Time and Chance [NOOK Book]

Overview

The long-awaited sequel to Sharon Kay Penman's acclaimed novel When Christ and His Saints Slept, Time and Chancerecounts the tempestuous marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II in a magnificent story of love, power, ambition-and betrayal.



He was nineteen when they married, she eleven years his senior, newly divorced from the King of France. She was beautiful, ...
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Time and Chance

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Overview

The long-awaited sequel to Sharon Kay Penman's acclaimed novel When Christ and His Saints Slept, Time and Chancerecounts the tempestuous marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II in a magnificent story of love, power, ambition-and betrayal.



He was nineteen when they married, she eleven years his senior, newly divorced from the King of France. She was beautiful, headstrong, intelligent, and rich. It was said he was Fortune's favorite, but he said a man makes his own luck. Within two years, Henry had made his, winning the throne of England and exercising extraordinary statecraft skills to control his unruly barons, expand his own powers, and restore peace to a land long torn by banditry and bloodshed. Only in one instance did Henry err: Elevating his good friend and confidant Thomas Becket to be Archbishop of Canterbury, he thought to gain control over the Church itself. But the once worldly Becket suddenly discovered God, and their alliance withered in the heat of his newfound zeal. What Becket saw as a holy mission-to protect the Church against State encroachments-Henry saw as arrant betrayal, and they were launched inevitably on the road to murder.



Rich in character and color, true to the historical details, sensitive to the complex emotions of these men and women, Time and Chance recreates their story with all the drama, pain, and passion of the moment. It is Penman at her best.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
In the second volume of the trilogy that began with When Christ and His Saints Slept, Sharon Kay Penman brings the marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122-1202) and Henry II (1154-1189) to life. Penman’s artfully crafted novel follows the royal marriage through its prosperous years into the thorns of Henry’s one great mistake: his elevation of his friend Thomas a Beckett to be archbishop of Canterbury. (Don’t worry if you don’t know much about the Middle Ages: Even if your memory of English medieval history is deficient, this novel retains its vividness and clarity.)
Publishers Weekly
When Christ and His Saints Slept was Penman's popular account of the 12th-century struggle for England's throne. This book, the second of a planned trilogy, begins after Henry II has inherited the crown and married Eleanor of Aquitaine a mature beauty and a wealthy ruler in her own right. Henry II is a confident leader, but he is also wise enough to appreciate his politically astute wife. His only other trusted adviser is Thomas Becket. Diplomatic and suave, Becket is the perfect complement for a rough-hewn young king. When he makes his chancellor archbishop of Canterbury, Henry believes he is creating an indomitable union of church and state. Becket, however, becomes an adamant protector of ecclesiastical power. The resulting conflict will climax in Becket's murder. In her five previous historical novels, Penman has exhibited a cool, almost academic style balanced by a penetrating sympathy, her fiction adhering faithfully to fact while making the past fully present. She would seem the ideal author to turn these outsized players in a royal drama into real people. Unfortunately, this long-anticipated novel lacks animation. The main characters never come to life, and Becket, in particular, remains a cipher: Penman never ventures inside this saint in the making, nor does she successfully explicate his conversion. She is more confident with her wholly imagined characters, but their vividness only serves to underscore the lifeless quality of the principals, and even the well-defined characters too often indulge in tedious and unbelievable expository monologues. 10-city author tour. (Mar. 4) Forecast: Penman may not attract new fans with this disappointing offering, but the many readers who have been waiting seven years for it to appear will snap it up regardless. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
The events of this second novel in a planned trilogy (after When Christ and His Saints Slept) center on the years 1156-71, when England was ruled by Henry II. His queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, an uncommon woman for her era, is as strong-willed and intelligent as her husband. For many years, they share a passionate marriage, which produces several children two of whom, Richard and John, go on to become powerful monarchs in their own right. Conflict arises when Henry names Thomas Becket, his close friend and adviser, to the exalted position of Archbishop of Canterbury. The clash of these two titans over Church and State sets the stage for Becket's murder. Here, as in many of her other novels, Penman combines an in-depth knowledge of medieval Europe with vivid storytelling, re-creating the complex events and emotional drama of the 12th century. Recommended for historical fiction collections and where Penman's other books are popular. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/1/01; for another recent novel about the fascinating Eleanor, see Pamela Kaufman's The Book of Eleanor. Ed.] Patricia Altner, Information Seekers, Columbia, MD Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The second in a trilogy (after When Christ and His Saints Slept) about a well-matched royal pair: ambitious Henry II and his feisty Queen Eleanor. This time out, Penman vividly details how Henry sought fame and kingdoms for his family, but in Thomas Becket found an adversary for whose murder he would forever be blamed. At the heart of the story is the relationship between Henry and Thomas, his trusted Chancellor, whom, though not yet a priest, he appointed Archbishop of Canterbury. Once appointed, Thomas-"a chameleon, changing his colors to reflect his surroundings"-became an implacable defender of the Church, risking his life and fortune to fight for what he believed. Penman deftly follows the twists of war and policy as well as the private betrayals and triumphs of family life, taking up the story in 1156. Henry, though 11 years younger, is still besotted with Eleanor, who has borne a daughter, two sons-Hal and the recently deceased William-and will go on to bear Richard, Geoffrey, and John, as well as another daughter. Henry is preparing to invade Wales, and bloody wars will reoccur in the years ahead, with special resonance for Henry's favorite uncle, Ranulf, who, half-Welsh and married to a Welsh woman, must wrestle with his divided allegiances. While Henry wages various wars to secure his and Eleanor's lands, arranges judicious marriages for their children, and falls for young Rosamund Clifford, Eleanor has her own concerns. She frets that Henry does not value her counsel (especially about the appointment of Becket), is away for months fighting, and is more in love with Rosamund than with her. Their marriage survives, and Henry secures kingdoms for his sons, but by 1171 he isuniversally held responsible for the saintly Becket's murder a year earlier. Perfect for fans of battles lost and won, on the field and in the boudoir, by a vivid cast of characters doing their best to make history live.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781101157411
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 3/4/2002
  • Series: Eleanor of Aquitaine Series , #2
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 512
  • Sales rank: 62,905
  • File size: 699 KB

