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I've always been faithful to Jean Plaidy. Even after all these months of reading historical novels penned by the likes of Phillipa Gregory or Suzanne Dunn I know I'll always return to her. Why? You may very well ask and the answer is simple. In this particular subject she has always come top.
This book centres on the two leaders of rival nations, France and England, during the 13th century. An era which I wasn't really that clued up on. The tyrant King John of England has died, suspected to of been murdered. Not that the people of his land are in mourning. The majority having turned to France in the hope of being rid of him once and for all.
Their allegiances change however when young Henry III is crowned, believing that the French had no right being in their country. Not when they have a new heir to command them. It isn't the King who rules though, it seems to everyone that he does exactly what his advisors tell him to do. Especially the justiciar Hubert de Burgh, a man who the public are starting to turn against. Certain that he has risen above his station.
There is also France to consider. A young Louis VIII has become husband to Blanche of Castille. Living a trouble free life until King Philip Augustus dies and he is forced into power. Albeit reluctantly. Alliances need to be formed and quickly which is where Isabella, Queen Mother of England steps in.
Despite there being an obvious dislike between Blanche and Isabella I felt that there parts weren't pushed forward enough. The book name suggests it to be about them but you're lucky if you get a page or two at a time. I struggled with the multitude of people mentioned and the parents lack of calling their children different names. With four Isabella's, three Louis's and two Eleanor's it takes a bit of concentration to understand which person is being referred to. Obviously I can't blame this aspect on Jean Plaidy.
From the start you know that Isabella is an ambitious woman. There are things which she knows she can get away with and is very controlling of people. None more so than her new husband Hugh. Who hangs on her every word and loses all of his free will since the marriage came about. I found this slightly irritating, wishing that he'd form a bit of a back bone and fight back rather than doing everything she wants.
I felt that this book focused far too much on the two Kings. It's entitled Battle of the Queens and I do think that the reason why they disliked each other so much could have been magnified in some way. Conversations are given on the subject but there is little else. In a way I can understand that the husbands need to be there but it means that all the attention is on them and the Isabella/Blanche tale is completely hidden. Not giving you the chance to really enjoy their characters.
The blurb also suggested that the 13th Century was dominated by the two woman, yet I saw very little of this in Blanche and felt a bit disappointed. The back cover got me interested yet after reading it I did think I was short changed.
It starts off in 1216 and finishes in the last months of 1246, although it does overlap near the beginning which confused me for a short while until I realised. Thinking that King John was dead only to find that he's come back to life again.
Plodding along nicely I have to admit that this is the first Jean Plaidy novel where I've had to force myself to continue with it. Not just putting it to one side after the first few chapters.
This would cost you £5.99 from Amazon but it isn't one I'd recommend if you've never read a Jean Plaidy book before. If anything it might dissuade you from touching any of her stories again.