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Four Sisters, All Queens
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Featured Author Group Reads > FA Group Read #5- Four Sisters, All Queens by Sherry Jones (Author Participation)

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message 1: by Jackie, That's Her Constableness to you! (last edited Jun 13, 2012 06:02PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jackie (thenightowl) | 2463 comments Mod
Feel free to discuss the group read here

As a reminder, Sherry is able to participate in the discussion in this thread. Click here if you want to discuss the book without author participation.

Remember to mark all spoilers!



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Book Description:
From the award-winning author of the controversial international bestseller The Jewel of Medina, a historical novel that chronicles the lives of four sisters, all daughters of Beatrice of Provence—all of whom became queens in medieval Europe. When Beatrice of Savoy, countess of Provence, sends her four beautiful, accomplished daughters to become queens, she admonishes them: Family comes first. As a result, the daughters—Marguerite, queen of France; Eleanor, queen of England; Sanchia, queen of Germany; and Beatrice, queen of Sicily—work not only to expand their husbands’ empires and broker peace between nations, but also to bring the House of Savoy to greater power and influence than before. Their father’s death, however, tears the sisters apart, pitting them against one another for the legacy each believes rightfully hers—Provence itself.

Told from alternating points of view of all four queens, and set in the tumultuous thirteenth century, this is a tale of greed, lust, ambition, and sibling rivalry on a royal scale, exploring the meaning of true power and bringing to life four of the most celebrated women of their time—each of whom had an impact on the history of Europe.
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Just a reminder that Sherry is doing a giveaway for her book!! :)
To get a free signed copy enter by signing up for her newsletter OR by subscribing to her blog: http://authorsherryjones.com. Giveaway ends June 22, so hurry!

Edited to add:
Sherry has some great resources on her blog. For example, the family tree,
map and a Bookclub Q&A .

Happy Reading!!


Sherry (msjones) | 53 comments Hello, everyone! I'm excited to discuss FOUR SISTERS, ALL QUEENS with you. I wrote this book because I was absolutely bedazzled by these women in Nancy Goldstone's biography FOUR QUEENS, and I wanted to bring them to glorious life. It was not, however, an easy book to write. For one thing, I knew so little about the Middle Ages, so I had lots of reading to do about the era -- customs, attire, food, people, religion, literature, everything! -- as well as the histories of these women. Then the writing, weaving their lives together like four delicate threads in a complex tapestry, as well as giving each sister her own distinct personality. The result, I hope, is a book that transports its readers into another time and place, and inspires us to find, and claim, our own power. Thank you!


Helen I am so eager to read this book....been on my TBR list and this is just the incentive I needed! Off to buy my copy today and will be back to share thoughts with others....exciting!


Donna (drspoon) | 9 comments Hello Sherry. My copy is on the way. I am looking forward to reading and discussing the book.


Sherry (msjones) | 53 comments Helen wrote: "I am so eager to read this book....been on my TBR list and this is just the incentive I needed! Off to buy my copy today and will be back to share thoughts with others....exciting!"

Lovely, Helen! I'm looking forward to discussing FOUR SISTERS, ALL QUEENS with you. ;)


Sherry (msjones) | 53 comments DonnaR wrote: "Hello Sherry. My copy is on the way. I am looking forward to reading and discussing the book."

Thank you, Donna! I hope you enjoy my four celebrity sisters. ;)


Leonide Martin | 88 comments Hi Sherry, I just found this book and am intrigued, as I'm now writing a novel about four great queens of the ancient Maya. I'm new to Goodreads/Historical Fictionistas and wonder how you got on FA Group Read. Also want to get a copy of your book.


Helen I am loving the book so far Sherry ... the characters I have such a vested interest in. The attention to historical detail is great. I do, however, have one question. Eleonore is pregnant and off to the battle of Poitou with Henry - could this be right? No confinement?


Sherry (msjones) | 53 comments Helen wrote: "I am loving the book so far Sherry ... the characters I have such a vested interest in. The attention to historical detail is great. I do, however, have one question. Eleonore is pregnant and off t..."

Yes, Helen, she was six months pregnant when she sailed with Henry to Gascony! These women were indomitable. Beatrice, too, was pregnant when she sailed with Charles to Egypt on Crusade -- she and Marguerite both bore children while on that journey. I believe confinement began after a woman's children were born, not before. And of course none of the rules seemed to apply in Egypt, as you shall see.


