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Time and Chance (Henry II & Eleanor of Aquitaine Book 2) and over 2 million other books are available for Amazon Kindle . Learn more
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Time and Chance Hardcover – 4 Apr 2002

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Michael Joseph Ltd; First edition (4 April 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0718143086
  • ISBN-13: 978-0718143084
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 4.4 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 516,478 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I am an American of Irish-English-Welsh heritage, and I currently live in New Jersey, although many of my readers imagine I am happily dwelling upon a Welsh mountaintop--but no such luck. I was once a tax lawyer, which I looked upon as penance for my sins. Like most writers, I was born with a love of the written word, although I never expected to be able to support myself as a writer; when you read about starving artists in their garrets, most of them have starving writers as roommates. But I was very lucky and I have been blessed to make my living as a writer for the past twenty-seven years or so. All of my novels--eleven at last count--are set in the Middle Ages, and focus upon England's most colorful dynasty, the Plantagenets. It is almost as if they lived their dramatic and often wildly improbable lives with future historical novelists in mind, and I am very grateful to them--especially to the Angevins,Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine and their equally famous children, known to their contemporaries as the Devil's Brood.

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Amazon Review

The Sunne in Splendour confirmed Sharon Penman's place in the upper echelons of historical novelists, combining a breathtaking panoply of the past with an acute psychological observation of her characters. Time and Chance is the second part of her trilogy about Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, beginning in the glory years of their reign. Penman conjures for us an astonishing era in which Henry battles with the Welsh and the French king, appoints Thomas Becket as Archbishop of Canterbury and, by taking a mistress, makes a bitter enemy of his wife.

Novelists are all too conscious of the pitfalls of the second book in a trilogy--traditionally, the weakest before the rallying of the final volume. Penman deals with this problem with panache. We knew from her earlier work the scalpel-like precision of her character building, but the emotional lives of Henry and the troubled Eleanor are powerfully realised. As in the first book of the sequence, When Christ and his Saints Slept, conflict is ever the driving force. Henry and Eleanor's remarkable partnership was proving highly fecund, both politically (as Henry created a new image of medieval kingship), and physically, as Eleanor gave birth to five sons and three daughters, laying to rest her reputation as a barren queen and founding a dynasty that was to last three centuries. But auguries of trouble ahead were apparent: war with the Welsh; acrimonious battles with Eleanor's first husband, the French King. But the truly destabilising factor was Henry's decision to appoint his friend and confidant Thomas Becket as Archbishop of Canterbury. Henry had assumed that the worldly, ambitious Becket would be the perfect ally, and was devastated when the new archbishop cast off his own worldly past as he embraced his role as Defender of the Faith, swapping dissolution for piety.

As Penman vividly demonstrates, Henry saw Becket's action as a humiliating betrayal. One of the most famous murders in history ensued, with further conflict in the kingdom caused by a liaison with the daughter of a baron. In bedding Rosamund Clifford, Henry put his marriage and even his kingship at risk. As always Penman wears her research lightly: the personal drama is the engine of her narrative, with each fresh scandal and intrigue delivered with a beguiling combination of relish and restraint. She is assured in her detailing of the political and ecclesiastical clashes of the court, but it is Henry II who strides her novel like a colossus--just as he did the kingdom he ruled. --Barry Forshaw