Read an Excerpt

PROLOGUE

It began with a shipwreck on a bitter-cold November eve in God's Year 1120. The English king Henry, son of William the Bastard, conqueror of England, lost his only lawfully begotten son in the sinking of the White Ship. In his despair, he named his daughter Maude, widow of the Holy Roman Emperor, as his heir. But his lords balked at being governed by a woman, and when the old king died, Maude's cousin Stephen seized the throne.

Stephen was not feared by his lords, who dismissed him as a mild man, gentle and good, who did no justice. When the Empress Maude and her bastard brother Robert, the Earl of Gloucester, led an army onto English shores, many rallied to her cause. Even more served only themselves or the Devil. Outlaws roamed the roads and barons became bandits, raising up stone castles by forced labor, emerging from these wolf lairs to raid towns and plunder the countryside. Women, pilgrims, priests-none were spared by the lawless and the damned. Because men feared to venture into the fields, the earth was not tilled, crops did not grow, and hunger stalked the land. In this wretched way did nineteen years pass, years of suffering and anarchy, and people said openly that Christ and his saints slept.

The Empress Maude failed in her attempt to reclaim her stolen crown. But by her marriage to Geoffrey, Count of Anjou, she had given birth to a son who vowed to recover his lost birthright. He called himself Henry Fitz Empress and men began to hope that he might deliver them from their misery. It was said that he was Fortune's favorite; when that was reported to him, he said a man makes his own luck and some thought that was blasphemy. He was only nineteen when he stunned Christendom by wedding Eleanor, the beautiful and headstrong Duchess of Aquitaine, less than two months after she'd been freed from her marriage to the King of France. He then turned his gaze upon Stephen's unhappy realm. Within a twelvemonth, he had forced Stephen to recognize him as the rightful heir, and it was agreed that Stephen would rule for the rest of his days and then Henry would be king. In less than a year, it came to pass. He was but one and twenty when he was crowned as the second Henry to rule England since the Conquest, and the people rejoiced, for he promised them justice and peace.

CHAPTER ONE

JULY 1156

CHINON CASTLE
TOURAINE, FRANCE

As the King of England crossed the inner bailey of Chinon Castle, his brother watched from an upper-story window and wished fervently that God would smite him dead. Geoffrey understood perfectly why Cain had slain Abel, the firstborn, the best-beloved. Harry was the firstborn, too. There were just fifteen months between them, fifteen miserable months, but because of them, Harry had gotten it all-England and Anjou and Normandy-and Geoffrey had naught but regrets and resentments and three wretched castles, castles he was now about to forfeit.

He'd rebelled again, and again he'd failed. He was here at Chinon to submit to his brother, but he was not contrite, nor was he cowed. His heart sore, his spirit still rebellious, he began to stalk the chamber, feeling more wronged with every stride. Why should Harry have the whole loaf and he only crumbs? What had Harry ever been denied? Duke of Normandy at seventeen, Count of Anjou upon their father's sudden death the following year, King of England at one and twenty, and, as if that were not more than enough for any mortal man, he was wed to a celebrated beauty, the Duchess of Aquitaine and former Queen of France.