Sherry (msjones) | 53 comments Leonide wrote: "Hi Sherry, I just found this book and am intrigued, as I'm now writing a novel about four great queens of the ancient Maya. I'm new to Goodreads/Historical Fictionistas and wonder how you got on FA..."

Leonide, your book sounds fascinating! To find out how to be entered for the group read, go to the main "Featured Author Group Reads" thread here. They want active members of the group -- and you are now at least one post further toward that goal. ;)


message 11: by Elizabeth (last edited Jun 24, 2012 11:26AM) (new)

Elizabeth | 19 comments Why do you believe they went into confinement after they were born Sherry?
Oops. didn't phrase that very well. I know they were in confinement afterwards, but it would be interesting to know how soon before the birth aristocratic women retired (given that they weren't travelling at the time) or if they did. I often come across women in mid to late term travelling hither and yon, but it would be interesting to know more about their activities immediately prior to full term. Obviously it would depend on position in society.


Helen Sherry wrote: "Helen wrote: "I am loving the book so far Sherry ... the characters I have such a vested interest in. The attention to historical detail is great. I do, however, have one question. Eleonore is preg..."

Incredible! Thanks so much Sherry!


Susan | 1 comments I read and really enjoyed Four Sisters All Queens. It was amazing what each of these four women had to go through.


Sherry (msjones) | 53 comments Elizabeth wrote: "Why do you believe they went into confinement after they were born Sherry?
Oops. didn't phrase that very well. I know they were in confinement afterwards, but it would be interesting to know how ..."


Elizabeth, I have a document somewhere that details the confinement and the "churching" ceremony which ended it for medieval women. I'll find it and see if it talks about pre-delivery confinement. I really don't think there was any, but I could be mistaken.


Sherry (msjones) | 53 comments Susan wrote: "I read and really enjoyed Four Sisters All Queens. It was amazing what each of these four women had to go through."

Susan, I know! The strength and determination of these women -- even of poor Sanchia -- is what drew me to them in the first place. None of them had easy lives; they had to fight for everything they gained, and then fight some more to keep it. Being a queen is, really, no fairy tale.


Helen I see what you mean about Egypt Sherry! WOW! Now this brings me to a question about Margeurite .... so strong on the outside but somewhat softer inside - is this how you were trying to portray her? Her sisters seem to view her so differently to the internal dialogue that Margeurite has with herself in her chapters - unsure and vulnerable?


Kathryn | 4 comments I am really enjoying this book. I love the historical details and the individuality of the characters is amazing. These women are really amazing, they went through so much! I am 3/4 of the way done and I am looking forward to how it all ends.


Sherry (msjones) | 53 comments Helen wrote: "I see what you mean about Egypt Sherry! WOW! Now this brings me to a question about Margeurite .... so strong on the outside but somewhat softer inside - is this how you were trying to portray her?..."

Helen, yes, Marguerite is a sweet and vulnerable person who has to project strength, especially where her mother-in-law is concerned. Also, as the oldest, she's seen as being very strong by her sisters. I don't know that she's unsure -- she's savvy enough to figure things out pretty quickly -- but she's lonely in France, and she yearns for love and respect (and she finds those things, but not with her husband). She's smart and patient and somewhat wise, and determined to claim the power, and the inheritance, that's her due -- but as a ruler, she proves to be benevolent and wise. BUT don't cross her or there will be hell to pay, as Beatrice finds out.

We're all multi-faceted; I enjoy portraying humanity in all its glorious complexity. When I write a character who's evil, I look for the good inside, and for what circumstances in life made him or her that way. And when I must portray a character as purely good or bad -- as with Blanche de Castille, whom we see only through Marguerite's eyes -- it disturbs me. So far, I've found ways to get around this problem. For instance, Ali, the nemesis of my protagonist A'isha in my first book, THE JEWEL OF MEDINA, is seen only through her eyes -- but I know that he had good qualities. So I wrote THE SWORD OF MEDINA, the sequel, from alternating points of view -- A'isha's and Ali's. This, I hope, provides empathy for Ali's character. Likewise, I felt my portrayal of Blanche de Castille in FOUR SISTERS, ALL QUEENS lacked complexity. Showing her through Marguerite's eyes meant that she's pure evil, or at least very obnoxious. But I know that she was a kick-ass queen who had to deal with constant rebellion among misogynistic men early in her reign. So I wrote WHITE HEART, the e-novella prequel to this book, so I could show the reader how Blanche got to be the way she is.


Sherry (msjones) | 53 comments Kathryn wrote: "I am really enjoying this book. I love the historical details and the individuality of the characters is amazing. These women are really amazing, they went through so much! I am 3/4 of the way done..."

