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Archive for May, 2010

September 1151. The Loire Valley. The future Henry II and his father, Geoffrey of Anjou, are heading back north after a visit to the French court and decide to strip off for a swim on the way.
Laughing, they splashed each other vigorously, then wrestled in the rippling water.
Reading this, I wasn’t comfortable with where the scene was going.
Henry was surprised to find his father’s muscles iron-hard – not bad for an old man of thirty-eight, he thought. He had glimpsed too Geoffrey’s impressive manhood.
Now I really don’t like where this is going. Glance nervously at the next page to read:
Their horseplay abandoned
THANK GOD.

What made me suspect that an innocent swim might turn into something a little less innocent?

The previous 21 pages.

The Captive Queen begins in August 1151 in Paris as Eleanor and Louis are preparing to receive Geoffrey of Anjou. Something I remembered from When Christ and His Saints Slept by Sharon Kay Penman. The book opens with Eleanor’s POV in a very sub-Jean Plaidy style:

Thus ran the Queen’s tumultuous thoughts as she sat with the King on their high thrones, waiting for Geoffrey and his son Henry to arrive, so that Louis could exchange with them the kiss of peace and receive Henry’s formal homage. The war was thus to be neatly concluded – except that there could be no neat conclusion to Eleanor’s inner turmoil.
which makes it all the more surprising when the next sentence is:
For this was to be the first time she had set eyes on Geoffrey since that blissful, sinful autumn in Poitou, five years before.
Definitely don’t remember this from Sharon Kay Penman.
It had not been love, and it had not lasted. But she had never been able to erase from her mind the erotic memory of herself and Geoffrey coupling gloriously between silken sheets, the candlelight a golden glow on their entwined bodies. Their coming together had been a revelation after the fumbling embarrassment of the marriage bed and the crude awakening afforded her by Marcabru;
Hold that thought. More about Marcabru coming up (so to speak) very soon.
she had never dreamed that a man could give her such prolonged pleasure. It had surged again and again until she had cried out with the joy of it, and it had made her aware, as never before, of what was lacking in her union with Louis.
Right, so now she’s going to see Geoffrey again and she’s scared she’ll give herself away. But ONE PAGE LATER she loses interest in Geoffrey entirely when:
Eleanor took one look at Henry – and saw Geoffrey no more…Lust knifed through her. She could barely control herself. Never had she reacted so violently to any man.
After Bernard of Clairvaux has interrupted to tell Eleanor the legend of Melusine, which she would already know and he would know she knew, Eleanor and Henry get talking and don’t beat around the bush. So to speak.
‘Madame the Queen, I see that the many reports of your beauty do not lie,’ Henry addressed her, sketching a quick bow. Eleanor felt the lust rising again in her. God, he was beddable! What wouldn’t she give for one night between the sheets with him!
Fortunately Henry feels the same:
‘You need a real man in your bed,’ Henry told her bluntly, his eyes never leaving hers, his lips curling in a suggestive smile.
Henry knows better than to expect a slap in the face – after all, he’s heard all about Eleanor:
‘I have heard one or two things that made me sit up and take notice,’ he grinned. ‘Or stand up and take notice, if you want the bare truth! But I have been no angel myself. We are two of a kind, my queen.’
Later that night, Eleanor gazes at her naked self imagining Henry’s reaction once he cops an eyeful:
The very thought of that steely, knowing gaze upon her nudity made her melt with need, and her fingers crept greedily down to that secret place between her legs, the place that people like Bernard regarded as forbidden to the devout: the place where, five years before, she had learned to feel rushes and crescendos of unutterable pleasure
(Only it was utterable, because we’ve already been told she ‘cried out with the joy of it.’) Anyway. Remember Marcabru?
It was Marcabru the troubadour who had shown her how, the incomparable Marcabru, whom she herself had invited from her native Aquitaine to the court of Paris – where his talents, such as they were, had not been appreciated.
This seems rather surprising when we learn that he has
done what Louis never had to bring her to a climax, one glorious July day in a secluded arbour in the palace gardens.
With Marcabru banished and her interlude with Geoffrey over, Eleanor was flung back on her own resources:
Since then, she had learned to pleasure herself, and she did so now, hungrily, her body alive in anticipation of the joys she would share with Henry of Anjou when they could be together. And, gasping as the shudders of her release convulsed her, she promised herself that it would be soon.

All this by page 14.

