Review: The Dragon and the Jewel

Review: The Dragon and the JewelThe Dragon and the Jewel (Medieval Plantagenet #2) by Virginia Henley
Series: Medieval Plantagenet #2
Published by Dell on November 1, 1991
Genres: Historical

FINAL DECISION: More historical fiction than romance, this book is a saga about the tempestuous romance between Princess Eleanor Plantagenet and Simon de Montfort, a real couple in Medieval England. I enjoyed the drama and the underlying historical drama although many readers may be put off by the actions of the characters, especially the hero.

THE STORY: Princess Eleanor was a child bride whose older husband had no intention of consummating the marriage until she was an appropriate age. Eleanor was widowed unexpectedly when he husband came to her bed. Inconsolable, Eleanor swore never to marry again and took a vow of chastity. A year after her husband’s death, Eleanor meets Simon de Montfort, a Norman knight who desires Eleanor and wants to convince her to break all those vows she made.

OPINION: First off, certain parts of this book won’t appeal to some readers. The heroine is a child when she is married off (about nine years old) and a widow at sixteen. She is then in a relationship with Simon before she is eighteen. To modern readers, this is unacceptable, but the story is based on the real-life of Eleanor, so the author can’t exactly age her up for what we now expect. To me, the book is more like historical fiction than a modern historical romance.

While much of the book is fictionalized, I really enjoyed the historical basis for this novel. The book was written in 1991, so some of its romance conventions are not used today. The hero is very alpha and, at times, treats Eleanor disrespectfully. The book takes place in Medieval England and thus, his expectations of equality is pretty much not present. He speaks about her as if it is his right to dominate her, but the fact that she will not submit to his plans and he feels that he has to woo and treat her well is better than most of the men in the story clearly feel about women. Therefore, while Simon is certainly not a modern male hero, he is better than the men of his time as depicted in this book.

Eleanor, at times, is immature and annoying, but he is very young throughout the story and has experienced much tragedy in her life. Again, compared to the other women in the story, she is likable and cares for others.

Eleanor and Simon have been depicted as a great love affair in Medieval England, and I appreciated the author’s attempts to bring these real-life lovers to life in this romance. The detail about the historical period and the palace intrigue was great, and I raced through this book even though it was almost 600 pages.

I’ve never read this author before, but this book made me want to read more of her romances based on real historical characters.

WORTH MENTIONING: THE DRAGON AND THE JEWEL is a fictionalized account of Eleanor and Simon de Montfort. While the characters are based on real people, and some of the events come from real history, the book is highly dramatized and shaped into a romance book.

Readers looking for straightforward romance will be disappointed as the heroine spends the first third of the book married to another man. The final quarter of the book is spent on political intrigue and rebellion. I thought the historical aspects were great, but those looking for romance might be disappointed.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE DRAGON AND THE JEWEL is the second book in the Medieval Plantagenet series. This book is a standalone, and reading the first book is unnecessary (I didn’t).

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.