Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Sister Queens by Sophie Perinot

Title: The Sister Queens
Author: Sophie Perinot

Genre: Fiction (Historical / Medieval / 13th century / France / England / Royalty / Sisters)
Publisher/Publication Date: NAL Trade (3/6/2012)
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Rating: Liked.
Did I finish?: I did -- I zipped through this one!
One-sentence summary: Sisters Eleanor and Marguerite weather royal marriages, births, intrigue, and wars, separated by kingdoms but undivided in their affection for each other.
Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: I think I do. Full heads, hurrah, and they're rather interesting looking. They resemble teens, or women in their 20s, which fits with the two heroines.

I'm reminded of...: Lynn Cullen, Sandra Worth

First line: The sun is on my face and I can smell the spring squill as its blue blossoms, too numerous for the counting,b rush against my gown as I walk.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow for sure -- this nearly 500 pages novel reads fast, has wonderful heroines, and illuminates a fascinating era.

Why did I get this book?: Love French royal historicals -- and Eleanors.

Review: Despite my boredom with the Tudors, I still have a thing for royals, and I just couldn't pass up a novel about Eleanor of Provence (not to be confused with Eleanor of Aquitaine). At nearly 500 pages, I started salivating when I began the novel: if I liked Perinot's articulation of Eleanor of Provence and her sister Marguerite, I wanted to be able to hang with them -- and happily, Perinot doesn't disappoint.

Beginning in 1234, the novel follows Marguerite and Eleanor as they enter in to royal marriages -- Marguerite to Louis IX of France and Eleanor to Henry III of England -- and the novel alternates chapters between the two sisters. Unusually, Perinot uses present tense, which normally aggravates me, but for whatever reason, worked in this novel. I felt present in the activity and never confused about the dual story lines, despite the piles of intrigue, drama, marital sexiness and familial angst. Perinot's writing style is casual and modern, but not anachronistic, and I raced through the book. Her characters felt real, especially those problematic kings, and I appreciated the way she tried to keep everyone human (save for, perhaps, Marguerite's vile mother-in-law).

In her Author's Note, Perinot explains what changes she made to the historical timeline but interestingly enough, I don't think she aged up the heroines. Eleanor is married at 13 -- to a 28 year old -- and Marguerite marries at 14, and both women are sexual with their husbands rather immediately. It was discomforting for me but handled well by Perinot, and the sex in the book felt sexy and plotty in equal part. (I wouldn't describe this as a YA novel despite the teenaged heroines.)

What I also liked about this book was the focus on the more mundane aspects of these two royal sisters. While they were competitive, in a way, they were also outsiders at their respective courts, viewed suspiciously, and I enjoyed Perinot's articulation of their relationship.

A winning debut -- I can't wait for Perinot's next offering!

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GIVEAWAY!

I'm thrilled to offer a copy of The Sister Queens to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US readers. Ends 3/23.  Check out my interview with Sophie Perinot for another chance to enter!

23 comments:

  1. This is a book that I really want to read, and deals with characters that I am a little less familiar with. I am glad that you enjoyed it, and I am hoping that I will as well. It sounds intriguing and very well written. Great review today!

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    1. I vastly preferred the women to the men in these power couples but Perinot did a great job making everyone real and relevant -- I cared, even about absurdly saintly Louis. It was a fun read, too, without being Philippa Gregory over-the-top.

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  2. I cannot wait to read this one! As a huge historical fiction fan it is so much fun to find a new book about people from history I am not that familiar with. Thanks for the review!

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    1. Colleen -- my feelings exactly!!

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  3. I will pop back after next week as I'm starting this one soon. I just wanted to see how much you liked it and I see that you did. That makes me even more excited to get started with it.

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    1. I hope you enjoy it -- this was such an effortless read, immediately engrossing and engaging!

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  4. Very interesting! I'm sometimes intimidated by longer books, but I just sped through Bridge of Scarlet Leaves last night -- and that one was pretty chunky.

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    1. This is another one that reads zip-zip fast -- it didn't feel long at all -- there wasn't a wasted scene! So don't be intimidated by this one's size. It's just a nice big box of candy! ;)

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  5. I am so curious about this one and I do wanna read it :D

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    1. I think you'd really enjoy this one!

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  6. Longer books are ones I tend to pass on, but this sounds like a quick read.

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    1. Serena -- it really does read so fast -- zips along. Don't let the size of this one intimidate you!

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  7. I'm looking forward to reading this one, thanks for the giveaway!

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    1. You're welcome! I'm always thrilled when I can offer a book I've loved to my readers!

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  8. I am looking forward to reading this one. I already know that I love reading about Eleanor and can't wait to read more!

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    1. I'll look for your review -- I hope you enjoy it!

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  9. I've really wanted to read this. I'd love to read more about these women since there isn't many books about them. I'm happy you liked it :)

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    1. I love royal fic with the less well known royals. Such fun!

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  10. Sounds like a fun read especially the focus on the mundane. Also, I really like when an author of historical fiction adds an note about what was changed. I know things have to be changed to make a story flow better, but it's nice that the author acknowledges that they did so.

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    1. Jenna -- I like that, too, and it's especially helpful for me if I know anything about the era and might be bugged about the changes. I always love knowing the process of writing, too, so Author Notes always make me happy!

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  11. Whew. I have written mine and now can read yours without fear of unconsciously plundering your excellent points.

    #1. I am so glad you liked this!
    #2. I agree that Perinot handled the sex/sex scenes between the teen Queens and their husbands with taste.
    #3. How weird is it that the book is in present tense? I didn't notice the first few paragrapghs and then.. it didn't bug me at all. Which is not normally the case.
    #4. I hope this author keeps writing more historical fiction!

    I loved your review Audra. So glad we had similar reactions to this one as I want to recommend it wildly.

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  12. I too enjoyed this book although I usually avoid lengthy books. You know, I never even thought about the ages of the characters- probably because it is a historical I don't pay much attention to that stuff.

    Just getting caught up on my blog reading now! You may see me pop up a few more times today.

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    1. Heather -- thanks for popping by -- I appreciate it! I'm v behind on my blog reading so I suspect I'll be doing the same to you, as well! ;)

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