Born into a life of wealth and privilege, young Alienor of Aquitaine is destined for greatness. However when her father dies prematurely the 13 year becomes the heiress to a vast fortune and is married off to Louis of France. Louis was destined for the Church but the death of his brother meant that he became King of France, however Louis is influenced by ascetic churchmen and this leads to conflict in his marriage to Alienor. Growing to dislike one another the two struggle with their marriage.
The story of Eleanor of Aquitaine is very well-known and has been told many times both as fact and fiction. However her early life is less well covered on the fictional front and in the first book of a planned trilogy Chadwick seeks to address this. In common with most medieval marriages the marriage of Louis and Alienor was dynastic move rather than a love match and, as often is the case, in an age where divorce was unheard of the getout was annulment. The excuse given was consanguinity but given that all the royal houses intermarried this was impossible to avoid. Louis wanted a pious, compliant wife to give him sons, Alienor was too passionate and quite probably his intellectual superior. Whilst much of this book is complete fiction it is backed up by strong research therefore the known facts are not messed with and the day to day life of Alienor is pretty accurate. It is only the emotional parts and the dialogue that are pure fiction. Whilst Chadwick is a writer who does play to the very romanticised end of historical fiction she is a strong writer with a good ear for dialogue and that is what makes this a very readable book.