Kathryn, I'm with you. I have so much respect for these women -- I am truly in awe! Marguerite in the Crusades; Eleonore in the revolution against her and Henry; Sanchia in her sad life (she had a much different struggle than her sisters, but finds her strength) -- and what Beatrice does to help Charles is just amazing! I'm in awe of their mother, most of all. Again, though, what do we ultimately think of Beatrice of Savoy? She was ambitious for her daughters, and for her family, the House of Savoy, but she did not seem to consider her daughters' happiness all that much. She sent Marguerite off to marry at age 12, and knowing that she wanted to stay in Provence; she sent Eleonore off to marry a man more than twice her age; she sent Sanchia to marry a known womanizer even though Sanchia wanted to become a nun; she let Beatrice be carried off by Charles even though Beatrice wanted to rule Provence on her own. Was she doing the best she could for her daughters, or for herself?


message 20: by JoLene, Mistress of the Challenge (new) - rated it 4 stars

JoLene (trvl2mtns) | 1352 comments Mod
Re: Beatrice of Savoy, I personally think that she was living her motto of family first. However, it seems that family means family name, not individual happiness of family members.

To think that Beatrice and her brothers were able to broker deals to marry her two oldest daughters to kings seems amazing to me. Although Sanchia and Beatrice did eventually become queens, they were not married to princes --- only kings' brothers but not directly in line for a throne --- Richard and Charles got their thrones through making deals. I had no idea that so many thrones were up for grabs in this time period.


message 21: by JoLene, Mistress of the Challenge (new) - rated it 4 stars

JoLene (trvl2mtns) | 1352 comments Mod
Question: Provence was referred to as a county throughout the book. I would have thought it was considered a country. Would all the regions (Gauscony, Brittany, Aquitaine) of France also be considered counties? They don't seem to be part of France as the country, since that's why Marguerite's father left Provence to Beatrice, to keep it out of French hands.


Helen Love your question Sherry on motivation....what of Beatrice of Savoy (mother)??


Sherry (msjones) | 53 comments JoLene wrote: "Re: Beatrice of Savoy, I personally think that she was living her motto of family first. However, it seems that family means family name, not individual happiness of family members.

To think th..."


These kingdoms were up for grabs at this time because of the death of the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II, and the pope's determination not to let his sons succeed him (he had had enough of the Hohenstaufens). Frederick's death left Sicily and Germany without a ruler, since both had been part of the Holy Roman Empire.


Sherry (msjones) | 53 comments JoLene wrote: "Question: Provence was referred to as a county throughout the book. I would have thought it was considered a country. Would all the regions (Gauscony, Brittany, Aquitaine) of France also be cons..."

JoLene, Provence was not a part of France during this time, but an independent county. France comprised a fairly small area, in fact. However it did control Normandy, Aquitaine, Anjou, and many other counties and duchys in the area by way of fiefdom -- the counts and dukes of those places served the French king as vassals, pledging to pay taxes to him and to fight for him in exchange for his protection against invasions or other hostile attacks. Some of these lands had belonged to England but King Philip Augustus, Louis IX's grandfather, took them from King John. John never won them back, but King Henry III was determined to do so. He still held Gascony as its duke, but nevertheless had to pay homage to King Louis IX.


Sherry (msjones) | 53 comments Helen wrote: "Love your question Sherry on motivation....what of Beatrice of Savoy (mother)??"

Helen, I think Beatrice of Savoy really thought she was doing her best for her daughters. And maybe she was, except in Sanchia's case. You know, though, there wasn't much of a sense of individuality at that time. Everything was done for the family, or the kingdom. So, given the norms of her time, placing four daughters into queenship must have been the best thing a mother could do, for her daughters AND for her family. The House of Savoy went on to rule Italy until the mid 20th-century, losing power to Mussolini.


Helen Wow! You are such a wealth of information Sherry! Thank you for taking the time to impart such details. It really helps enrich my understanding of the story.


Sherry (msjones) | 53 comments Helen wrote: "Wow! You are such a wealth of information Sherry! Thank you for taking the time to impart such details. It really helps enrich my understanding of the story."

Oh, gosh, Helen, I just love talking about my books, and I'm so pleased that you all are reading "Four Sisters, All Queens" and that you want to discuss it with me. I've got some blogging to do about it, and you all are giving me some great ideas for topics.