"Did Eleanor get lost in Aquitaine?" was the e-mail that Penman received from one of her anxious readers after this, the second part of a trilogy that started with When Christ and His Saints Slept (1994), seemed to be a long time in coming. Well, the wait is over and Time and Chance continues from the year 1156 the story of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. Central to this account is the famous episode of Thomas Becket's appointment as Archbishop of Canterbury, and Henry's betrayal of Eleanor. The murder of Thomas Becket, which is hardly giving away the plot, is still perhaps Christendom's greatest scandal. This is historical fiction conceived on a grand scale, graced with good period detail and a gripping narrative pace.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By J. Chippindale TOP 500 REVIEWER on 21 Mar. 2005
Format: Hardcover
I always look forward to a Sharon Penman novel that I have not read before. This one kept me interested throughout the book. She has the ability to make the reader feel they are there with the characters, no mean feat.
The story is about the turbulent relationship between Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. Starting in 1156 the couple have been married for four years. The birth of their sons has ensured the succession to the throne, but civil war has seen the country torn apart.
Henry needs to defend the borders of England against France and Wales, but his most daunting task is his fight with the church to stop them from infringing on his power.
This conflict culminates with his one time friend Thomas Becket, whom Henry has made Archbishop of Canterbury, being murdered in Canterbury Cathedral. (Something that is probably burned on the mind of school children throughout England).
Sharon Penman is not a prolific writer, which is understandable considering the amount of research that must go into each of her books. This book stands out among historical novels.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Cat. A on 23 Jun. 2002
Format: Hardcover
I've been long awaiting this book, a story of the reign of Henry II and his relationship with the magnificent Eleanor of Aquitaine, as well as the tumultuous events that led to the death of Thomas Becket. I absolutely adore her writing, the detail and care which she takes with her work make it a pleasure to read. Although some may find it overlong it covers so much history and in addition a few of her own characters who only add to the story. Also contained in the book is a little of the earlier history of Wales, she explored its defeat so well in other books (Here be Dragons, Falls the Shadow, The Reckoning), it was fascinating to read a little more of a country long neglected.
I highly recommend this book, but also do read its predecessor, When Christ and the Saints Slept, this will illuminate the story even more.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Joe HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 13 Feb. 2006
Format: Hardcover
"What miserable drones and traitors I have nourished and promoted in my household, who let their lord be mocked so shamefully by a lowborn clerk!"
Thus, in TIME AND CHANCE, is author Sharon Kay Penman's version of the angry words that compelled four of Henry II's knights to commit one of the most famous assassinations in Western European history, that of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury.
The second in an ostensible series of three works of historical fiction - the last has yet to appear - about the first Plantagenet King of England and his consort, Eleanor of Aquitaine, this volume spans the period 1156 - 1171. Woven into the plot are the four pivotal events (for historians, novelists and screenwriters, at least) of that period: Henry's subjugation of the Welsh king, Owain Gwynedd, Henry's taking of Rosamund Clifford as his mistress, Henry's disastrous relationship with Becket, and the crowning of Henry's oldest son, Young Henry, as Ol' Dad's heir apparent.
Judging from Penman's other novels, she has a fascination with medieval Wales. Here, she fleshes out much of the Owain Gwynedd subplot through a completely fictional character, Ranulf Fitz Roy, carried over from the first book in the series, WHEN CHRIST AND HIS SAINTS SLEPT, which dealt with that period of English civil war before Henry II's accession when his mother Maude, the daughter of Henry I, fought to dethrone the then English monarch, Stephen. As Sharon would have it, Ranulf was an illegitimate son of Henry I by a Welsh mistress, and therefore half-brother to Maude and half-uncle to Henry II. In any case, I accepted his presence in the first book because the main player in the series, Henry II, had yet to take center stage.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Misfit TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 30 Jan. 2007
Format: Paperback
Another enjoyable book from SKP, but I didn't find this quite as interesting as her others, and a bit slower than When Christ and His Saints Slept. It's probably just me, but I didn't find the whole Thomas Becket saga all that fascinating, albeit it is an important part of English history.

I did like the fact that the author continued with the Welsh side of the story, as so many authors of English history paint the Welsh as pagen barbarians.

I am anxiously awaiting the publishing of the last in this series, The Devil's Brood, which I suspect will be the most fascinating, as it covers the period when the animosity between Henry and Eleanor heats up and the power plays for her sons. I read on the author's website that she's had health issues that have slowed down completion of the book, hopefully out in 2008.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By IP TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 28 Jun. 2015
Format: Kindle Edition
The perfect companion for all historical fiction enthusiasts is THE ROMA VICTRIX WINE BEAKERCalix Imperium, Roma Victrix Pewter wine beaker

The second novel in her trilogy about Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, Time and Chance covers the period of the middle years of Henry's reign, up to and including the notorious murder of Thomas Beckett, Archbishop of Canterbury. That, along with the deteriorating marriage to Eleanor are the twin foci of the book; given the tumultuous events of Henry's reign, who, as well as being the ruler of England, controlled more land in France the King of France (although Henry was nominally a vassal of the French king), there is plenty of drama to fill the pages of this superbly told and equally well-written book.

Penman's first in the series, When Christ and His Saints Slept, covered the period of the English Civil War between Maude, Henry's mother, and Stephen, who seized the English after Henry I death, even though Henry had exacted an oath from his barons to honour his choice of Maude as heir. In that book, Penman does an outstanding job of presenting both sides of that bitter, 19 year war that devastated England.

She does an equally brilliant job in presenting both sides of the increasingly acrimonious and finally lethal conflict between Henry and Beckett over the respective boundaries of power of Church and State. The long view of history is on Henry's side. BUT, in the context of the 12th century, as Penman so deftly shows, not only was that not clear but there was also a powerful argument on Beckett's side.
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