romance novel filled with "important secrets" that are finally revealed so casually that the reader wonders why so many artificial contrivances were made to keep them hidden- accept that if they wer
This book is one of my recent favorites... Historical fiction based on a little known princess in the old English monarcy. Alaiis is sent on a mission to find some letters for Queen Eleanor in exchange for some information regarding a son she had with Eleanor's husband, King Henry, when he had Eleanor held captive in a castle keep. As Alaiis makes the trek from her brother's court to Canterbury, the intrigues escalate. Without divulging too much of the plot, I will say that this story is definit ...more
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Judith Koll Healey is currently the president of a national firm that works with families in their philanthropic efforts. She is a published poet and short-fiction writer and has lectured internationally on the topic of art and the unconscious. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

* Alais Capet
More about Judith Koll Healey...

Other Books in the Series

Alais Capet (2 books)
  • The Rebel Princess (Alais Capet, #2)