Kathryn | 4 comments I just finished it and thought the story of these four sisters was truly amazing. And all the information you have provided through these questions has helped enrich the material. This book is written during my favorite time in history so i just eat books like this up. I like how the perspective changes with the sisters as they go through their life and events happen.


message 29: by Amelie (new) - added it

Amelie | -39 comments am enjoying it alot ... did you have evidence for the personalities you gave them or did you have to infer it or make it up?


Sherry (msjones) | 53 comments Kathryn wrote: "I just finished it and thought the story of these four sisters was truly amazing. And all the information you have provided through these questions has helped enrich the material. This book is writ..."

Thank you, Kathryn! This point-of-view shift was challenging to pull off. I'm glad you think it works! This book has been praised to high heaven for its chacterization of the four sisters, and I think the method I chose to tell their stories, with shifts in perspective, is one reason why.


Sherry (msjones) | 53 comments Amelie wrote: "am enjoying it alot ... did you have evidence for the personalities you gave them or did you have to infer it or make it up?"

Kathryn, there was a lot of evidence based on their actions. Marguerite, for instance, changed the roster of trouveres, or Parisian troubadours, at the court, telling me that she was very much a fan of the poets and their songs. She also waited many years for a son and also for the chance to rule, telling me she was patient. Eleonore got her relatives placed in high positions, was known to be a bold advocate for her childrens' interests, loved the hunt, and accompanied Henry to war when she was six months pregnant -- it wasn't difficult to surmise that she was a bold, determined, headstrong woman. Timid Sanchia was said to hate Germany and her husband was known to be something of a womanizer whi,disenchanted with her lack of political prowess, left her to die alone. Beatrice stood by her man even when he was cruel, and led 26,000 troops over the Alps in November so they could become King and Queen of Sicily. I made Marguerite a wit, Eleonore impulsive and a little clueless about tthe common folk, Sanchia an anti-Semite, and Beatrice a snark with a hidden, tender heart because I know that we are none of us completely good or completely bad.


Kathryn | 4 comments Thank you for sharing where you came up with the personalities . They were very rich and full.


Sherry (msjones) | 53 comments Sherry wrote: "Amelie wrote: "am enjoying it alot ... did you have evidence for the personalities you gave them or did you have to infer it or make it up?"

Kathryn, there was a lot of evidence based on their act..."


I'm sorry; I called you Kathryn, Amelie!


Sherry (msjones) | 53 comments Kathryn wrote: "Thank you for sharing where you came up with the personalities . They were very rich and full."

Kathryn, I'm glad you enjoyed FOUR SISTERS, ALL QUEENS. Which sister was your favorite?


Sherry (msjones) | 53 comments A message to all readers of FOUR SISTERS, ALL QUEENS:

It pains me to hear people who've read FOUR SISTERS, ALL QUEENS say that they don't like Sanchia, or Beatrice. I dislike Sanchia's anti-Semitism but I do feel sympathetic to her. I love her kind heart. As for Beatrice, she's so snarky that I can't help loving her! She was definitely the most fun to write.

What do you think? Do you like all the sisters, or not? Which is your favorite, and why? Which sister do you like least?


Helen such a great question Sherry and as I move into the last 1o% of the book, one I would like to ponder. Sanchia has such a soft heart, how could one not feel for her? Margi is strong and I do understand her drive, especially for a piece of Provence, but I cannot truly understand the way she treats Beatrice. Eleonera is very capable and strong and perhaps the most well rounded and capable at adapting. For me I think I like Beatrice, maybe as I am the youngest sister and can relate....but she tries to do good and right and I admire her for that.

What I love best and most of all is the interactions between all three, the book moves seamlessly between character narratives and its a wonderful intertwining!


Kathryn | 4 comments Sherry wrote: "Kathryn wrote: "Thank you for sharing where you came up with the personalities . They were very rich and full."

Kathryn, I'm glad you enjoyed FOUR SISTERS, ALL QUEENS. Which sister was your favorite?"


Beatrice would be my favorite,she is kind and wants to do right by her family even if they can't see it at the time.


Sherry (msjones) | 53 comments Helen wrote: "such a great question Sherry and as I move into the last 1o% of the book, one I would like to ponder. Sanchia has such a soft heart, how could one not feel for her? Margi is strong and I do underst..."

Helen, I, too, love the scenes where the sisters are together and talking/interacting. I really enjoy writing dialogue, especially group dialogue, especially when the group is female. My first novel, THE JEWEL OF MEDINA, has a number of harem scenes -- lots of terrific banter, lots of fun to write and read!


