The Sunne in Splendour confirmed Sharon Kay Penman's place in the upper echelons of historical fiction, combining a breathtaking panoply of the past with an acute psychological observation of her characters. Time and Chance is the second part of her planned trilogy about Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, beginning in the glory years of their reign. Penman conjures for us an astonishing era in which Henry battles with the Welsh and the French king, appoints Thomas Becket as Archbishop of Canterbury, and, by taking a mistress, makes a bitter enemy of his wife.
Readers know the scalpel-like precision of Penman's character building from her earlier work, and the emotional lives of Henry and the troubled Eleanor are powerfully realized. As in the first book of the sequence, When Christ and His Saints Slept, conflict is ever the driving force. Henry and Eleanor's remarkable partnership was proving highly fecund, both politically, and physically, as Eleanor gave birth to five sons and three daughters, laying to rest her reputation as a barren queen and founding a dynasty that was to last three centuries. But auguries of trouble ahead were apparent: war with the Welsh; acrimonious battles with Eleanor's first husband, King Louis VII of France. But the truly destabilizing factor was Henry's decision to appoint his friend and confidant Thomas Becket as Archbishop of Canterbury. Henry had assumed that the worldly, ambitious Becket would be the perfect ally, and was devastated when the new archbishop cast off his own worldly past as he embraced his role as Defender of the Faith, swapping dissolution for piety.
As Penman vividly demonstrates, Henry saw Becket's action as a humiliating betrayal. One of the most famous murders in history followed, with further conflict in the kingdom caused by Henry's liaison with the daughter of a baron. In bedding Rosamund Clifford, Henry put his marriage and even his kingship at risk. As always, Penman handles her research lightly; the personal drama is the engine of her narrative, with each fresh scandal and intrigue delivered with a beguiling combination of relish and restraint. She is assured in her detailing of the political and ecclesiastical clashes of the court, but it is Henry II who strides her novel like a colossus--just as he did the kingdom he ruled. --Barry Forshaw, Amazon.co.uk
In When Christ and His Saints Slept, acclaimed historical novelist Sharon Kay Penman portrayed all the deceit, danger, and drama of Henry II’s ascension to the throne. Now, in Time and Chance, she continues the ever-more-captivating tale.
It was medieval England’s immortal marriage—Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II, bound by passion and ambition, certain to leave a legacy of greatness. But while lust would divide them, it was friendship—and ultimately faith—that brought bloodshed into their midst. It began with Thomas Becket, Henry’s closest confidant, and his elevation to be Archbishop of Canterbury. It ended with a perceived betrayal that made a royal murder seem inevitable. Along the way were enough scheming, seductions, and scandals to topple any kingdom but their own. . . .
Only Sharon Kay Penman can re-create this truly tumultuous time—and capture the couple who loved power as much as each other . . . and a man who loved God most of all.
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