10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
The 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.
70 of 73 people found the following review helpful
I have been longing to read The Summer Queen - the beginning to a trilogy dedicated to my favourite female figure of history written by one of the finest writers of historical fiction. As this wonderful novel proves, Eleanor is in safe hands. But it's not just Eleanor (here called Alienor, the name Eleanor would have been known by) who comes alive here, her sister Petronella, Louis of France and the young Henry of Anjou and others all fill the pages with life and colour. A fabulous novel.
The marriage between Alienor and Louis, begun when Alienor was just 13, famously ended in a divorce that shocked Christendom but here we are shown one possible path that led to that split. It isn't just persuasive, it is utterly gripping! Here, Louis changes through the pages as he seeks to reconcile himself and his marriage to God. It is a thoroughly disturbing portrait of a young man who alters almost entirely, leaving his young wife in a perilous psychological and physical position. How Alienor deals with this quite complex behaviour (in France and on crusade) from a man she once could have loved dearly is powerful stuff. Throw in a whole new interpretation of Petronella, an intriguing character here given her due by Elizabeth Chadwick, and you have a novel that you will not want to put down.
It is Alienor who shines throughout The Summer Queen. We are left in no doubt that she would have been seen as someone out of the ordinary and the fact that she was both Duchess of Aquitaine and Queen of France can only have added to the allure of her beauty, wit and intelligence. Above all, though, she is determined and in this she contrasts with her sister, Petronella. Alienor is resolute and focused, one eye turned on Aquitaine, the other turned inwards. Alienor is always, though, a woman of her century and so as The Summer Queen ends and The Winter Crown approaches, young Henry of Anjou stands waiting.
Always superbly written and illuminated by its characters and events, The Summer Queen is a fabulous novel based on the most up-to-date and meticulous research. This is historical fiction at its best and I loved every page of it. I'm very grateful for the review copy - the full review is on For Winter Nights.
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on 2 September 2013
This is the first Elizabeth Chadwick Book I have read and the fact it was the first of a trilogy about Eleanor Of Aquitaine, interested me as I have always admired and respected this lady, who was without doubt an excellent ruler in her own right and held England during the absence of Richard the Lion heart. The story begins with both Eleanor and her sister Petronella as young girls very much at the mercy of others dreams and ambitions. very quickly Eleanor grasps the reality of the situation and realises she can do no other than grasp her destiny with both hands whilst keeping a watchful eye on Petronella, who very much resembled their grandmother. Elizabeth Chadwick clearly shows a very keen and detail eye on the events, meeting Louie of France marrying him, beginning her personal rule as Duchess of Aquitaine and Queen of France , accompanying him to the Holy Land and the adventures she had . I was very intrigued to read this and could not put it down as it is written with clarity facts and humour, the essence of Eleanor herself, a beautifully blended beginning o f the trilogy, ending up with the divorce of Louie an s meeting and marrying Henry of Anjou, becoming Queen of England. my only regret is I have to wait for the second book, The winter Crown, which picks off where The Summer Queen ends. I have just bought Lady of the English by Elizabeth Chadwick and will be reading it shortly. I like her style of writing. I would most definitely recommend the Summer Queen to lovers of History and in particular hose who like me have an interest, respect and admiration for Queen Eleanor and Duchess of Aquitaine
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 30 March 2015
I was in my late teens when I read Amy Kelly’s seminal work on Eleanor of Aquitaine; I thought she was a marvelously fascinating woman—imagine all those kings!—but found her story presented with lots of weighty facts, descriptions of all sorts of things that seemed to go on and on and on, and just about everyone above ground in Aquitaine, Anjou, the Holy Land, and England had some part to play. Poor girl was eclipsed, and I barely finished the book.
So fast-forward many decades to my serendipitous discovery of Elizabeth Chadwick’s The Summer Queen, where I discovered that Alienor is my old, almost abandoned friend, Eleanor. But here she is new and most definitely improved. I think in light of other, quite detailed reviews of this novel that it’s enough for me to say I met Alienor when she had just turned thirteen. She was Duke William of Aquitaine’s only heir, educated far beyond what her gender and station usually received, and trained for the time in the future when she would rule the unbelievably rich Aquitaine and control its often unruly noble vassals. Unfortunately, the future was almost immediate, and as a result of her father’s untimely death, Alienor was married to Louis VII, the very young King of France. Neither had much use for the other—Louis would rather be an archbishop than anyone’s husband, while Alienor didn’t think much of a young man who spoke northern French and whose domain would fit into a corner of Aquitaine, and whose mother apparently got from Paris to Poitiers on a broom.
