- Series: The Eleanor Code (Book 2)
- Paperback: 514 pages
- Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (October 19, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1480051578
- ISBN-13: 978-1480051577
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,576,686 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Eleanor of Aquitaine : The Journey East (The Eleanor Code) (Volume 2) Paperback – October 19, 2012
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The Amazon Book Review
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About the Author
Mark Richard Beaulieu is an expert on the 12th-century life of Eleanor of Aquitaine. He is an accomplished author, collected painter, award-winning photographer, and innovative software technologist. Trained as a studio artist Mark holds a Master of Fine Arts from the University of California at Davis, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas.
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Top customer reviews
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First, the language is so contrived that it gets in the way of communication. Example: Page 1: “She kicked out her calfskin boots in stirrups, proud of her gold fringe dress, and the red and gold satin guard over her horsehair belt.” What did she do with her boots while riding? Kicked out? At who? Why? That doesn’t make sense. And what does the gold fringe of her dress or the cover of her (horsehair? Why would you make a belt of horsehair when there is plenty of leather around?) have to do with “kicking out” her boots. I don’t understand. Or: “Her silver bracelets jingled like the reins.” Leather jingles? Not in my experience, so now I’m annoyed and losing interest.
Second, for a self-proclaimed “expert on the 12th century life of Eleanor,” Beaulieu is astonishingly ignorant of very basic facts. One never addresses royalty in the second person as “Queen” or “King” followed by a name. To this day, royalty is addressed as “Ma’am” or “Sire,” or “Your Majesty.” The “majesty” was introduced by Richard II of England, so in Eleanor’s time it would have been a simply “my lady” or “Madame,” but never “Queen Eleanor” when talking to her. (Beaulieu has a character do this on page 20.) He also has Eleanor and her maid touching palms “in the Catharic way of never making vows….” Please! Eleanor of Aquitaine was accused of many crimes and she had many enemies and detractors, but no one ever accused her of being a Cathar. Or a few pages later he has Eleanor compliment another woman on growing her hair longer, but women in this period did not cut their hair. Cutting off a woman’s hair was a sign of humility (for nuns) or grief (for widows) or punishment (for criminals). So the women of the Dowager Queen’s household would not have had short hair in this period and growing long hair would have been neither rebellious or revolutionary as Beaulieu suggests. And then there are the carriages…. Sigh. Carriages belong in the 18th century and thereafter, not in the 12th.
Third, the conversation jumps around incomprehensibly. The very first conversation of the entire book is: “Horse to horse” (are the horses talking?) “Amira mimicking the still living French queen” (but Eleanor is Queen of France and of course she’s still living because she leading her followers with her burning hair reaching her horse’s tail (from a description on page 1) and kicking out her boots wildly in all directions so she can’t ride properly while wearing a fringed dress and a horsehair belt), “the screeching nag of a voice: Queen Adelaide must begin your every sentence.” Now what in the world is that supposed to mean? Why is this being said as riders ride at a full gallop (since how else would long hair stream out behind a rider as described?) To this obscure and utterly confusing remark, Beaulieu’s heroine answers: “I didn’t know which of her eyes to look into.” What? Why would you look at one rather than the other? She continues “Ye-gods!” A Catholic monarch calling on "ye gods'?????? “to be forced to walk politely backward?” What on earth are we talking about? You’ve lost me, Beaulieu, and I’m getting ready to toss this book away. Because this conversation makes no sense, I'm not interested in it. Furthermore, it doesn't sound like anything a French queen or a 12th century maiden would be saying, so it doesn't really matter that I don't understand it, it is putting me off this allegedly well-researched book further.
Fourth, Beaulieu’s Eleanor is only a vessel spouting his 20th century ideas without any personality of her own much less any authenticity. Or does anyone else besides Beaulieu seriously think that a 14-year-old, 12th century noblewoman would declaim: “Style is power. Life is art.” Or: “Why does Paris iconify the bloody deaths of martyred men?” Ah, Mr. Beaulieu, let me explain something about the subject on which you claim to be an expert (12th Century France) and that is that martyrs were revered in all of France—including in the Aquitaine—at this time. Or what about the following exchange: “We met the maker [of the bread] and placed a fair coin in his hands. That feels right, yes?” “A royal just takes it,” Florine asserted. (Really? Even in the age of absolute monarchs goods and services were paid for by the royal treasury. Theft was not practiced by the French kings — extortion maybe, excessive taxation certainly, but just taking bread from bakers without paying? No.) “That is neither royal, noble, nor fair” says our 14 year-old queen primly — and quite rightly since this sentiment reflects perfectly the values of the 12th century. The 20th century American Beaulieu, however, wants us to see this as a revolutionary new vision. So she answers (in another disconnected piece of dialogue) “That is why she is a ‘q,’ and I will be a Queen.”
I can read no more. This is polemics dressed up in poor prose with cardboard characters and no understanding of the historical context. I can only warn readers who like historical fiction (not historical fantasy) against spending money on this book. I deeply request wasting mine.
The storyline in his second book picks-up with the privileged Eleanor of Aquitaine becoming the young wife of Capet Louis the 7th, through an arranged marriage at the young age of 13. She becomes the queen of France and a mother for the first time. It was interesting to read how Eleanor’s relationship with her young husband was so unnatural - lacking of intimacy and passion dealing with all the social rules, religiosity, and rituals in a time when overtly showing love in a highly repressive Catholic society was not encouraged, but these were the very things Eleanor longed for in her day to day life. The priests were so powerful and they could banish or excommunicate the rich and poor at a whim. I enjoyed reading how Eleanor would not allow herself to be bullied by these rules and at the same time was walking a fine line with the Church for showing her female individualism.
Beaulieu tells of the 2nd Crusade’s large Frankish army’s journey east on a 3,000 mile journey across medieval Europe towards the Holly Lands. I never knew until I read this book that Eleanor and 300 women went on the Crusade with Eleanor and King Louis and even practiced fighting techniques and wore armor! The book tells of the army’s visit to the advanced culture of Byzantium and the greatest city in the world. It was enthralling to read about what they saw and learned while staying in this kingdom with all its grand scale advanced architecture, public utilities, commerce, science, art, and advanced culture.
The book continues with the war events of the 2nd Crusade. Beaulieu tells of war’s winter death, pillage, starvation, and sadness. There were little medicines or cleanliness in the 12th century and there was so much loss of life. Beaulieu’s historical novel expertly explores Queen Eleanor's very survival of the Crusade’s journey as a true and overlooked event in medieval history and it is well worth your time to read and learn about a brave queen in history.
I will be ordering Book 3 & 4 soon so I can learn the rest of her story.
- JB -