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Showing 1-10 of 38 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 71 reviews
on June 14, 2014
The first time I read this book, I struggled to keep the main characters straight -- I swear every male in European noble families was named Richard, Edward, or Robert during the Middle Ages.

My second attempt, made during a visit to Provence, got me over the hump and into this remarkable tale of Beatrice of Savoy. Despite being nothing more than the Countess of Provence, she married one daughter to the King of France and another to the King of England. What's more, she schooled the girls so well that both ended up doing the lion's share of governing when their hapless spouses were unequal to the task. She and her daughters were remarkably strong women in an age we think of as completely dominated by men.

The book is well written and very interesting, especially if you know as little about medieval history as I did.
It depicts the horrors of the Crusades in terms of human lives lost and cities destroyed for no good reason. The stupidity, hypocrisy, and venality of the civil and religious authorities involved were on a par with what we experienced in Twentieth Century Europe, albeit on a smaller scale. Queen Margaret (the second daughter) played a key role in salvaging what she could of Louis IX's disastrous crusade; the man was more fool than saint by my reckoning.
This book was an eye opener and certainly enhanced my appreciation for many of the places I visited in France.
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on November 1, 2014
I don't want dry as dust history and I don't want fiction. It follows that some lively writing would not be rejected. So a misstep in fact-checking here and there would not disturb me unless it would be glaring to an average, educated person. Thank heavens we aren't all stuck in those dull old college books, those tomes that crush all the life out of possibly exciting episodes from the past.

So bring on anyone who can put some vibrancy and flavor back into the dusty old annals of history.
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on April 17, 2017
This well researched narrative reads like a modern "Tell-all" in the lives of royal houses in the 1200's. It s amazing how families get tangled up , even back then.
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on May 11, 2016
An interesting take on the period. I have read other books starring the same protagonists and they don't seem to notice that these four queens were sisters. Well written and researched.
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on July 14, 2008
My love of medieval history and soft-spot for popular history made this book a natural for me. The story of four daughters of the Count of Provence who became "queens" is set in an era I've study quite a bit yet (back in college!) I know relatively little about Marguerite, Eleanor, Sanchia and Beatrice.

Any biography of a major figure from the 13 century has hurdles: few contemporaneous first-hand accounts, few to none documents written by the figures themselves, etc. These problems are compounded exponentially when the figure in question is female. All too often, women just didn't rate making it into the chronicles. So Goldstone has her work cut out for her. She makes a valiant effort to piece together the careers and characters of these women drawing conclusions from the smattering of available facts. The reader can take issues with these conclusions but that, to me, is one of the rewards of reading about this era.

All that said, this book was a disappointment. Other reviewers have noted the multitude of factual errors in this book and I have to add my voice to the chorus. Silly, stupid mistakes are present in every single chapter. Were all the fact checkers on vacation when this book was being edited? Did Goldstone get her index cards mixed up? Popular history often needs to tread lightly on the details but never on the facts.

The narrative starts well but writing starts to become heavy going before youngest sister Beatrice hits the stage. Goldstone starts overwhelming the reader with "events" that aren't particularly telling about the four sisters or illuminating of their times. She also over does the adjectives; Sanchia is too frequently "gentle Sanchia", for example. The last quarter of the book was a real trial for me to finish.

I've given this book three stars, the writing and the factual errors would make this book a two but the decent start and the relative obscurity of the topic earn it an extra star from me. If you want an intro to the period this is not the best place to start. If you are immersed in this period, you may find the errors too annoying to bear. If you are interested in learning about these four under-known sisters and their times and are comfortable skipping judiciously, this book may be for you.

Kindle note: photos are included.
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on September 1, 2015
Nancy Goldstone can take a period of history that few are familiar with and make it come alive. This book is so well and engagingly written that even someone not a died-in-the-wool history buff like myself would thoroughly enjoy it. These four Medieval beauties all lead fascinating lives. They all had arranged marriages as nobility did in those days so were mere pawns but all had a thin rod of steel that saw them through. Read it. Its a great book as all Nancy's books are.
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on September 5, 2014
Fascinating from the perspective of Western European history, women's power and the misplaced honor of the sainthood of Louis IX.

I live in a 13th century bastide in Southwest France and the history that surrounds this time and place are of tremendous interest to me. I have read this twice and expect to read it again and again. Each time I read it new nuances of the characters and places involved are revealed.
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on April 10, 2011
I have never reviewed a book before,leaving that to others who appeared to be more well-read. After reading this book, however, I feel moved to comment.

This book is written more in the style of a novel, even though it is non-fiction. It is very entertaining, easy to read and a fun book all around. I found myself wishing that high school history books were written in a similar style--students might actually read them!

I'm a big fan of well-written historical fiction, and this book comes close in entertainment value. This isn't a book for serious scholars, but an easy read for those of us who are interested in history but aren't researching an academic treatise. I'd recommend it for the average history buff.
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on August 5, 2015
Two generations after Eleanor of Aquitaine, Eleanor of Provence marries King Henry, the first Eleanor’s grandson. Three other sisters become royalty in this riveting history of 13th century Europe. Goldstone is a wonderful writer and her characters jump off the page. When you finish this, read her 2012 book, "The Maid and the Queen."
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on January 25, 2017
Excellent read on a remarkable era, exposing a real feel for the time. Highly recommend for those without a great deal of knowledge in this particular era.
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