In other words, so far this book read almost exactly like an erotic novel. Not as good as say, Portia da Costa, but a fair enough effort at a Plantagenet sex romp. The trouble is, I wasn’t expecting to read a Plantagenet sex romp. I was expecting to read a serious novel about Eleanor of Aquitaine.

The not-particularly-well-written sex was only part of the problem. Eleanor was portrayed as someone who thought with her panties, who only considered Henry as a potential husband after jumping into bed with him. She had the sexual appetite of Judith Krantz’s Billy Ikehorn, but not the ambition. At this point, I really didn’t feel as if I wanted to spend over 450 pages with her. If this was my idea of Eleanor, I’d read Alan Savage.

I decided to look at one of the non-sex scenes (when I could find one) and see what I thought of that before giving up and returning the book to the library. I flipped 15 years ahead to 1166. Eleanor is heavily pregnant with her last child, John, and heading for Oxford when she is diverted to Woodstock by bad weather:

It was cold in the wilds of Oxfordshire, and there was a promise of snow in the leaden air. The sky was lowering, the skeletal trees bending before the icy wind.
So far so good.
Eleanor sat huddled in her litter, her swollen body swathed in furs, aware that she should find some place of shelter soon, for it could not be long now before this babe was ready to greet the world.
I thought this made her sound like a cat who’s planning to give birth in someone’s sock drawer.

At Woodstock, Eleanor notices a new tower has been built…and there’s a light at the top of it.  At the top of the tower she finds:

a pretty domestic scene. The room was warm, heated by the coals in a glowing brazier. An exquisitely beautiful young girl was sitting before a basin of chased silver, humming as she washed herself with a fine holland cloth, by the dancing light of many wax candles. She wore only a white chemise, draped around her waist, exposing her upper body. In the instant before the startled nymph gasped and covered herself, Eleanor’s shrewd eyes took in the small, pink-tipped breasts, the long, straw-coloured tresses, the firm, slender arms and the damp, rose-petal skin.
In this book, I’m not comfortable with Eleanor noticing anybody’s nipples.
This is, of course, Henry’s mistress Rosamund de Clifford. Eleanor has no idea who Rosamund is. Rosamund has no idea who she is. After a round of introductions, Eleanor gets to the point:
‘I will not beat about the bush,’ the Queen said. ‘Tell me the truth. Are you his mistress?’
As Rosamund stutters and begs for mercy, Eleanor feels ‘sick to her stomach’, ‘betrayed.’ She asks if Rosamund realises that she, Eleanor, is pregnant with Henry’s child.

I can see that given the way Eleanor is portrayed in this book, she might feel the paternity of her child requires some clarification. Anyway. While Rosamund weeps, Eleanor threatens her:

‘Do you know what I could do to you?’ Her eyes narrowed as she moved – menacingly, she hoped – closer towards the snivelling creature kneeling before her. She was filled with hatred. She wanted this girl to suffer, as she herself was suffering. ‘I could have you whipped! If I had a mind to, I could call for a dagger and stab you, or have your food poisoned. Yes, Rosamund de Clifford, it would give me great pleasure to think of you, every time they bring you those choice dainties that my husband has no doubt ordered for you, wondering if your next mouthful might be your last!’
Rosamund decides to stand up for herself.
‘My Lady will know that one does not refuse the King,’ Rosamund said in a low, shaking voice. ‘But…’ and now Eleanor could detect a faint note of defiance – ‘I did love him, and what I gave I gave willingly.’
Her words were like knives twisting in the older woman’s heart.
After Rosamund goes on to tell Eleanor that Henry stayed at Woodstock with her ‘all last autumn, winter and spring’, built her the tower and the labyrinth and commanded her to wait there for his return, Eleanor is devastated:
Like an animal with a mortal hurt, she wanted to retreat to a dark place and die…
‘Never let me set eyes on you again!’ she hissed at Rosamund, then turned her back on the girl, glided from the room with as much dignity as she could muster
and announces to her entourage that the place is:
‘…wholly unfit for habitation. Like it or not, we must make for Oxford.’ She knew had to get away from Woodstock as quickly as possible. She could not endure to share a roof with Rosamund de Clifford, or even breathe the same air. She must go somewhere she could lick her wounds in peace.
Fast forward to Oxford where, after her encounter with Rosamund, Eleanor has ‘no heart for this labour’ and ‘turned her face away’ when the child is born. However, she pulls herself together sufficiently to decide on a name for the baby:
‘…I mind me that the Feast of St John the Apostle and St John the Evangelist is in three days’ time. I shall call him John.’
Now we get some heavy foreshadowing as Eleanor’s sister Petronilla thinks that:
what should have been a happy occasion was, for some reason beyond her comprehension, a very sad one.
And sure enough, two years later:
Try as she might, Eleanor still could not bring herself to love him, this child conceived in sorrow and born in betrayal. His existence conjured up too many memories of that terrible Christmas-tide, when she had gone to Woodstock and come face-to-face with catastrophe and ruin, and then endured that bloody, agonising travail at Oxford. No, John was the fruit of a marriage in its death throes, and sometimes she could not bear to look upon him. His nurses had the care of him.

