Eleanor of Aquitaine was ahead of her time. With her father's death, she becomes duchess at age 15 and determines to rule her life and not be ruled by her counselors. But as the rich heiress to the finest province in France, she is a prize for the first man who can woo her, abduct her or force her into marriage.

Eleanor takes fate into her own hands when she plots to marry Louis, heir to the throne. Not only will he protect her province from war with France, he'll also stave off unwanted suitors. Though young, she proves that she has a calculating mind behind her pretty face and fine figure when she convinces the archbishop to put her betrothal into her father's will.

Her plan is a success, and Eleanor is content with her marriage, until she follows her husband during the Crusades. Experiencing the lush culture of Greece and the Middle East forces Eleanor to re-evaluate her life. She desires more than contentment and a loveless relationship. Now she plans for divorce, especially after meeting the charismatic Henry Plantagenet.

This book is as rich in detail as the finest tapestry, as sumptuous as a fur rug and dazzling in its portrait of a remarkable woman. Ball's meticulous research, which included translating primary sources from Latin, allows for an accurate depiction of France, the Byzantine Empire and, most of all, the powerful, clever, beautiful and colorful woman who still inspires us. (Jun., 384 pp., $25.95)

Reviewed by: 
Kathe Robin