Against the seething political intrigues of twelfth-century Europe, two royal heirs surrender to passion as they vie for the English throne.
At nine, Maud, an English princess, was sent to Germany to become the bride of the Holy Roman Emperor—a political alliance with a man her father’s age. At twenty-five, the widowed Maud must marry once again, this time to fourteen-year-old Geoffrey Plantagenet. But it is with Stephen of Blois, Maud’s fiercest rival for the British throne, that the headstrong princess discovers the true meaning of desire. Stephen, a descendant of William the Conqueror, believes absolutely in his God-given right to rule. Torn between his illicit passion for Maud and his own towering ambition, he knows he must choose. Stephen’s decision will wrench him from the arms of the woman he loves, ignite civil war, and lead to a shattering act of betrayal that, decades later, will come full circle and change the course of English history.
In this cumbrous historical novel, Jones postulates a turbulent love affair between the English princess Maud (born 1102) and her cousin and rival to the throne, Stephen of Blois--their passion complicated by political strife. Granddaughter of William the Conquerer, the historical Maud was wed at nine to an aging Holy Roman Emperor, later recalled from Germany as a widow of 25, named heir to the crown of England and married to 14-year-old Geoffrey Plantagenet. The novel dramatizes Maud's purported adulterous liaison with Stephen, who, despite their passionate involvement, angrily challenges her right to the throne when her father dies: their rivalry did in fact erupt into a devastating civil war; Stephen won, reigning until his death in 1154, whereupon Maud's son acceded to the throne, becoming the skilled administrator Henry II, husband of Eleanor of Aquitaine. As depicted here, Maud is a temperamental romance heroine, manipulated by male chauvinists--feudal barons; her father, Henry I; her domineering, priggish husband, Geoffrey. Jones packs her fiction debut with factual passages that read as turgidly as a textbook, brightening the narrative with lust-filled interludes in royal bedchambers and a rustic forest lodge. The many hunting descriptions indicate inadequate research--a huntsman on the field would never feed his dogs raw boar meat--yet the period color and romance carry the tale to its bittersweet ending. 100,000 first printing .