Which is obviously why he turned out as badly as he did. The implication is that if Eleanor hadn’t stopped at Woodstock on that snowy night, Magna Carta might never have happened

Andrew C. Wheeler, ‘The Birth and Childhood of King John: Some Revisions’ (from Eleanor of Aquitaine: Lord and Lady, ed. Bonnie Wheeler and John Carmi Parsons, 2002**), discussing the placement of Henry and Eleanor’s young children at the abbey of Fontevrault, makes several points. Firstly, ‘there seems no reason to doubt that it was Henry’ who made the decision to send the children to Fontevrault. Secondly, ‘Nothing suggests that [Eleanor’s daughter, also called Eleanor] ever lived at Fontevraud.’ Thirdly, sending John and his sister Joan there would make them more accessible to their parents, not less: ‘the central location of Fontevraud would make it accessible to both Henry and Eleanor, he from Normandy or Anjou, she from Poitou, for such parental functions as they chose to fulfil.’

Weir, however, has Eleanor racked with guilt at her decision to consign her children (including Eleanor) to Fontevrault, despite the fact that John and his sister Joan are so young at this point (1168) they couldn’t possibly travel with the court anyway. Weir’s biography of Eleanor came out before Eleanor of Aquitaine: Lord and Lady was published, so she couldn’t have taken it into consideration when writing her biography, but, considering the lack of evidence about Eleanor, wouldn’t it have made sense to catch up on recent research before writing her novel? Instead, Weir has chosen to fill the gaps with all the old cliches about Eleanor, many of them based on either medieval misogyny or Victorian ideals of womanhood. Her admirers will perhaps argue that this makes for better fiction. In this case, I found that it didn’t.
***
I borrowed this book from the library.

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There’s a good reason this one is out of print….

“She knew, as he loved her, as he took her to the heights of passion – of pleasure – that she belonged to him, her lord and master, her highwayman, her nightrider, forever…” Oh dear, with such insightful (not) prose what is there left to say? Run for the hills perhaps?

Upon the death of her father the Earl of Barthorp, Lady Bliss Paynter is a ward of the court until Charles II sells her guardianship off to the odious Sir Basil Holme. Enter stage left Kit (Christopher) who becomes Baron de Wilde upon the death of his father. Kit’s family had supported Cromwell during the Civil Wars and lost their lands when Charles was restored to the throne – lands that were given to Bliss’s father. Kit vows to not let the villagers loyal to the de Wilde family and Chatham castle starve and he takes to the highway to rob from the rich and give to the poor. When Kit sets upon the carriage carrying the beauteous Bliss on the way to Chatham castle he steals a kiss and her heart as well…

Bliss’s guardian soon decides to wed her off to the fortune hunting Stephen Villiers, a distant cousin of George Villiers, The Duke of Buckingham. At this point the story becomes Terribly Tangled with Mistaken Identities, the Big Misunderstanding, and other silly plot twists that I have no desire to revisit again. I wish nothing more than to forget them and move on to better books.

I’m not one to let a cheesy cover scare me away from a book as I’ve found some really great treasures behind them but trust me – this book is not one of them. If you enjoy a book with a wimpy hero who does nothing but snarl and growl and furrow his eyebrows, a TSTL heroine who can’t seem to find any other fabric to wear besides velvet along with cardboard cut-out black and white baddies this might suit but otherwise I’d give it a miss. Oh, and if you’re thinking you don’t care because you’re just looking for a wall-paper historical with lots of sex like the cover suggests? Guess what – you’ll not find much of that either – what little sex there is in this book is very very tame. Skip this.