The story ends with Alienor’s marriage to the young, lusty, and handsome Count of Anjou, who very shortly becomes Henry II, King of England, an island domain that would fit into the other corner of Aquitaine. Of course, how Alienor dealt with her marriage to Louis, fell out of like with him, went on crusade, avoided the poisoned words—and possibly more dangerous weapons—of the nasty eunuch Thierry, met Henry, married Henry, and went to England is the meat of the book, and it’s a story just about everyone knows, to one degree or another. The difference, to me, was in how this “meat” came to life, and how these almost two decades of Alienor’s life were presented. I thought the author struck the proper balance between what is known from the historical record about this period in Alienor’s life and what she imagines could occur, whether in intimate conversations, thoughts, and actions, or the larger issues of the political realm. In either case, Alienor’s behavior, the motivation for her thoughts and actions, are realistic for the time and circumstances, but they are not foreign to a modern reader. Alienor is flesh and blood, after all, not an empty-eyed carving on a 12th century cathedral façade. The same is true for how we see the unfortunate Louis—he may be unlikeable at the end, but we know the how and why of his personality. And Henry, who dominates the last couple of chapters, manages to skate just beneath the “larger than life” sobriquet and avoid being cast as the knight who gallops up to rescue the maid. While it may be true that Alienor required rescuing from one or two of Louis’s more greedy relatives or her own vassals with illusions of grandeur, it is equally true that after the wedding night, Henry might well be on his way to discovering his new wife had a mind—and a will—of her own.
I also found the book moved forward like the Garonne River in summer, languid in places, and rushing forward in others. I enjoyed the descriptions of Aquitaine and Poitiers, of medieval Paris, and the long, arduous trek to Uncle Raymond in Antioch. Sometimes it is in the little details like these that the tapestry of a story is woven, seamlessly and rich, centering the reader firmly in the 12th century in this case, and no other. That requires talent, I think, and Ms. Chadwick has it.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Much has been written about Eleanor, Queen of France and later of England, and Elizabeth Chadwick now puts her own stamp on the story. She chooses to call her heroine Alienor as this spelling was used on some documents of the day.
How does one woman pack so much into her life, especially in medieval, slow-travelling days? She starts very young. Alienor is orphaned at thirteen and heiress to the impressive lands of Aquitaine. Her father had prepared for the day by leaving instructions for his two daughters to be sent to the care of Louis, King of France, who promptly orders his young son Louis to marry the elder girl. They're scarcely married and getting to know each other when the king dies, so now they rule France.
The Church of course is extremely interested in all goings-on and Louis is more devout than his wife, but Alienor has been warned to look devout. Advisors abound and towns rise up in rebellion over many factors, all of which seem to require forceful quelling instead of sorting out the problems.
This book takes us to Antioch, with sea crossings, mountain crossings and danger galore. Contrasts of location are excellently brought to us. Friction between the two sisters, efforts aplenty at making children, then at making boy children, which are Louis's sole concern, bring home the real human nature of these people.
Elizabeth Chadwick is by now the queen of researched historical romance and this book will thrill both old fans and new. I'm looking forward to the next two instalments of the strong, manipulating and vibrant Alienor's life in which we shall see her as Queen of England.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
It’s January 1137 in the Palace of Poitiers and Alienor is 13 years old. This is the day they are travelling to Bordeaux to stay at the Ombriere Palace for the spring and summer. Her father, William Duke of Aquitane is leaving them to go on pilgrimage. Although Alienor doesn’t know it, her father is dying and she won’t see him again. He’s left orders for Alienor’s marriage to Louis of France … and so begins Alienor’s married life with Louis’ piety, rages, impotence and weakness in letting others lead him.
Alienor has so many negative experiences from that time in 1137 until the annulment of her marriage in 1152. Louis and his Templar, Thierry de Galeran provoked such anger in me! I felt as powerless as Alienor.
After her annulment, there are many out to capture her – to rape her and therefore force a marriage. Having already been approached by the younger Henry, with all things considered, she sends for him and their marriage takes place. Although one of convenience, I loved watching their developing intimacy and friendship. Alienor has his measure just as much as he has hers. They work really well together.
I felt quite bereft as we leave them setting sail for England and for Henry to be crowned.
Elizabeth Chadwick has such a skill as she brings history to life weaving it into fiction. I loved Alienor’s astuteness, dignity and strength of character. On the second crusade, I enjoyed the opulence of Constantinople juxtaposed to the harshness of the weather and lack of comfort in Anatolia (although the betrayals were just the same). The rituals, the costumes of the time, the smells, the politics … all come alive.
The Summer Queen is the first in a trilogy and I can’t wait! Fortunately Elizabeth posts opening/closing lines from the WIP rough draft and shares her research on Facebook. I am still getting my fix! The Winter Crown (hardcover) is due to be published in September.
In the Authors Note we find out how the author has used the findings from recent research, making logical suppositions as well for facts that are not known.
I loved that Elizabeth Chadwick uses a psychic perspective by accessing the Akashic records. I also think Elizabeth’s intuitiveness is partly responsible for bringing Alienor to life.
I recommend The Summer Queen for all readers (not just readers of historical fiction). Alienor is someone we can all identify with … she is a woman from history who was powerful and indomitable and The Summer Queen is the start of her journey through life.
