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The Passionate Enemies by Jean Plaidy

The Passionate Enemies (1976)

by Jean Plaidy

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Like the second instalment of the Norman Trilogy, “The Passionate Enemies” does not match the brilliance of Book 1, yet it is impressive nonetheless.

I find this period of the 1100s an interesting one. Here we see the latter days of Henry I followed by the reign of King Stephen. Throughout the narrative there’s Henry’s daughter – and Stephen’s cousin and sometimes lover – Matilda, one of the most arrogant royal woman in history.

The love/hate relationship between Stephen and Matilda serves as the novel’s backbone, which works well on the most part, though at times it becomes too repetitive in its nature. The amount of times one of the other states how they should’ve been married, or ponders how different things would be had they been married, is so overdone that it grew to irritate me.

Similarly, Henry’s regular reference to the sinking of the White Ship that cost his son’s life becomes tedious. As much as I like this author, if I had to pick one fault in her writing in general it would be her repetition of certain themes throughout all her novels.

But apart from the above negative comments this story proved engaging. Think my favourite character has to be another Matilda – for there are several – namely the one who became Stephen’s queen. She enters the tale as a meek background figure but when her and the king’s backs are against the wall she develops into someone quite formidable.

I also liked Stephen himself and Robert of Gloucester. Although it was impossible to “like” the arrogant Empress Matilda, she is a fascinating personality, and her two methods of escaping capture may be compared to the best episodes in the average adventure story. ( )
  PhilSyphe | Oct 14, 2015 |
I read many of Plaidy's books years ago and I loved them. However, going back and reading one of her series books now hasn't hooked me like it used to. ( )
1 vote lmiller62 | Jun 25, 2008 |
As I finished the conclusion to Plaidy's Norman Trilogy, I couldn't help feeling satisfied. In fact, I think that's the perfect way to describe the series. Satisfactory. It's not an epic that will leave your heart pounding and blood burning; even the battle scenes are rather sedated, like reading a newspaper report by a journalist who really wanted to be assigned to another story. And yet each person is fully rounded and realistic. Stephen is the epitome of the King who has love but not control, whose kindness nearly unseats him from the throne. Matilda his wife is a loving helpmate, the steel rod that keeps the family together when Stephen's weakness is revealed. Matilda the Empress is as narrow-minded and haughty as the arrogant movie star stereotype. Like many, she is so driven by her vision of the world and her desires that she never sees how her own self-importance drives her supporters away.

Lots of drama, rarely exciting. A pleasant read for one curious about the era, or seeking to complete Plaidy's body of work. ( )
  makaiju | May 31, 2008 |
  Sherri | Jun 10, 2006 |
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The death of the King's son aboard the doomed White Ship, left the ageing Henry I again without an heir.
Henry's daughter, the Empress Matilda, could not succeed her father while her own German husband still lived - but she could hope. Henry's nephew, the affable, charming Stephen was also looking toward the English throne.
When the crown fell from the cold brow of the dead king, the twilight of the Norman dynasty became a dark night of struggle between Stephen and Matilda, locked in love and hatred, each obsessed with the other - The Passionate Enemies.
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