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Lol! This is a keeper, details here. Monitor warning, finish your beverage and snack before venturing there and unless you don’t want the boss catching you laughing your a## off I suggest to wait until you are home 🙂

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The grass is definitely greener over here at Word Press, especially for the blogger challenged (that would be me). A recent commenter had asked for a back list of older posts, so there’s an archive function to look them up, as well as genre categories. Let us know if you’d like to see anything else, and remember – feel free to submit your latest *corker* to ShelfofShame@gmail.com  and save the rest of us  🙂

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Heavens, where on earth do I start? I know it’s historical romance and don’t expect as much as I would from an historical novel, but still – this is beyond bad. I’ll try to make the synopsis short and sweet and spare you the details. I only picked this one up at the library as Harriet said something in her glowing review about a Viking S-trick and we had to know.

Set in the 10C in Northumbria, the story begins as Vana the White (I am not kidding) and her merry band of Viking princesses are disposing of the pieces of the body of Vana’s abusive husband down the privy (I am not kidding). Fearing trial and hanging they flee for their lives and seek succor at the home of distant relative Caedmon of Larkspur. The Princesses find the place a disaster (Caedmon’s been off a-knighting with the King) and proceed to fix it up. Cleaning the walls, planting roses and repairing the roof (I am not kidding) and mothering Caedmon’s wild band of children from two previous marriages plus the odd illegitimate child.

Of course you know when Caedmon returns home he’s going to set sights on one of the Princesses and it’s lust at first sight, right? It is a romance after all. This is where I’ll spare you the details but these two end up making a silly agreement to protect the others and she’ll sleep with him for ten nights (swive is Caedmon’s word for it). Thus proceeds lots and lots of sex in mind numbing quantities and in any position you can imagine. You do not want to know about the various places on a body wherein honey can be put on and then licked clean. Here’s a few choice quotes just so you can see how profound (not) the writing is,

“Piers chose that moment to prove that he was all boy by aiming his little pizzle at Caedmon’s chest, soaking his clean tunic.”

“The red-headed princess witch of the north was up at the top of Larkspur’s roof, rounding at one of the slates.”

“She lifted his cock and stared at his ballocks, as if she had just enearthed some secret. ‘Eeew, it is hairy. Like peach fuzz.’”

“Slowly she felt him remove the finger and caress her back, spreading her wetness.”

“You are wet for me.”

“She lifted his cock and stared at his ballocks, as if she had just enearthed some secret. ‘Eeew, it is hairy. Like peach fuzz.’”

“Slowly she felt him remove the finger and caress her back, spreading her wetness.”

“Canter or gallop m’lord?”

Hehe, and she’s not talking about riding horse there either. I think you get the picture. The sex scenes were excruciating and made me want to wash my head out with soap and water. Top all that off with this bizarre slap-stick type of modern humor and it just doesn’t cut it. I know there are readers who like nothing better than page after page of detailed sex acts in a prettified make believe historical setting but for anyone else I suggest giving it a pass. I hear the author is known for her slap stick style of humor and she’s written some kind of Gone With the Wind take off. No, I am not going to do it. No way, no how. Not for anyone.

And I almost forgot to mention what the infamous Viking S trick is (thanks Daphne for reminding me). After putting myself through that torture it was all for nothing. The hero learns of it and tells her that’s what he’s going to do and the story ends. We’ll never know.

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“You swept into my life like a raging storm” and “Right now ’tis not our trust that I crave the most,” she admitted.”

Sigh, where do I begin? Our dashing hero is David D’Aubere, Earl of Lynchburg, a landless Earl (is there such a thing?) and great warrior who has sworn fealty to Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou. Margaret is thrilled when David lops off the head of her sworn enemy, and rewards him with a great castle and marriage to an heiress, although the joke is on him when he finds his wife by proxy with the mental capacity of a child. He needs an heir to keep his new lands and just like magic a beauteous servant by the name of Riley crosses his path and he decides to impregnate her and pass the baby off as that of his wife. Are you rolling your eyes yet? Never fear there’s more……

See it’s like this – our beauteous servant is no servant at all, she’s the daughter of the Yorkist Earl of Ewesbury and she and her older cousin crossed the English Channel all by themselves and managed to infiltrate the Lancastrian household as servants. No, I am not kidding – no men at arms or attendants to assist these Medieval Misses, no indeedy. Well, you know the H&H are going to fall madly in love, but with all the secrets between them the path to true love has a bump or two, including the newly crowned Edward IV attempting to seduce our heroine in his “love garden” (his words) and culminating in a grand tourney overseen by our heroine dressed only in her shift….

