Review: Queen Defiant: A Novel of Eleanor of Aquitaine by Anne O'Brien

Publication Date:  June 7, 2011
NAL Trade


A riveting novel of Eleanor of Aquitaine's early adult years from the author of The Virgin Widow.

Orphaned at a young age, Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine, seeks a strong husband to keep her hold on the vast lands that have made her the most powerful heiress in Europe. But her arranged marriage to Louis VII, King of France, is made disastrous by Louis's weakness of will and fanatical devotion to the Church. Eleanor defies her husband by risking her life on an adventurous Crusade, and even challenges the Pope himself. And in young, brilliant, mercurial Henry d'Anjou, she finds her soul mate-the one man who is audacious enough to claim her for his own and make her Queen of England.


Eleanor of Aquitaine seems to be the historical “it” girl of 2011 and adding to the bevy of books on her is Anne O’Brien’s novel, Queen Defiant. This is truly one of the reasons why I love the historical fiction genre: you can read so many varied books on any one person and they all bring something new to the table.

In Queen Defiant, O’Brien chronicles Eleanor’s life from the death of her father, through her time as Queen of France and her unhappy marriage to the ineffectual and overly-pious King Louis. I have mixed emotions about this book, while Eleanor is portrayed as a strong- willed and determined woman, which I have always seen her as, at times she comes off a bit too haughty and kind of bitchy, which didn’t do much to endear her to me. I envision my Eleanor as a bit more subtle, and she’s definitely more outspoken here than I’ve seen her in other novels, though there were scenes that warranted it. That Louis could be so maddening! Louis’ character was pretty spot on from what I’ve read of him previously, though his piousness is taken to a whole new level. The fact that Eleanor managed to produce two children from this marriage seems to no less than a miracle and a testament to her tenacity.

Like any famous person, Eleanor has her share of rumors and scandals surrounding her and in Queen Defiant there is no shortage of drama! Not being a scholar on Eleanor I couldn’t tell you whether or not any of these are true, but they were interesting to read about to say the least! One little qualm I had with this book was that I wished there had been more of a setting up of the scenes; it seemed that the characters were here and then they were there and it made the read a little disjointed in my opinion.

But, all in all I enjoyed the new perspective of Eleanor. Her story is one that I will never tire of and if you’re like me then I suggest you check out Anne O’Brien’s novel, Queen Defiant!


Anne O'Brien was born in the West Riding of Yorkshire. After gaining a B.A. Honours degree in History at Manchester University and a Masters degree in education at Hull, she lived in the East Riding as a teacher of history. Always a prolific reader, she enjoyed historical fiction and was encouraged to try her hand at writing. Success in short story competitions spurred her on.

Leaving teaching - but not her love of history - she wrote her first historical romance, a Regency, which was published in 2005. To date nine historical romances and a novella, ranging from medieval, through the Civil War and Restoration and back to Regency, have been published internationally.

Anne now lives with her husband in an eighteenth century timber-framed cottage in the depths of the Welsh Marches in Herefordshire, a wild, beautiful place on the borders between England and Wales, renowned for its black and white timbered houses, ruined castles and priories and magnificent churches. Steeped in history, famous people and bloody deeds as well as ghosts and folk lore, it has given her inspiration for her writing. Since living there she has become hooked on medieval history.

Virgin Widow, published in 2010 was Anne's first novel based on the life of an historical character, Anne Neville. Her second novel, the early life of Eleanor of Aquitaine will be published in the UK in May 2011 as Devil's Consort and in the USA in June as Queen Defiant.  She is now working on the scandalous life of Alice Perrers, mistress of King Edward III.  A woman who broke all the rules.

For more information please visit Anne O'Brien's WEBSITE.



  1. One perspective I really enjoy of Eleanor is in the Ariana Franklin series. She wasn't the main character, but still in there enough to get a taste for what Franklin perceived her as...

  2. Eleanor does seem to be taking over for Elizabeth I

  3. Nice review :) This is my August book so soon

  4. Love the cover for this one. I don't think I can ever get tired of Eleanor either :)

  5. Great review and yet another delicious book to add to my Wish List!

  6. Eleanor is just about my favourite historical figure and I read everything on her I can get my hands on. But I am sorry to say this was not one of my fave Elaeanor reads. I enjoyed reading more about her earlier life but I don't picture her as quite as much of a "bitch" as she comes across in this book.And too much credence has been given to some of the more outlandish rumors circulating at the time. I think she was much too clever to behave in such a way.But having said that, this still worth a look.
    In my humble opinion the best, well rounded portrayal of this remarkable woman is by the incomparable Sharon Kay Penman.

  7. The more views you get of someone, the better picture you can form of them. Just remember to throw out the extremes on either end of the descriptions.
    Thanks for the review.


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