Book Review

Book Review of The Queens of Love and War by Ellen Jones

Queens of Love and War

The Queens of Love and War: The Fatal Crown, Beloved Enemy, and Gilded Cages

*Reviewed by G.M. for Guesthollow

I love big, FAT books and this compilation of 2084 pages (at least according to my Kindle) totally fits the bill for some curled up "spend some time with a book time", lol. The Queens of Love and War is made up of three separate books: Fatal Crown, Beloved Enemy and Gilded Cages. I'll discuss each one of them separately and then wrap up my review with a conclusion for the set.

Fatal Crown is about the English princess Maud, heir to the throne and her cousin and rival, Stephen. This is the first time I've ever read a book that describes Maud as being madly in love with Stephen. It definitely deviates from the historical path a bit but even so, Ellen does a decent job at coming up with plausible (if probably imagined) explanations for some of the twists and turns of the long, brutal civil war, including a surprising twist as to why Stephen makes Maud's son Henry his heir instead of his own son Eustace. Fatal Crown doesn't really grip you with reality nor is it as believable as some other historical fiction written around this time period (Penman or Chadwick). It feels more like a romance intertwined with history trying to disguise itself as historical fiction. I did, however, enjoy the fact that it spent a bit of time on Maud as a young girl being married off to the Holy Roman Emperor. It gave me a bit of insight as to why Maud turned out the way she did and why she would fight so hard for the crown after her father died.

Beloved Enemy, the 2nd book is about Eleanor of Aquitaine over the course of 32 years starting out with some of her childhood. The story goes back and forth between the main thread of Eleanor's life and one of her husband Henry's mistresses who had his illegitimate son Geoffrey. There are also a few weird twists like Thomas Beckett being secretly in love with Henry. The second book continues with the thread about Henry introduced in Fatal Crown.

Finally, the third book, Gilded Cages continues with Eleanor's story and starts off with the betrayal of Thomas Becket. As Henry begins an affair with the beautiful, young Rosamund, Eleanor's heart begins to turn against him and she begins to work at destroying her once beloved husband, even if it means using his own son's against him. Out of the three novels, this was my favorite. It really grabbed me in the very last scene (sorry, you'll have to read it yourself to see why)! There were a few far-fetched bits like the fact that Rosamund Clifford had some "powers" but nothing you can't get past if you realize this is a little bit of a fanciful retelling of history and not a "stick to the facts, ma'am" type of novel.

Ellen's books don't have the depth of other historical fiction like Sharon Kay Penman and they only loosely follow history, while coming to a few different conclusions than most novels set in the same time period with the same set of characters. This set of books is what I like to think of as vacation reading! Historical purists would have a fit, but if you are looking for a series of books that will hold your attention and purely entertain more than educate without requiring you to burn brain cells while you try to follow convoluted threads and fifty-thousand characters (like some historical fiction novels!), The Queens of Love and War is a worthwhile read.

*I recieved a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

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