If you love historical fiction as much as I do, more than likely it’s because it takes you away to a new place, a new world, and a new time. The BEST historical fiction novels are so phenomenally written with intricate details, robust characters, lush scenery, and have a way of really making you feel the passion behind the novel. Four Sisters, All Queens, a novel by Sherry Jones about four thirteenth-century sisters who all become Queens, gave me all that and more!! I highly recommend this book to all women, history lovers, or really ANYONE looking for a fresh, original, and memorable read.
While reading Four Sisters, All Queens, I was whisked away to a medieval feast of words, so stirring and richly decorated, with a pace that made me not want to put the book down. Even though a more lengthy book, as most historical fiction novels tend to be of course, I had no trouble reading through it as quick as my schedule would allow. When I did finish, I was left feeling empowered and fulfilled at the end. It fueled my passion for the power of women by showcasing me the strength of regal women of history, giving me inspiration, and it ignited my passion for the medieval time period even further and left me wanting to learn more.
I found Sherry Jones’ style of writing refreshing and I connected to it so intrinsically due to her use of third person in the present tense, as compared to most novels using the first or third person in past tense. Hearing not only what the characters say, but also what they think at each pass in the story as if we all were presently living it, truly helped to propel me into the new time and place that I so desired. The use of the present tense really formulated this novel into more of a set of stories that intertwined, told about each of the four main characters–sisters of Provence Marguerite, Eleonore, Sanchia, and Beatrice. It was storytelling as its FINEST, almost at a musical pace, and way beyond just good fiction writing. It was as if each character was narrating their story in a way that we could visualize vibrantly. We can easily become the character’s best friends, understanding their innermost secrets, thoughts, desires, and fears.
With so much history to delve into from the lush and barely tapped historical time period, Jones focused on her character’s feelings surrounding their dilemmas and the revolving theme of family and how they all interconnected. Each sister, faced with varying and differing problems of each of their countries, regions, and political entanglements throughout the book, all kept a common thread of “family first” even if sometimes they didn’t realize it in each other’s actions. Though we learned quite a bit of history, we more importantly grasped how these women of history learned to deal with issues common during medieval England, such as illness, death, piety, and the stringent laws not favoring the poor or women. We read what the characters were thinking, feeling, and how their response framed not only their lives, but the lives of each other as well as even our own lives today as women. Their amazing strength, intellect, and love of family and children shone through in each sentence.
Reading several other books lately pertaining to one or more of these famous sisters of Savoy, in which Marguerite seems to be overwhelmingly the sister who dominates in prose, I feel compelled to learn more about each one–Marguerite’s story because her passion interests me and remind me of me, Eleonore because of her strength, and the others, simply, because more should be written about them. Maybe more isn’t known, but that is what fiction is for I guess! Beatrice, though disliked by her sisters it seems in Jones’ book, showed true political prowess and fortitude.
As I said, I especially like Marguerite’s story. I have enjoyed reading different perspectives of various authors of her struggles living as the Queen of France to overly pious and extreme flogger Louis IX, as well as daughter-in-law to the infamously controlling Blanche of Castile. I found Marguerite’s thoughts of how confining the Church was to life and women at that time very much how I might have thought if I had been her. Her disuse and annoyance for Louis IX to be so pious as to not care for his wife, his strange infatuation with his mother and his blind mania for the Crusades mirrored most of my own thoughts. I felt in Jones’ book she really captured the personality of how a strong and intelligent woman might react mentally to the extremely trying life Marguerite had to deal with and showed, tapping into several documented instances, how she overcame the mental stress and stood strong for her King and France, even while birthing babies at the same time.
Overall, what a great monumental historical fiction masterpiece from Sherry Jones. A must read for any female who admires the amazing stories of all the strong women of the past, for any woman who needs some inspiration to remember how strong she really can be, for any history lover, for any man who doesn’t believe women can do great things, and finally, for anyone who wants a really great book that they’ll read, remember, and want to keep on their bookshelf.
“Women have only the power that men allow them, said Beatrice.” How happy I am that the world has evolved enough that women have more of a voice to not have to continue to believe that true.
Synopsis for Four Sisters, All Queens~
Rich in intrigue and scheming, love and lust, Sherry Jones’s vibrant historical novel follows four women destined to sway the fate of nations and the hearts of kings. . . .
Amid the lush valleys and fragrant wildflowers of Provence, Marguerite, Eléonore, Sanchia, and Beatrice have learned to charm, hunt, dance, and debate under the careful tutelage of their ambitious mother—and to abide by the countess’s motto: “Family comes first.”
With Provence under constant attack, their legacy and safety depend upon powerful alliances. Marguerite’s illustrious match with the young King Louis IX makes her Queen of France. Soon Eléonore—independent and daring—is betrothed to Henry III of England. In turn, shy, devout Sanchia and tempestuous Beatrice wed noblemen who will also make them queens.
Yet a crown is no guarantee of protection. Enemies are everywhere, from Marguerite’s duplicitous mother-in-law to vengeful lovers and land-hungry barons. Then there are the dangers that come from within, as loyalty succumbs to bitter sibling rivalry, and sister is pitted against sister for the prize each believes is rightfully hers—Provence itself.
From the treacherous courts of France and England, to the bloody tumult of the Crusades, Sherry Jones traces the extraordinary true story of four fascinating sisters whose passions, conquests, and progeny shaped the course of history.
White Heart, prequel~Review
White Heart, prequel to Four Sisters, All Queens, is Jones’ novella about Blanche of Castile, the notorious B*itch of a mother of Louis IX, who ran France after the death of her husband and put her son on the throne, while managing to wield her political power and strong-arm every man in France. Her history is so infamous that everyone sees her as evil, but Jones’ book really shed a new light on Blanche’s personality for me, which never occurred to me could have been caused by her absolute need to protect herself and her family in the brutal world being run by men. As women are always scrutinized for indiscretions, which was especially true in the 1200s, she had to have pristine piety. Of course her white heart would win her and her son favor. It wasn’t just about favor with God, but about favor with France. She had to stand up to every man vying for what she had. I loved the novella because I liked hearing the viewpoint from Blanche, to hear her innermost thoughts and concerns. I think differently of her now I suppose, in a way. In contemporary times her quest to remain in control and in charge of France, and her son, at all costs would be too ambitious; however, if the alternative is a life in the nunnery because men feel you can do nothing else, how could you not fight for your ultimate freedom even if it is self-serving? It’s only my opinion, but of course everyone has reasons for how they act and with Jones’ book we get an in-depth look at the emotions behind Blanche. I recommend everyone read White Heart if they are reading Four Sisters, All Queens. It only takes an hour or two to read.
Synopsis for White Heart~
Cold. Hard. Calculating. Blanche de Castille was the quintessential evil mother-in-law. In Four Sisters, All Queens, she’s the nemesis of the sweet-tempered and intelligent Marguerite and a mother creepily devoted to her eldest son. And yet … like most of us, Blanche wasn’t all bad. She was noted for her charity — even criticized for giving too much to the poor. She loved her husband, the King of France, and fainted when she learned he’d died. And she was the strongest and most powerful queen France ever had.
But for a woman to rule is unprecedented — and she is instantly challenged by the French barons, who would take the throne for themselves. Like Queen Elizabeth after her, Blanche becomes embroiled in sexual scandal from moment she takes the crown. And, like that famous English queen, Blanche comes to realize what she must do to hold it. But is the price too high?
White Heart, the shocking prequel to Four Sisters, All Queens, explores the psychology of woman’s power in a man’s world and asks: What wouldn’t YOU do to be Queen?