Congrats to Linda for winning the copy of The Sister Queens!
Almost immediately after beginning this book, I found myself on Google, searching out the names of the kings in the story, Henry III of England and Louis IX of France. It is always a thrill to be sparked by historical fiction into further research on the historical figures which the story surrounds. The sister queens, much to my delight, were married to two highly interesting such figures. Eleanor, who married Henry III, the grandson of my beloved Eleanor of Aquitaine, and becomes the mother of Edward Longshanks, the king who was in power during the time of William Wallace (another treasured figure of mine). And Marguerite, who married Louis IX, became the grandmother of Philippe IV, whose daughter, Isabella, became the wife of Longshanks' son, Edward II, and was notoriously suspected of plotting the murder of her husband. You might think this a strange manner in which to begin a book review, but I do this to stress the importance of historical fiction, not only as entertainment, but as a tool for learning. Good historical fiction will incite the reader to investigate the historical figures coming alive in its pages. The Sister Queens is one such book.
I enjoy books that build stories around letter writing, what I feel is a lost art in our technical age. The story of The Sister Queens surrounds the close relationship of these two sisters and the letters they wrote to each other regularly. The letters that begin each chapter, fictionalized by Ms. Perinot, add an element to the story...a personal voice for each sister so we are not just shown the closeness of their relationship, but experience it first hand in their own words. It's not hard to believe that the two queens most likely did exchange such letters, as close sisters most likely would in a time when letter writing was the only means of communication.
Not only does The Sister Queens tell an entertaining and well-researched story, it also boasts of characters who are multifaceted and interesting. Of course, the stars of the story are Marguerite and Eleanor. The former being calm and level headed and the latter being more stubborn and impulsive. What is interesting in their story is how both queens learned to take on the traits of the other's personality to help them to smoothly navigate their royal marriages and lives. It takes intricate knowledge of the relationship between sisters to be able to portray that this is indeed what sisters do. Being an older sister myself, I can honestly say that adopting some of my sister's traits over the years has helped me in life, much as it did for Marguerite and Eleanor.
Not to be out shined by the sisters are the kings of the story. I like the way Ms. Perinot did not make them only background characters. Louis and Henry are very much a part of the story and she made them interesting and human...and much more than history has depicted, especially in the case of Henry III. I have become intrigued by these men and their lives and I'm looking forward to doing some further reading on them both.
The Sister Queens is an amazing debut novel. Telling a story about history in a way that only the best historical fiction does, this book belongs on the shelf of anyone who loves the genre, and even those who are not regular readers of historical novels. I am looking forward to the future works of Ms. Perinot.
About the book:
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, and used to being first, Marguerite becomes Queen of France. But Louis IX is a religious zealot who denies himself the love and companionship his wife craves. Can she borrow enough of her sister's boldness to grasp her chance for happiness in a forbidden love?
Passionate, strong-willed, and stubborn, Eleanor becomes Queen of England. Henry III is a good man, but not a good king. Can Eleanor stop competing with her sister and value what she has, or will she let it slip away?
The Sister Queens is historical fiction at its most compelling, and is an unforgettable first novel.
About the author:
Sophie Perinot writes historical fiction. In Spring 2012 her debut novel, The Sister Queens, will be released by NAL. Set in 13th century France and England, The Sister Queens weaves the captivating story of medieval sisters, Marguerite and Eleanor of Provence, who both became queens – their lifelong friendship, their rivalry, and their reigns
Ms. Perinot has both a BA in History and a law degree. She left the law to pursue artistic interests, including writing. An avid reader, especially of classic literature, and life-long student of history, it seemed only natural that Sophie should write historical fiction. As someone who studied French abroad and a devotee of Alexandre Dumas, French history was a logical starting point. An active member of the Historical Novel Society, she has attended all of the group’s North American Conferences.
Active among the literary twitterati as @Lit_gal (a moniker she also uses at Agent Query Connect www.agentqueryconnect.com), Sophie is a regular contributor to the group writers' blog "From the Write Angle" http://www.fromthewriteangle.com. Find her on facebook at www.facebook.com/sophie.perinot.author.
For more information, please visit Sophie Perinot's WEBSITE. You can also find Sophie on her blog, Facebook and Twitter.
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GIVEAWAY: To enter for (1) copy of The Sister Queens (U.S. Only), please leave a comment telling me which historical novel(s) has prompted you to do further reading/research on the historical figures in the book(s). Please be sure to leave a contact email so I can notify the winner. Giveaway will end on Tuesday, April 10 at 11:59pm CST. Good luck!