tsqThe Summer Queen is the first in a planned trilogy based on the life of Eleanor of Aquitaine (or Alienor as she is called here). After the glut of Eleanor novels a couple of years ago, this review is written with the assumption that most readers are familiar with Eleanor’s history. This review will discuss those known events freely and might be a bit spoilerish for those new to the period, so consider yourself warned.

Arranged marriages can’t have been easy under the best of circumstances, but Louis and Alienor had so many things against them from the get-go: raised to the church until his older brother dies, having to take the throne earlier than expected upon his father’s death, political treachery and double dealing, and worst of all everyone waiting and watching for the heir that never arrives (it’s all the woman’s fault you know). And then something happens that completely changes Louis and he’s forever changed and more devoted to the church than before (and not in a good way).

What she saw now was a querulous man, old before his time, full of righteous anger, his guilt and self-loathing twisting within him, so that all the ills of the world became the sins of the nearest scapegoat.

That return home was compelling stuff. And then we get to the crusade – quite an adventure just getting there, let alone what happened when Alienor wanted to cut ties there and take shelter with Uncle Raymond (no, not that – get your mind out of the gutter!). That Thierry is one nasty eunuch is all I’m saying…
The latter part of the novel revolves around the failed marriage, obtaining the annulment, and of course this:

The Count of Anjou and his son are come to Paris to discuss the situation…

Can I say how much a loved the portrayal of Henry? I loved the way he entered the story, and tempted to quote, but it’s too much fun to see it for yourself at the proper moment. I loved his vitality and energy, and oh boy did I love it when he sent a letter to Louis announcing the birth of his first son.

I loved the story; I loved the way the author wrote Alienor as a woman of her times instead of a thorough modern independent woman, or a slut in chase of anything in pants. As with all Chadwick novels, there’s also the added plus of being sucked into another century with the sights, smells and sounds that wrap up a darn-near perfect reading experience. I couldn’t put it down, and very sorry I’m going to have to wait for the next installment.

Many thanks to Ms. Chadwick for an advance copy.