Susan | 1 comments Sherry wrote: "A message to all readers of FOUR SISTERS, ALL QUEENS:

It pains me to hear people who've read FOUR SISTERS, ALL QUEENS say that they don't like Sanchia, or Beatrice. I dislike Sanchia's anti-Semiti..."


I liked all four sisters. I liked seeing all four points of view and the different sides to the story. Marguerite and Eleonore were my favorites though.


Donna (drspoon) | 9 comments The complicated sisterly relationships were very true to real life in terms of sibling rivalries, age placement in the family, and perceptions about parental love and approval - very well done! Marguerite and Eleonre were the most resilient,I think. My least favorite character portrayal was Louis IX - very little to like there, although I guess he was canonized!


Sherry (msjones) | 53 comments DonnaR wrote: "The complicated sisterly relationships were very true to real life in terms of sibling rivalries, age placement in the family, and perceptions about parental love and approval - very well done! Ma..."

Yes, Donna, Louis IX was canonized -- but as you may have read, Marguerite refused to testify on his behalf at his sainthood hearings. As I had her say in an earlier draft, "Louis was no saint."


message 42: by Belles (new)

Belles Livres (BellesLivres) | -20 comments Do you really expect your readers to like all your characters? I think it's possible to really enjoy a book but not like everyone in it.


Sherry (msjones) | 53 comments Belles wrote: "Do you really expect your readers to like all your characters? I think it's possible to really enjoy a book but not like everyone in it."

No, I don't expect that at all, Belle! I do, however, hope for empathy for the sisters in this book. In writing them, I took care to honor their less appealing qualities as well as their more admirable traits. It's more important to me that a character be well rounded -- convincing -- than that she be liked. And yet, I do see redeeming qualities in both Sanchia and Beatrice. Mostly, I'm just curious as to which of the sisters my readers enjoy the most. Beatrice's snarky, go-to-hell personality made her the most enjoyable for me to write.


message 44: by JoLene, Mistress of the Challenge (new) - rated it 4 stars

JoLene (trvl2mtns) | 1352 comments Mod
I did think that the sisters were well-rounded and sometimes surprised me which is great.

As for favorites, I too really liked Beatrice. I think that Marguerite would have been fun to hang out with given her wit. I relate the least to Sanchia, but it's not because of the characterization, but because I would have less in common with her.


Rio (Lynne) I'm on page 111. The Crown of The Thorns just happened. That was funny. I need to google that. Did that actual happen or was that scene mostly fiction?


Sherry (msjones) | 53 comments Rio (Lynne) wrote: "I'm on page 111. The Crown of The Thorns just happened. That was funny. I need to google that. Did that actual happen or was that scene mostly fiction?"

It actually happened, the entourage's going out to meet Baldwin, the ceremony, Louis and Robert walking back to Paris with it barefoot. I saw the Crown of Thorns at Notre Dame Cathedral and it did look like a tangle of weeds. But Marguerite's response and the responses of the others is all my imagination. I think it's a pretty funny scene, too!


message 47: by Helen (last edited Jul 02, 2012 06:26PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Helen Sherry wrote: "Belles wrote: "Do you really expect your readers to like all your characters? I think it's possible to really enjoy a book but not like everyone in it."

No, I don't expect that at all, Belle! I d..."


But Sherry I kind of feel that Beatrice outward personality hides a much different person underneath? Her loyalty to husband and sisters and the fact that she cares so much.


Rio (Lynne) Sherry wrote: "Rio (Lynne) wrote: "I'm on page 111. The Crown of The Thorns just happened. That was funny. I need to google that. Did that actual happen or was that scene mostly fiction?"

It actually happened, t..."


That's interesting that the weeds Crown of Thorns is still in one piece and in France.


Sherry (msjones) | 53 comments Helen wrote: "Sherry wrote: "Belles wrote: "Do you really expect your readers to like all your characters? I think it's possible to really enjoy a book but not like everyone in it."

No, I don't expect that at ..."


Yes Helen, that's exactly how Beatrice is. Yet she is also ruthlessly ambitious, snarky and sometimes condescending, and she goes along with Charles's atrocities. She's far from perfect but aren't we all?


Sherry (msjones) | 53 comments Rio (Lynne) wrote: "Sherry wrote: "Rio (Lynne) wrote: "I'm on page 111. The Crown of The Thorns just happened. That was funny. I need to google that. Did that actual happen or was that scene mostly fiction?"

It actua..."

Ha ha! :D Go and check it out! Actually, I may have a photo of it from my visit. if I doI think it's high time I posted it on my website, don't you?


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