Tuesday, January 14, 2014
The Courts of Love (1987)
When I look back over my long and tempestuous life, I can see that much of what happened to me--my triumphs and most of my misfortunes--was due to my passionate relationships with men. I was a woman who considered herself their equal--and in many ways their superior--but it seemed that I depended on them, while seeking to be the dominant partner--an attitude which could hardly be expected to bring about a harmonious existence.
The Courts of Love is told in first person; it is told exclusively, I believe, through the eyes of Eleanor of Aquitaine.
The Courts of Love has such a different feel from the other Plaidy novels I've read lately. It seems more sophisticated, more tasteful, more literary than the three books in the Norman series. And I must admit that The Courts of Love, which stars Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II, was more interesting than Caroline the Queen. Though in some ways it feels "classier" that does not mean it's not sensual, it just refrains some of the ridiculousness. (Plaidy is NOT graphic in details; she's very matter-of-fact and succinct.)
Eleanor is an interesting narrator. The novel begins with her life in the court of her grandfather, I believe. It follows her life through her marriages; her first marriage to the king of France and her second marriage to Henry II. (He was not king quite yet. The battle between Stephen and Matilda was still ongoing.) Readers also get to see Eleanor in the role of mother. While she did not have a place in her life for her two children with the King of France, she had plenty of children with Henry. It felt like she was ever-pregnant for almost half of the novel! The last third of the novel focuses on King Richard and King John.
Eleanor was definitely not presented as a saint. (I found the bit with her uncle to be quite disturbing.) Henry II was definitely not a saint either. Even before he "unintentionally" suggested that Thomas Becket should be taken care of permanently. Henry II and Eleanor had a strange relationship. There was passion in abundance, but horribly bitter bickering. The two would eventually separate, but not in the way you might expect. She was a prisoner of her husband for over a decade! Henry II, meanwhile, presided at court with his favorite mistresses nearby.
I am glad I read this one! Have you read any Jean Plaidy novels? Do you have a favorite? Which would you recommend?
© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews