Sunday 28 August 2011

Review: Queen Defiant - Anne O'Brien

Genre: Historical fiction
Pages: 412
Published: June 2011
Publisher: NAL
Source: My own book

 Orphaned at a young age, Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine, seeks a strong husband to keep her hold on the vast lands that have made her the most powerful heiress in Europe. But her arranged marriage to Louis VII, King of France, is made disastrous by Louis's weakness of will and fanatical devotion to the Church. Eleanor defies her husband by risking her life on an adventurous Crusade, and even challenges the Pope himself. And in young, brilliant, mercurial Henry d'Anjou, she finds her soul mate-the one man who is audacious enough to claim her for his own and make her Queen of England.

My thoughts:
I have never read a book about Eleanor but after this one I wonder why I waited so long. What a fascinating woman! Since this is a work of fiction O'Brien does give her take on the rumours surrounding Eleanor. Because like all historical books we just do not really know and have to make the best of what we do know. Though she sure made me believe I was there with Eleanor.

Eleanor of Aquitaine was married to Prince Louis of France when she was 15 and he was 17. He was raised in a monastery and would rather have wanted to be a monk. Which we do see through out this book. He is pious and rather spends his time on knees praying than doing anything else. While Eleanor was raised in the more free spirited court of Aquitaine and can't understand the darkness of Paris. I had also not realized who tiny "France" was. It was nothing really and the country as it is today was made up from different parts. So this marriage is a disaster from the start and that they had 2 kids is a miracle.

We also follow them on their failed crusade to the holy land and get to read about the rumours of her and her uncle. By now I really liked the Eleanor portrayed here, she was so strong and she tried her best. She was certainly not a meek woman of her time. I really enjoyed how O'Brien portrayed her.

The only time I was unsure about Eleanor was when she married Henry Plantagenet. She seemed weaker. He was such a womaniser but sure after a marriage like her first she needed a strong man to help her guard her lands, and he was young, virile and certainly had a reputation among the ladies. The book did make me wonder about these two, they sure had a lot of kids. There was that big age difference and then their split that is not show in this book and how the kids rebelled. But in the end, perhaps they did like each other and I am sure they quarrelled and made up a lot ;)

O'Brien does weave a great story about the early life of this marvellous woman that was queen of two countries. Was talked about a lot and managed to divorce her first husband. It was well-written and it made me want to try more books by her and see how she brings other characters from history alive. Because that is truly what she did for me, she brought them to life.

I also must talk about something I had heard about but which was brought to my attention so well here. That in those days it was sure best to keep young heiresses under lock and key. Because any man who wanted riches could just ride up kidnap and marry that woman and that was it. What a time to live in. Poor women.

Recommended to those who enjoy historical fiction. It also had this lightness over it and it did not dwell on things to long but the events unfolded in a nice pace.





  1. Oh I do love Eleanor stories. I've read a couple based on her before - it's amazing how much happened to her and her children. I just purchased another book based on her called The Capitive Queen by Alison Weir - amazing how different the titles are for teh same person! Think I will have to look this one up as well - cheers! :)

  2. Eleanor rocks! She was a fascinating historical figure. I will have to add this book to my wishlist.

  3. I have not read about Eleanor either. This sounds like my kind of book.

  4. Eleanor was one strong, interesting woman - definitely a character straight from a kick-ass chick lit! Her marriages were not simple though - even as Henry's wife she was too willful and independent to fit in. I am not sure whether this book covered all of Eleanor's life but later she quarrelled with Henry a lot and even went into separation, mainly because he had too many mistresses for her taste (duh, Rosamund Clifford anyone?) and he wanted her constantly pregnant while she wanted to rule.

    BTW rumour has it it was our dear Eleanor who ordered to put this nasty epitaph on the tomb of Rosamund, most probably murdered on Eleanor's orders:

    Hic jacet in tumba Rosamundi non Rosamunda, Non redolet sed olet, quae redolere solet.
    "Here in the tomb lies the rose of the world, not a pure rose; she who used to smell sweet, still smells--but not sweet."

