Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Book Review: The Secret Eleanor by Cecelia Holland

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Publish Date: August 2010
Format: Paperback 368pp

Synopsis: (From the Publisher)
"Eleanor of Aquitaine seized hold of life in the 12th century in a way any modern woman would envy! 
1151: As Duchess of Aquitaine, Eleanor grew up knowing what it was to be regarded for herself and not for her husband's title. Now, as wife to Louis VII and Queen of France, she has found herself unsatisfied with reflected glory-and feeling constantly under threat, even though she outranks every woman in Paris. 
Then, standing beside her much older husband in the course of a court ceremony, Eleanor locks eyes with a man-hardly more than a boy, really- across the throne room, and knows that her world has changed irrevocably... 
He is Henry D'Anjou, eldest son of the Duke of Anjou, and he is in line, somewhat tenuously, for the British throne. She meets him in secret. She has a gift for secrecy, for she is watched like a prisoner by spies even among her own women. She is determined that Louis must set her free. Employing deception and disguise, seduction and manipulation, Eleanor is determined to find her way to power-and make her mark on history."


My Review:


Eleanor of Aquitaine is most well known for her marriage to Henry II and for being the devout mother of Richard I, but in The Secret Eleanor, Cecelia Holland focuses on Eleanor's early adulthood and her marriage to King Louis VII of France.

From the Beginning of the book, Eleanor's ambition and thirst for power is quite apparent. While holding court in Paris, Eleanor meets Henry II and is quickly besotted with him. Already dissatisfied with her marriage to Louis VII, Eleanor decides at once that, with Henry II at her side, nothing can hold her back from the power she desires. She immediately embarks upon a course of action that is sure to set her free of her current situation. Eleanor is strong and ruthless when it comes to reaching her goals, yet not even she can accomplish this feat alone; She will need the help of her sister Petra and the loyalty of those whom love her. But when the stakes are so high, can one completely trust anyone? In a story of love, ambition, power and betrayal, The Secret Eleanor will have you questioning who is right in their actions and what price is too high for power and loyalty to those you love.

Having read only one other book on Eleanor of Aquitaine, I was eager to learn more about this fascinating woman through Cecelia Holland's The Secret Eleanor. Unfortunately, I found this description of Eleanor to be lacking in depth and it was quite hard to derive any pleasing qualities from her demeanor. In the first few chapters she meets Henry II and has an intimate, and might I add cleverly descriptive, rendezvous with him; which lead me to ask: "Why? Where did that come from?". There were many times during the course of the novel I found myself pondering how their love came about. If only there would have been a bit more history between them it would have improved the plot greatly.

Although my issues with Eleanor were great, they became less prevalent as the book went on. This was mainly do to the sift in focus from Eleanor to her sister Petra, who's motives were not without reason. It was through her that everything was put into perspective and the story began to draw me in.

After the switch in focus, the plot quickly becomes more in depth and it twisted with great surprise. By the end of the book, I found myself wanting it to continue! I was not ready to leave Eleanor and Petra; it seemed their story had just begun. All things considered, this was a good read; though one that could have been better, especially in the beginning. I have another book by Cecelia Holland awaiting me on my bookshelf; I shall indeed be reading it.


FTC: I received this book from the publisher. As always, these are my own honest opinions.

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