Despite the cartloads of silliness or maybe because of them, I quite enjoyed this historical romance series and the second installment of the adventures of Alix of Wanthwaite.
The historical background is researched, the author explains in detail her sources, her licences and how she set her fiction partly in a period when little was documented about Richard's movements, thus opening up to more speculation. The historical figures and particularly the descriptions of France and England are vivid, as is the motley company of commoners and highborn Alix meets during her ordeals. The themes of sexual awakening/education and lust are of course present, again the protagonist is very young, but already long-married as customary in the society of the time. [b:The Shield of Three Lions|128236|The Shield of Three Lions (Alix of Wanthwaite, #1)|Pamela Kaufman|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1389072690s/128236.jpg|123503] didn't hurt my sensibilities and this one is lighter on that area, I can also accept a little Stockholm syndrome and objectification because Alix lives her salad days guided by innocence, youthful dreams, passion and her own swinging sense of self-preservation, which turn her into a stereotyped but savory character to follow. As the story unfolds, the adult reader inevitably recognizes what really goes on behind the doors of nunneries and courts (and in meadows and gardens, for that matter), the hypocrisy, the bigotry and the decadence beneath the gilt façade of chivalry and religious piety, but it is very entertaining. I found interesting the part about the Jews and their precarious position in Europe at the time, and the Monarchs ambiguous attitude towards them. Some serious themes of historical, social and moral nature, like class iniquities, the poison of words, and the full parade of capital vices, intertwine with the theme of love (which keeps the fore in several forms) and Alix adventures.
All wonderfully one-dimensional, with a good dose of authority tropes, the characters who attracted me most are Richard I, at the peak of his success, mercurial, disquieted, with a temper to match his passions and his mother Éléonore d'Aquitaine, queen dowager and regent during the Crusade, embodiment of the shrewdness and ruthlessness needed to play manifold power games (and her feisty flock of ladies-in-waiting!); lots of fiction literature is focused on the pair and the Angevin Plantagenet royal line, with good reason probably. In another kind of book anyway, I would have not accepted such lack of redeeming qualities, the only character with a little depth is Bonel, but he dangerously courts The Reliable One’s role.
The narrative is more balanced this time, no abrupt shifts and with a modicum of plausibility historical events aside; still nicely written, still linear, still predictable (but I eagerly anticipated some turns) and slower paced, the tale is pretty amusing. The backdrop is, essentially, the endless bickering between Richard and Philippe II of France in their home territories, where they have to deal with the volatility of alliances and cash flow, both instrumental to their bitter sport. While you see the Big Surprise coming from about page 4, and the constraints of history play their part, the ending is not rushed nor shoddy. All in all, I was satisfied. A little fluffy dalliance with historical romance centered on both terms.