I would like to thank the publishers for approving my request via Netgalley
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 11 September 2013
I love this book. I have read much about Eleanor of Aquitaine but mostly from the period of her marriage to Henry of Anjou. It is a wonderful insight to read about a young Eleanor losing her mother and her father at a young age. The book tells of her marriage to Louis V11 and where most other books romanticise her pilgrimage to Jerusalem, this brings to life the hardships that must have existed on that journey. I felt happy and at the same time frustrated for her locked in an unhappy marriage. I love the way Elizabeth Chadwick brings her characters to life and her wonderful descriptions make you feel you are in Poitiers or Jerusalem with them. I have read all of her books and look forward to the next two novels in the trilogy
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Eleanor of Aquitaine (or more correctly Alienor) is one of those fabulous women from history who cry out for good fiction and Elizabeth Chadwick has delivered that in spades with this book. Sticking closely to the known facts about her life, this is a fairly intense interpretation of a career which saw Alienor become in turn the ruling Duchess of Aquitaine, Queen of France and Queen of England. Her transition from young girl grieving the early loss of her father, to determined woman struggling with her uncomfortable first marriage to Louis of France, which included following him on Crusade to the Holy Land, is extremely well imagined.
The author has resisted the temptation to "Hollywood" her work and it is all the better for that. The characters, great and small, are clearly drawn and the intrusive pressure of religious dogma on personal lives is smoothly and meaningfully incorporated into the narrative.
I am delighted with the book, and greatly looking forward to Part 2 of the trilogy. What more can one say except that it's a terrific read and highly recommended to lovers of good historical fiction.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 3 April 2014
The Summer Queen
Elizabeth Chandwick’s novel The Summer Queen is the best one I have read about Alienor of Aquitaine (Elinor of Aquitaine). Mistress of the art of writing compelling mediaeval fiction Elizabeth Chadwick blends fact and fiction intensified by accessing Akashic records, purported to be a dimension of consciousness that contains a vibrational record of every soul and its journey. To those interested in the records she used I suggest visiting her website.[...].
The Summer Queen covers the period between the death of Alienor’s father to her departure to England when her second husband the young Henry III becomes king.
While reading The Summer Queen I entered into the lives, loves, hates and times of the characters both major and minor and, although this is a work of fiction in which there is speculation that historians would not make, The Summer Queen is plausible.
I congratulate the author on her interpretation of Alienor’s life and times and look forward to reading the sequels, The Winter Queen and The Autumn Queen.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 5 August 2013
There's a lot of historical fiction of the more romantic sort out there, but not many authors as good as Elizabeth Chadwick. So I was very excited to come across her latest book, only to find that the 'summer queen' was Eleanor of Aquitaine - surely she's been done to death over the years? And I'm still getting over the last novel I read about her, a woeful Alison Weir effort.
But I needn't have worried: Ms Chadwick's Eleanor (or Alienor, as she calls her) is in good hands. Her story has been expertly researched, and credibly and clearly told, with the author making the wise decision to start from the beginning in Aquitaine and the marriage to Louis of France. Not only is this a refreshing change from the usual accounts which start with her fateful meeting with Henry Plantagenet (when she was already in her late 20s), but it lets us get to know and understand her better by putting her into context. And there are some excellent tales to tell, particularly the story of that ill-fated crusade to Antioch, and Louis' descent into religious fervour.
It's up to the historical novelist to work out all the machinations and motivations behind all these long-ago events, of course - no-one kept a journal in the 12th century, unfortunately - and Ms Chadwick gives us a version of history that's full of sense and conviction. Despite her adherence to the Akashic Records (sorry, but oh dear) she doesn't have to resort to witchcraft or ghosts to make her tale a compelling one, either, unlike some authors.
Of course, if you've read it, the elephant in the room is Sharon Penman's monumental series which begins with When Christ and His Saints Slept (Eleanor of Aquitaine Trilogy 1), and it's impossible not to compare Chadwick's Alienor with Penman's Eleanor. I'll put my hand up and confess to being a big Penman fan, and until now, no-one's even come close (perhaps with the exception of Ariana Franklin, who gives us a wonderful sketch of a very different Eleanor in The Death Maze: Mistress of the Art of Death 2) - but this is as near as it gets.
It's my personal preference for a saga, however, and I would have liked a less skimpy account of some of the events, people and relationships. I'd have liked to have been a bit more emotionally involved, too: Sharon Penman has the knack of creating scenes and characters that are so real they jump off the page, something which this book lacks. But she isn't without her faults, and a lot of readers might prefer the less romanticised version of medieval relationships that Elizabeth Chadwick portrays.
So sometimes it doesn't matter if it's a story that's been told many times: if you do it well enough, it's still a good read. And this is the first of a trilogy (though why isn't it the 'Alienor of Aquitaine Trilogy'?) - finally, something to look forward to!