No, I am not kidding, although at least by the tourney she had finally found herself a headdress and covered all those runaway curls. I could go on, but I’m fairly certain you get the idea. If you’re looking for a good story with some decent writing I suggest you look elsewhere. If you’re looking for a wall-paper romance with no purpose other than constant sex this might do but honestly it was pretty dreadful as you can see for yourself,

“He increased his pace until her moans filled the chamber. The glossy elixir of her body bathed his fingers, and he knew that she was fast approaching her peak…..As his fingers wiggled inside of her, her body began to shake with spasm after spasm of jolting pleasure…..her buttocks lifted, her hidden corridor sealing to his fingers, pulsing and brimming over with a hot lather.”

“Lowering his mouth to her, he kissed the pink rose of her sex……Her whole body melted into a mist as his tongue caressed the swollen kernel hidden within her womanhood. The heat of his breath, mingled with his searching tongue, left her keening with ecstasy.”

Although I do give the author credit for not including any volcanos of honey :p

Could this get any worse? Well yes it can, because there’s a sequel set during the time of Richard III and the missing princes. Stay tuned…….

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***Adult content warning. If you are at work and don’t want the censor alarms going off and notifying the boss what you are really doing I suggest you stop and wait until you get home***

Lol! How’s that for a cover for you. I discovered this book in a round about way (long story, we don’t need to go there) and as a cock-up (pun most definitely intended) my Secret Santa sent me this. I am guessing everyone wanted to see what I could do with it so here we go…..

This “Adults Only” book (there is probably a very good reason the look inside feature is not available on Amazon) is author Tim Desmondes’ take on the old Robin Hood legends. He sets his version in the 1180’s when Henry and Eleanor of Aquitaine are still on the throne. Story wise it pretty much follows the standard lines of being branded as an outlaw, living in the forest with the Merry Men and his true love Maid Marian. Where this does go well off the beaten path is the sexual activities and language in this book, much of which I am too embarrassed to even share here. Perhaps if the author had kept his tongue firmly planted in his cheek and kept it light it might have been a bit more *fun* but as it was it was obnoxious and downright painful to get through – but I took one for the team and slowly carried on.

I will share a few quotes with you and remember – these are the tamest, and the *** at the end of certain words are inserted by me.

After his first romp in the hay with his beloved Maid Marian,

“He was a merry Robin. He had found his Maid Marian who had literally found him to her taste.”

Use your imagination and you can figure out what she was tasting, and be very very glad I didn’t quote from just before that. Very glad.

“He had to take pleasure in those voluptuous boobs. As his sweetheart lay on the bed sighing, he applied his lips to those extended nipples that had popped up perkily to greet his. As he sucked and suckled, Main Marian’s right hand encircled his balls”

It gets worse, but I am not going further.

“…Queen Eleanor’s eyes fairly bugged out when they bored in on the bulge in Robin’s tights. She was not disappointed. Unless the outlaw wore falsies he very much lived up to her expectations.”

Falsies? I am sooooo not going there.

“As Robin stared, amazed and in awe, at the most beautiful tits in the Westerns world, Eleanor gazed, awestruck, at the most esthetically gorgeous c*** and balls she had ever encountered. Although he was her subject, Robin took the initiative and bolted directly to that pair of nipples that were winking at him across the room……..Neither minstrelsy nor history record the intricacies of who did what to whom in what was undoubtedly the greatest f***fest of the eleventh century.”

**scratches head** 11C? Kind of makes the Alan Savage novels look good. Almost.

“The queen smiled to herself. She well knew how Robin could shoot with his glorious personal arrow.”

“Matching his Saxon c*** to Eleanor’s Aquitainian c*** that evening, the Battle of Hastings was re-enacted with victory achieved by both sides.”

I do not want to know. I do not want to know. I do not want to know. The book continues on with the rest of Robin’s story including his meeting with the Lionheart (oh I was sooooooo scared what he was going to do there – but whew it didn’t happen) along more pages and pages of someone else’s poetry and/or old ballads. Perhaps if you’re into reading porn this might appeal but otherwise I’d give it a pass. Bad, unbelievably bad.

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