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The Lioness in Winter

Now this is a princess book.

The Lioness in Winter

BOOK REPORT for Eleanor: Crown Jewel of Aquitaine by Kristiana Gregory

Cover Story: Once Upon a Time
BFF Charm: Yay!
Swoonworthy Scale: 5 + 5 = 10??
Talky Talk: Alas! Earwax
Bonus Factors: Sisters, Age of Chivalry
Relationship Status: Courtly Love

Royal Diaries Drinking Game

Take a sip when:
• There is talk of a betrothal
• The protagonist references the diary concept (i.e. apologizes for not writing often enough, has to find a hiding place for the diary, explains why she's writing in it to begin with, etc.)
• The protagonist wonders what it would be like to be a "normal girl"
• There’s a ball
• Trip to the marketplace
• Somebody becomes deathly ill (pour one out if they die!)
• Somebody is poisoned or strangled or in some other way Ye Olde Murdered
• You wish you were a princess

Take two sips when:
• The protagonist becomes officially betrothed
• The protagonist suspects someone of reading her diary
• It's the protagonist's birthday
• Secret nighttime adventure!
• Obvious historical foreshadowing
• The protagonist becomes deathly ill
• You're really glad you're NOT a princess

Take a shot when:
• The protagonist gets hitched
• Another Royal Diarist is mentioned*

*Eleanor disagrees with my swoon rating re: Cleopatra and Mark Antony

Cover Story: Once Upon a Time

That dress! That castle! That knight-in-shining armor! It doesn't get more fairytale than this. Only the lack of fire-breathing dragon reminds us that Eleanor is historical fiction and not pure fantasy. (Luckily, there are dragons a'plenty inside. Well, one dragon, but mentioned multiple times.)

The Deal:

Eleanor's father, the Duke of Aquitaine, is the most powerful man in France besides the king—and even that's debatable. Unfortunately, everybody (except Eleanor and her sister, but including the Pope) hates the Duke, because he is also an angry jerk. Until one summer day he comes down with a sudden case of piety, and leaves Aquitaine to go a'pilgrimaging in Spain. If all that's not enough for poor teenage Eleanor to deal with, there's also the fact that she can't take a single step outside the castle walls without some bandits trying to kidnap her for ransom money and/or matrimony. Also, it's the Middle Ages; no matter how rich her dad is or how much the king wants her as his daughter-in-law, there's always the chance that Eleanor could come down with worms or the plague.

BFF Charm: Yay!

If it weren't for all the aforementioned kidnapping plots and imminent plague, I might very much want to Single White Female this BFF charm and just become Eleanor. All the words that I can think of to describe her—passionate, dreamy, romantic, free-spirited—make Eleanor seem kinda Manic Pixie Dream Girl-ish, but that's definitely not the case. She has real flaws, not just "quirks." (That said, girl showed far more willpower/moral fiber than I would have re: reading her sister's diary, which is constantly just left open all over the place. Double the vicarious, double the fun!)

Swoonworthy Scale: 5 + 5 = 10??

Eleanor gets TWO love interests in this book. Clotaire the Strong is a young knight who wins Eleanor's favor with his jousting skillz and his gentle demeanor. In theory, he was everything a knight in shining armor should be—and Eleanor quite literally swoons over him—but while I thought their relationship was sweet, it wasn't about to light any fires. (Maybe I was just turned off by the godawful poetry he writes her; to be fair, he can't actually write, so maybe something was lost in dictation.)

Eleanor's other romance is with Louis the Younger, Prince of France. There's no real love triangle, which is a relief—Eleanor is fully aware that relationship with her soon-to-be-husband has to take precedence over her flirtation with the cute knight. I loved how confident Eleanor was in both her romances. Neither provided a ton of swoon individually, but hey: sometimes you gotta take quantity over quality. (Anyway, the real romance in Eleanor's life comes years later with Henry II.)

Talky Talk: Alas! Earwax

Like in her last Royal Diaries book, Kristiana Gregory peppers this one with era-appropriate exclamations; instead of "O Isis!" Eleanor likes "Alas!" Cleopatra and Eleanor come across quite similarly in outlook and personality, which might be due to sharing the same author—but I really loved both books, so I've got no reason to complain!

Bonus Factor: Sisters

As mentioned a few times already, Eleanor has a sister. Petronilla (or more reasonably, Petra) is only a year or two younger than El. They're best friends and partners-in-crime in addition to being sisters, which is really the sororal* ideal.

*Equivalent of "fraternal," according to some Googling I just did, because I refuse to change my sentence structure no matter how weird the words look.

Bonus Factor: Age of Chivalry

As much as I loved Eleanor as a character, let's be honest: the setting is the real draw with this book. It's the High Middle Ages! The troubadours tell tales of Lancelot and Guinevere, knights charge each other on the jousting field, and every so often, someone leaves on a Crusade.

Casting Call:

Emma Watson as Eleanor

I said I would do it and now I'm doing it. Sure, Emma's a little old for the part, but do you really think just anyone can follow Katharine Hepburn's Eleanor? Not a chance. I don't trust anyone with this role but Hermione.

Relationship Status: Courtly Love

How can I describe the love this book and I share? At once passionate and chaste, transcendent and earthly, noble and playful. Would that I could while away all my hours writing odes to its beauty! But alas, I must be off to battle*—and so with a kiss (or maybe a high-five) I bid this book adieu.

*aka Starbucks

FTC Full Disclosure: I purchased this book with my allowance. Eleanor: Crown Jewel of Aquitaine has been available for years, y'all. So get on that.

Maria Greer's photo About the Author: Maria is originally from Montana but goes to school in the Bay Area, where she totally fails to take advantage of the tech industry. Instead, she is majoring in history and creative writing, with which she plans to do...something. Currently her hope is that someone will come along and offer to pay her to read YA novels and eat cupcakes. Until that day, Maria spends most of her time studying and petitioning the university to let her keep a cat in her dorm.