This book is a mixture of fact and pure entertainment. It charts the life of Eleanor of Acquitaine from the death of her father, the ruler of the Duchy, when she was 15 (making her the heiress), through her marriage to and divorce from King Louis of France leading her to her love match with Henry II of England, a marriage which eventually turns into bitter mutual hatred, following Henry's decision to find a place in the royal nursery for a son, Geoffrey, born out of wedlock to one of his mistresses. The final seal of doom is set on the relationship when a rash outburst from the king prompts four of his knights to murder Thomas a Beckett in Canterbury Cathedral. This results in both Eleanor and their sons turning against Henry and plotting his downfall.
The novel is a compulsive and enjoyable read as it depicts Eleanor as a woman who tore up and threw away the Medieval rule book governing relationships with men, adding mixed race relationships,and incest between uncle and niece to a bubbling cauldron of implicitly expressed passionate love and hate.
It is also fascinating for its attempt to study the complex relationship between Henry and Thomas a Beckett, starting with friendship and brotherly love, when Beckett became Henry's Chancellor, and ending in two-way suspicion and distrust when Thomas is made Archbishop of Canterbury and chooses obedience to God rather than monarch.
This book is a successful blend of fact and fiction and at times it's hard to discern where one ends and the other begins. Its greatest achievement may be that it might encourage readers to study factual history about the people and events at this time. Highly recommended.