Thus ran the Queen's tumultuous thoughts as she sat with the King on their high thrones, waiting for Geoffrey and his son Henry to arrive, so that Louis could exchange with them the kiss of peace and receive Henry's formal homage. The war was thus to be neatly concluded - except that there could be no neat conclusion to Eleanor's inner turmoil.
Which makes it all the more surprising when the next sentence is:
For this was to be the first time she had set eyes on Geoffrey since that blissful, sinful autumn in Poitou, five years before.
Eleanor? Geoffrey of Anjou? Bliss? Sin?
It had not been love, and it had not lasted. But she had never been able to erase from her mind the erotic memory of herself and Geoffrey coupling gloriously between silken sheets, the candlelight a golden glow on their entwined bodies. Their coming together had been a revelation after the fumbling embarrassment of the marriage bed and the crude awakening afforded her by Marcabru;
Hold that thought. More about Marcabru coming up (so to speak) very soon.
she had never dreamed that a man could give her such prolonged pleasure. It had surged again and again until she had cried out with the joy of it, and it had made her aware, as never before, of what was lacking in her union with Louis.
Right, so now she's going to see Geoffrey again and she's scared she'll give herself away. But ONE PAGE LATER she loses interest in Geoffrey entirely when:
Eleanor took one look at Henry - and saw Geoffrey no more...Lust knifed through her. She could barely control herself. Never had she reacted so violently to any man.
After Bernard of Clairvaux has interrupted to tell Eleanor the legend of Melusine, which she would already know and he would know she knew, Eleanor and Henry get talking and don't beat around the bush. So to speak.
'Madame the Queen, I see that the many reports of your beauty do not lie,' Henry addressed her, sketching a quick bow. Eleanor felt the lust rising again in her. God, he was beddable! What wouldn't she give for one night between the sheets with him!
Fortunately Henry feels the same:
'You need a real man in your bed,' Henry told her bluntly, his eyes never leaving hers, his lips curling in a suggestive smile.
Henry knows better than to expect a slap in the face - after all, he's heard all about Eleanor:
'I have heard one or two things that made me sit up and take notice,' he grinned. 'Or stand up and take notice, if you want the bare truth! But I have been no angel myself. We are two of a kind, my queen.'
(The screenwriter of OCTOPUSSY called. He wants his line back.)
Later that night, Eleanor gazes at her naked self imagining Henry's reaction once he cops an eyeful:
The very thought of that steely, knowing gaze upon her nudity made her melt with need, and her fingers crept greedily down to that secret place between her legs, the place that people like Bernard regarded as forbidden to the devout: the place where, five years before, she had learned to feel rushes and crescendos of unutterable pleasure
Only it was utterable, because we've already been told she 'cried out with the joy of it.' Anyway. Remember Marcabru?
It was Marcabru the troubadour who had shown her how, the incomparable Marcabru, whom she herself had invited from her native Aquitaine to the court of Paris - where his talents, such as they were, had not been appreciated.
This seems rather surprising when we learn that he has
done what Louis never had to bring her to a climax, one glorious July day in a secluded arbour in the palace gardens.
With Marcabru banished and her interlude with Geoffrey over, Eleanor was flung back on her own resources:
Since then, she had learned to pleasure herself, and she did so now, hungrily, her body alive in anticipation of the joys she would share with Henry of Anjou when they could be together. And, gasping as the shudders of her release convulsed her, she promised herself that it would be soon.
That's as far as I've got. I'm on page 14.
Now all of this would be absolutely fine in an erotic novel, which adheres to certain conventions. But in the context of a serious novel about Eleanor, it's ludicrous. The impression you get, so far, is that she's a total slut. I don't understand why the invented liaison with Geoffrey was even necessary as it's backstory, unless it's to give that 'ick' factor to her marriage to Henry.
If Jean Plaidy had ever written a Black Lace title...it would read something like this.