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History Refreshed | Wily Women
History / March 2, 2018

There’s something about the cold and gloom of winter that makes it the perfect time to snuggle up by the fire or the heater with a hot beverage and a novel about “the Dark Ages.” Far enough from the present to be wrapped in myth and mystery, the extent record of events sketchy enough to allow inventive novelists much room to spin stories, the medieval period is full of fascinating, larger-than-life characters. Along with a queen, the A-named heroines of the books we’ll look at today are lesser figures who play their parts on the same grand stage as their more famous contemporaries. We begin with THE CANTERBURY PAPERS by Judith Koll Healey. Our heroine is well-known to followers of the Eleanor of Aquitaine/Henry II saga–Alaïs, sister of the king of France who is sent to England as a child as Eleanor’s ward, intended to become the bride of the Prince of Wales—but becoming instead the mistress of Eleanor’s husband, King Henry. This novel skips over that well-known triangle to pick up Alais’s story years later, after she has returned to the court of France. She receives an unexpected summons from Aquitaine, where the aging former Queen of England has…