BELOVED ENEMY by Ellen Jones


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In her second novel of historical fiction, Jones (The Fatal Crown, 1990) continues her prurient tale of scandal and succession among medieval European royalty. This time, her subject is the torrid romance of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II of England. When Eleanor's mother and brother die suddenly in 1130, Eleanor becomes heir to the large and wealthy duchy of Aquitaine. Her father, William, never remarries, and at 15, Eleanor inherits his lands along with their rebellious vassals. She marries Prince Louis of France to protect herself and her beloved Aquitaine from greedy and ambitious lords, but the marriage is a disaster. Eleanor is, after all, a lusty daughter of Aquitaine, and Louis (later Saint Louis) was raised to be a monk. Eleanor is miserable in France, but it is only after she learns the pleasures of the flesh from her uncle, Raymond of Antioch, that she determines to leave Louis. Their marriage is annulled and Eleanor immediately marries Henry, Duke of Normandy, Count of Anjou, and soon-to-be King of England. Though her new marriage is again one of convenience, Eleanor finds something with Henry she never had with Louis -- great sex. Their passion for each other is insatiable and Eleanor gives Henry heir after heir. They are both too willful not to clash often, however, and when Eleanor discovers the existence of Henry's longtime mistress, Bellebelle, she and Henry become estranged. Ultimately, Bellebelle gets herself to a nunnery and Eleanor triumphs, but at the same time realizes that she cannot allow herself to be dominated by Henry. The book ends as it began -- with Eleanor returning to Aquitaine, the seat of her power and source of her strength. Even Jones's simplistic treatment cannot completely ruin one of history's finest love stories -- a fact that elevates this book to a cut above the average dime-store romance.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1994
Page count: 608pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Paramount