    Revenge, your name is woman...

  5. i haven't read any books about her yet either but i really need to!

  6. You haven't read about Eleanor before? How is that possible *gasp* You need to read Sharon Kay Penman's books about her!

    I have this book too but haven't read it yet. I've heard mixed things about it but I'm glad you liked it!

  7. I don't think I can cope living in that era :)

  8. Well you could always write a story where the maiden kicks the guy's ass if he tries to kidnap her! ;)

    Now, I wouldn't have picked this one up, but I am interested. I have been thinking of some sort of historical lately. Hm...

  9. Indeed, it would not have been a good era to live in and be female.

  10. Eleanor of Aquitaine is one of the most facinating women of history; she seemed like such a woman ahead of her time.

  11. Ah Eleanor, such a Lioness indeed. So glad you enjoyed this one.

  12. I'm not much of a historical fiction reader. They sound so young to be getting married. I know thats the way it was done so long ago. But wow. And he wanting to be a monk. Awww.

  13. Brilliant review! I had to surf on over to Wikipedia and read more about Eleanor and come back here to read more of the review. It was fascinating to discover that Eleanor lived till she was 80 years old(or 82 depending on what is actually the right birth year). She must have been considered ancient by her contemporaries. I'm not sure if that was the correct way of putting it but I hope you understand what I meant.

    I'm adding this book to my wishlist.

  14. I haven't read anything about Eleanor and know so little about her, so this book sounds good to me!

  15. I haven't read any books about Elenor either. I like that she sounds like a strong women in this one so will have to look into her.

  16. I used to read a lot of books by Jean Plaidy when I was a teenager. I especially love the books about The Medici family. Such strong and evil persons. Have you ever read those?

  17. This sounds like a great piece of historical fiction about a fascinating woman!

  18. @Mel
    I do love her and I so want to read more about her. The things she did and just the way she was. I have to have a look at your book

    She totally rocks :D Yes add away

    Then you really should check this one out

    Nope, it stopped when she became queen. So the end was not a lot about them. They married, he was away, and they met again. And then it ended. This book was more then about her and Louis and I liked that.

    Well at least they did it..ahem. I mean I am sure they had fun sometimes when they did not yell at each other and fought.

    Yes he sure liked his women.

    Haha, oh bitchy! Damn I love Eleanor if she did that.

  19. @Carrie
    Then you should do what I did and read one :D

    I know! Calm down, breath in...out...the shock is too much I know.

    I hope you like it. And I should have a look at Penman's book

    Nope, it must have been horrid

    *thinks about that*
    Awesome idea. I must do just that.

    Men ruled, and women, well they did what they were told

    She sure was :) I really want to read more since this one did not cover it all

    I sure did :D So happy that I got to read it

  20. @Melissa
    That were the days and then they did not think they were young at all. And yes, he was not meant to be king since he was a younger son

    Lol, I understand cos yes that was old! I mean then they did not have the things we have now. And that is old even now and back then the average age was so so SO much lower.

    Yay, I do hope you get it.

    I am so glad I am not alone in not having read anything about her

    @jenny N
    She sure was and I do recommened this book

    Nope, not yet, they were just so wicked and mean, lol, I hope to find a good one one day

    It sure was :D I hope you gt a chance top have a look at it

  21. Great review -- I'd forgotten about this book so thanks for putting it back on my radar. I'm a huge Eleanor fangirl!

  22. I do love historical fiction! I think I'm going to have to give this a try.

  23. Audra
    If you like her then you do need to try this one :D I liked O'Brien's voice

    I hope you did :D Great his fic

  24. I'm glad you liked this and liked Eleanor! I was hoping you would. She was such a strong woman. I haven't read this one yet but I've had my fair share of Eleanor books. ^.^

  25. Carole
    And I finally read my first. Of course I knew about her but now I finally got a real taste of her

  26. Oh I want this like yesterday. I'm adding it to my must buy list.



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