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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Enjoyable story that I actually finished - first novel I've completed in a long time.

About the book:

Amid the lush valleys and fragrant wildflowers of Provence, Marguerite, Eléonore, Sanchia, and Beatrice have learned to charm, hunt, dance, and debate under the careful tutelage of their ambitious mother—and to abide by the countess’s motto: “Family comes first.”

With Provence under constant attack, their legacy and safety depend upon powerful alliances. Marguerite’s illustrious match with the young King Louis IX makes her Queen of France. Soon Eléonore—independent and daring—is betrothed to Henry III of England. In turn, shy, devout Sanchia and tempestuous Beatrice wed noblemen who will also make them queens.

Yet a crown is no guarantee of protection. Enemies are everywhere, from Marguerite’s duplicitous mother-in-law to vengeful lovers and land-hungry barons. Then there are the dangers that come from within, as loyalty succumbs to bitter sibling rivalry, and sister is pitted against sister for the prize each believes is rightfully hers—Provence itself.

From the treacherous courts of France and England, to the bloody tumult of the Crusades, Sherry Jones traces the extraordinary true story of four fascinating sisters whose passions, conquests, and progeny shaped the course of history.

My review:

This story was intriguing and somewhat tragic toward the end. What the four young women's mother intended for good - to have each of the sisters marry well and hopefully bring about peace between warring countries - didn't necessarily turn out that way. All were ambitious in their own way. All were also very powerless because they didn't have a choice regarding their husbands. They reigned in the shadow of their spouses and often weren't taken seriously by the men in their lives even though these women had wisdom to offer. I found Sanchia's tale to be particularly tragic. She just wanted to be a nun and was forced to marry so she spent her whole life feeling like she had betrayed Christ, whom she'd married in her heart.

The story of Marguerite was tragic as well. The White Queen, her mother-in-law, had her son under her thumb for years and Marguerite was scorned in many ways. She had eleven children and outlived most of them. All she wanted was the inheritance that she was promised when she married, yet all she got was grief when she tried to obtain it.

Beatrice was the most misunderstood of them all. In the end they realized she had a good heart and they hadn't appreciated her when she was around. They saw her as manipulative, ambitious, and selfish. The end of the story had a shocking revelation about Sanchia, her sister, and what she'd done to protect her. Eleanore, the queen of England and mother of King Edward I, had her own tragic tale as well.

Overall, I found this book enjoyable. I haven't finished a novel - especially one of this length - in quite a while. I think the fact that it hopped around and alternated the women's perspectives kept me reading because nothing had the chance to drag out much. I would recommend this book to people who enjoy historical fiction. I'm not sure how many of the details were true other than their births and deaths, but the conjecture from the author fit the story nicely regardless.

Four Sisters, All Queens by Sherry Jones, was published by Simon and Schuster (Gallery Books) and released in 2012.

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