Title: “The Sister Queens”
Author: Sophie Perinot
Publisher: Penguin Publishing
Genre(s): historical fiction, historical romance
Part of a Series: No
Why I read it: Goodreads suggested it
Summary: Marguerite and Eleanor, sisters, marry two kings. Marguerite marries Louis IV of France while Elenaor marries Henry II of England. The book chronicles their lives as queens—and how their marriages progress. Eleanor falls in love with Henry, who returns her affections. But his moods are mercurial and he struggles to maintain order in his kingdom. Eleanor navigates them and does her best to stay in his good graces. Across the channel, Marguerite deals with a husband who places God and his mother before his wife. She journeys with him though on a Crusade, where she gives into her feelings for another man. Can she keep her husband from finding out? And how do their marriages affect their relationship with each other?
Review: This book starts slow. Well, it’s slow to get into. Perinot actually flies by a good chunk of time in her writing. And I think if she had slowed her pace, the book wouldn’t have been so hard to get into. The reader would’ve been able to connect with the characters sooner. For example, part of Marguerite’s struggles early on is her inability to conceive. But when she does conceive, we don’t find out until she is five months along. And then it goes quickly to the birth. Not much time to connect with Marguerite and her joy at becoming a mother.
Eleanor faces similar problems though not due to Ms. Perinot’s speeding to the good parts. It is something that can happen to a writer—one character speaks more to you than another. And I feel Marguerite spoke more to Perinot than Eleanor. Eleanor’s parts didn’t feel as dramatic or as lengthy as Marguerite’s. Or as deep. And I feel bad—I think Eleanor’s sections could’ve been just as great as her sister’s.
The romance between Marguerite and Jean is appealing even if it’s illicit. And it’s to Ms. Perinot’s credit that I was rooting for it. She set up a great contrast between Louis and Jean. Louis: Cold, distant, focused on everything but his wife and children. Jean: Passionate, attentive, devoted to Marguerite and her children. It was easy as a reader to fall in love with him.
Ms. Perinot wrote the book in first person present tense. I am not a fan, as I admitted in my review of “Violins of Autumn,” and this book is a reason why. The first person was a bit difficult to follow because Perinot switched between the two sisters as narrators. Sometimes this was done from paragraph to paragraph. And the present tense was a bit wonky as well. Perinot often slid back into moments from the sisters’ childhood or told us things that had happened prior to the chapter. (There are time jumps between chapters). It was jarring to switch tenses mid-chapter.
Bottom line: Slow to get into but picks up.
Sex: Some scenes but not in too graphic detail.
Do you like to read about illicit affairs?