Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: June 20, 2013
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads says, "Eleanor of Aquitaine is a 12th century icon who has fascinated readers for 800 years. But the real Eleanor remains elusive. This stunning novel introduces an Eleanor that all other writers have missed. Based on the most up-to-date research, it is the first novel to show Eleanor beginning her married life at 13. Overflowing with scandal, passion, triumph and tragedy, Eleanor's legendary story begins when her beloved father dies in the summer of 1137, and she is made to marry the young prince Louis of France. A week after the marriage she becomes a queen and her life will change beyond recognition ."
Eleanor, or Alienor as Chadwick refers to her, is just 13 years old at the time and is paired off in an arranged marriage to Louis, the French prince. This arranged marriage is essential to the future of Aquitaine as her father is gravelly ill. At first, Louis seems to be a good fit for her, but as the years go by, she realizes that behind closed doors, he is a different person. When she doesn't' provide an heir for him things become even worse as he feels it's a reflection of himself as well as God not blessing their marriage. Worst off, he blames Alienor and treats her horribly. Alienor has wanted an annulment for sometime now and desperately wants to be free from him. Once she is, she realizes quickly that she is the most sought out "marriage prize" in the world and this brings its own challenges. That is until Henry, the future leader of England, is interested in her and this changes everything as he is a more fitting match for her. Elizabeth Chadwick's first novel in the Eleanor of Aquitaine trilogy, The Summer Queen, is an interesting glimpse into medieval life and the extraordinary life of a powerful queen.
I enjoyed Alienor from the beginning and could really sympathize with her in The Summer Queen. With her being only 13 years old and thrown into a marriage with Louis---it sounds like a nightmare. As time goes on, he becomes even more of a monster and obsessed with religion and his rituals. The worst part is that he blames her for not providing a male heir, when we all know that it has nothing to do with her.
Once Henry, the future king of England comes into the picture, things start to get really interesting as he is her match in not only bravery, but determination as well. They make for an interesting medieval power couple in The Summer Queen.
My only issue with The Summer Queen was some of the lengthy sections dealing with the going-ons in court life that I feel could have been condensed, especially surrounding Louis and all of his monotonous issues.
But The Summer Queen isn't all marriages and annulments. There's court intrigue, affairs, drama with her sister, first loves, and the Holy Crusades. I did not know much about Alienor of Aquitaine prior to this novel, but now I am very interested in her life and what kind of future awaits her. I look forward to picking up book two, The Winter Crown, which deals with her escapades in England. This is the first novel I've read by Chadwick and I am very impressed. As a historical fiction fan, I will definitely be adding more of her novels to my TBR list.