Monday, April 11, 2011

TO BE QUEEN by Christy English: REVIEW

This is the second novel that I have read by Christy English, and I can honestly say I was even more into this one than I was THE QUEEN'S PAWN. It took me around four days to finish, and if I hadn't been working at Applebee's so much, I would have finished in two! I loved it!

I was completely drawn into the book by the end of the first chapter. As a reader you are able to glimpse into Eleanor's childhood, and learn where her inner strength came from. She was left without her father or mother, and was still able to bargain for a marriage to the future King of France, Louis VII. She moves on to the Parisian Court, and when her father-in-law dies she becomes Queen of France along with Louis. Their marriage starts out with great hope, but Eleanor soon begins to see that Louis is much too pious for their marriage to ever be a love match. She is disappointed, but she is also strong. I actually felt sad for Louis at points in the novel, because he loves Eleanor so much, but he sees that great love as a sin, so he is unable to consummate their marriage on a regular basis, which after eight  years of marriage leads only to one daughter. Eleanor is faithful to Louis for years, even though there is barely any physical relationship between them. They go on a crusade shortly after their daughter is born, and Louis wants to make it to Jeruselum to pray for a son. During this crusade King Louis' troops are slaughtered when they are taken from behind by the Emperor Manuel of Constantinople's men. Eleanor had gone ahead with her men, so she escaped the attack as did her people. Of course the blame of the slaughter falls on Eleanor's shoulders, because the Parisians despised her already. While the battle was raging Eleanor gets her first taste of true physical pleasure in a very hot, but tasteful love scene between her and her countryman, Baron Rancon. Now that Eleanor has tasted true pleasure, she knows her marriage to Louis is over, and it is just a matter of paying the Pope enough to get the annullment or divorce. The crusade goes on, but they are no longer looking for a war, they are basically on a pilgrimage. They end up at her Uncle Raymond's Kingdom of Antioch, and there is an immediate connection between the two of the, and they eventually consummate their relationship, and she knows the feeling of 'true love.' Of course, they are both married, so there is nothing to do but move on, and he stays in her heart, until later in the novel when she learns of his death and is devestated. By this time they are settled back in the Parisian Court, and she has her first meeting with Henry of Anjou, the future King Henry II, and her future husband. There is an immediate attraction, and Eleanor succombs to his love, and believes he is the perfect match for her because he is the opposite of King Louis. Henry and Eleanor make many promises, and when he leaves to go to win the Kingdom of England back from the usurper, the reader is left with so much hope for their love.

Of course, we all know how Henry and Eleanor end up, but it's nice to believe for a minute that their love lasts a lifetime, and that there is no Rosamund, and that Henry is a fair father, and doesn't hold all power from his sons, but it's not to be.

I was completely drawn to Eleanor. I loved the tone of the novel and Eleanor's voice. Christy English was able to bring Eleanor of Aquitaine to life for me, and it was fascinating to get lost in her world for awhile. As a reader you can truly see how strong Eleanor was mentally and emotionally. She needs only to raise her hand to command the people around her, and she may have had many enemies, but they knew better than to go against her openly, because not only was she powerful, but she also had the love of the King of France.

Once Eleanor's annullment goes through, there is so  much hope for her future. She plans to rule Aquitaine in her own right, and to live her life as a free Duchess. The passionate love she feels for Henry of Anjou during their brief encounter completely changes the path she thought her life would take.

I would recommend both TO BE QUEEN and THE QUEEN'S PAWN to any lover of historical fiction or any lover of reading in general. Eleanor is such a fascinating figure in history to read about, and Christy English knows her facts, and is able to turn historical facts about this time period, into a beautiful and exciting story about Eleanor of Aquitaine's early life.

Of course I suggest you read her first novel (THE QUEEN'S PAWN) as well, because you can't just read about half of her life, as her entire life is full of excitement, intrigue, and of course, scandal. Both books will most definitely become a part of my permanent library collection!


  1. I too enjoyed To Be Queen just a little more that The Queen's Pawn. I felt like Eleanor was more empowered rather than somewhat bitter. Great review and glad that you enjoyed the reads!

  2. Lovely review! Christy English instantly captivated me with The Queen's Pawn, and I am eager to begin To Be Queen very soon.

    So glad I found your site! I host a historical fiction blog as well :)

    Looking forward to sharing some great titles with you!