This is the second in Henley's Plantagenet trilogy (The Falcon and the Flower, The Dragon and the Jewel and The Marriage Prize). When King John died, his oldest son, though still young, became King Henry III. Henry had a brother, Richard of Cornwall, and a sister, Eleanor. This is the story of the three siblings, and particularly Princess Eleanor and her second husband, Simon de Montfort, the Earl of Leicester.
When she is nine, Eleanor is wed to William Marshal, 2nd Earl of Pembroke (the son of the great William Marshal and equally as honorable). Eleanor has loved and admired William her whole life. The fact he is 30 years her senior is not a negative for her. William wants to wait to take her as a wife in truth until she is 16. Meanwhile, King Henry takes as his queen an impoverished and ambitious French Provençal, also named Eleanor, who is jealous of the king's sister and thinks to diminish her.
There is no question Henley knows how to write historical romance. (She is one my mentors!) Her story reflects the weak king that was Henry III and the constant fights he had with his nobles who were concerned he was allowing England to be run by foreigners and unworthy men. Henley’s attention to detail in dress, food and the environment is meticulous. She is so good I simply devoured this novel. Like her others, this is a complex, well-written, lusty tale with splendid characters, a strong feisty heroine, a drool worthy hero (two of them!) and an interesting plot. You won't be disappointed, I promise.
The Falcon and the Flower (1989) - late 12th century/early 13th
The Dragon and the Jewel (1991) - 13th century
The Marriage Prize (2000) - 13th century