Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Review: The Sister Queens by Sophie Perinot

First line: M, the sun is out and so should we be.

From the back cover: Like most sisters, Marguerite and Eleanor were rivals. They were also queens.

Raised at the court of their father, Raymond Berenger, Count of Provence, Marguerite and Eleanor are separated by royal marriages - but never truly parted.

Patient, perfect, reticent, and used to being first, Marguerite becomes Queen of France. Her husband, Louis IX, is considered the greatest monarch of his age. But he is also a religious zealot who denies himself all pleasure - including the love and companionship his wife so desperately craves. Can Marguerite find enough of her sister's boldness to grasp her chance for happiness in the guise of forbidden love?

Passionate, strong-willed, and stubborn, Eleanor becomes Queen of England. Her husband, Henry III, is neither as young nor as dashing as Marguerite's. But she quickly discovers he is a very good man...and a very bad king. His failures are bitter disappointments for Eleanor, who has worked to best her elder sister since childhood. Can Eleanor stop competing with her sister and value what she has, or will she let it slip away?

The Sister Queens is a stunning debut novel - passionate, romantic, and epic in scope - from a writer who beautifully evokes the life of the court in thirteenth-century France and England.

My thoughts: I have really come to enjoy reading historical fiction and this is my first foray into reading about Queens Marguerite and Eleanor, sisters who are raised to be married into royal families and end up being the wives of the King of France and the King of England, respectively. While it is a daunting book at about 500 pages, I was hooked from the start and had a hard time putting it down.

The novel is told in alternating chapters between the sisters and I really enjoyed this format, always finding myself anxious to get back to the other sister’s life. Each chapter opens with a letter written from one sister to the other about what is happening in their lives and sharing confidences. I was as excited to read these letters as I was to read each chapter. Marguerite is the calm and level-headed sister and Eleanor is the stubborn and impulsive sister, yet each learn to take on the traits of the other's personality in order to help them adjust and deal with their royal marriages and lives.

Marguerite becomes Queen of France upon marrying Louis IX at age 13, while simultaneously Eleanor becomes Queen of England upon her marriage to Henry III at the age of 12. Once the sisters are married, they go many years - almost 20 - without seeing each other and it is through their letters that keeps them apprised of each other's life - showing just how important and strong the bond of sisters can be. And though the two Kings clash over land, the sisters continue to send these missives as family members rather than as Queens of rival countries.

I also like how Sophie Perinot gives readers a different perspective of Henry and Louis. She doesn't just focus on what they did for their countries during their reigns, but looks deeper, focusing on the relationships they have with their wives and children. She shows that even if they might have been one of the most favored kings, they were not necessarily the best husband or father.

I am now very intrigued about the lives of these two queens and will certainly be looking for more books about them. I also hope to see more from this author - she is a great writer and clearly does her research in order to craft a well-developed tale.

Thank you to the author for sending me a copy of this book to review - I really enjoyed it!!!

5 comments:

  1. I love reading all the reviews for this book - they're all good! Glad you liked it as well. One of my favorite genres.

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  2. I really, really liked this one! I love historical fiction, especially when it's about people that I don't know very well.

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    1. I love reading about new people and now I want to read more about these two sisters!

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  3. I love historical fiction and this sounds like one I'd love. Glad you enjoyed it, Sophie Perinot obviously does a wonderful job with her debut novel, I'm adding it to my wishlist :)

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