Had any other woman ever worn the crowns of both England and France? History had never interested Geoffrey much, but he doubted it. Eleanor always seemed to be defying the natural boundaries of womanhood, a royal rebel who was too clever by half and as willful as any man. But her vast domains and her seductive smile more than made up for any defects of character, and after her divorce from the French king, Geoffrey had attempted to claim this glittering prize, laying an ambush for her as she journeyed back to Aquitaine. It was not uncommon to abduct an heiress, then force her into marriage, and Geoffrey had been confident of success, sure, too, that he'd be able to tame her wild nature and make her into a proper wife, dutiful and submissive.

It was not to be. Eleanor had evaded his ambush, reached safety in her own lands, and soon thereafter, shocked all of Christendom by marrying Geoffrey's brother. Geoffrey had been bitterly disappointed by his failure to capture a queen. But it well nigh drove him crazy to think of her belonging to his brother, sharing her bed and her wealth with Harry-and of her own free will. Where was the justice or fairness in that?

Geoffrey was more uneasy about facing his brother than he'd ever admit, and he spun around at the sound of the opening door. But it was not Harry. Their younger brother, Will, entered, followed by Thomas Becket, the king's elegant shadow. Geoffrey frowned at the sight of them. As far back as he could remember, Will had been Harry's lapdog, always taking his side. As for Becket, Geoffrey saw him as an outright enemy, the king's chancellor and closest confidant. He could expect no support from them, and well he knew it. "I suppose you're here to gloat, Will, as Harry rubs my nose in it."

"No, I'm here to do you a favor-if you've the wits to heed me."

The most cursory of glances revealed their kinship; all three brothers had the same high coloring and sturdy, muscular build. Will's hair was redder and he had far more freckles, but otherwise, he and Geoffrey were mirror images of each other. Even their scowls were the same. "Harry's nerves are on the raw these days, and he's in no mood to put up with your blustering. So for your own sake, Geoff, watch your tongue-"

"Poor Harry, my heart bleeds for his 'raw nerves,' in truth, it does! Do you never tire of licking his arse, Little Brother? Or have you acquired a taste for it by now?"

Color seared Will's face. "You're enough to make me believe those tales of babes switched at birth, for how could we ever have come from the same womb?"

"Let him be, lad." Thomas Becket was regarding Geoffrey with chill distaste. " 'As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly.' "

"You stay out of this, priest! But then," Geoffrey said with a sneer, "you are not a priest, are you? You hold the chancellorship, yet you balk at taking your holy vows . . . now why is that?"

"I serve both my God and my king," Becket said evenly, "with all my heart. But you, Geoffrey Fitz Empress, serve only Satan, even if you know it not."

Geoffrey had no chance to retort, for the door was opening again. A foreigner unfamiliar with England would not have taken the man in the doorway for the English king, for he scorned the trappings of kingship, the rich silks and gemstones and furred mantles that set men of rank apart from their less fortunate brethren. Henry Fitz Empress preferred comfort to style: simple, unadorned tunics and high cowhide boots and mantles so short that he'd earned himself the nickname "Curtmantle."

Equally indifferent to fashion's dictates and the opinions of others, Henry dressed to please himself, and usually looked more like the king's chief huntsman than the king. To Geoffrey, who spent huge sums on his clothes, this peculiarity of his brother's was just further proof of his unfitness to be king.

Henry looked even more rumpled than usual today, his short, Copper-colored hair tousled and windblown, his eyes slate-dark, hollowed and bloodshot. Mayhap there was something to Will's blathering about Harry's "raw nerves" after all, Geoffrey conceded. Not that he cared what was weighing Harry down. A pity it was not an anchor.

What did trouble Geoffrey, though, was his brother's silence. The young king was notorious for his scorching temper, but those who knew Henry best knew, too, that these spectacular fits of royal rage were more calculated than most people suspected, deliberately daunting. His anger was far more dangerous when it was iced over, cold and controlled and unforgiving, and Geoffrey was soon squirming under that unblinking, implacable gaze. When he could stand the suspense no longer, he snapped, "What are you waiting for? Let's get it over with, Harry!"

"You have no idea what your rebellion has cost me," Henry said, much too dispassionately, "or you'd be treading with great care."

"Need I remind you that you won, Harry? It seems odd indeed for you to bemoan your losses when I'm the one who is yielding up my castles."

"You think I care about your accursed castles?" Henry moved forward into the chamber so swiftly that Geoffrey took an instinctive backward step. "Had I not been forced to lay siege to them, I'd have been back in England months ago, long ere Eleanor's lying-in was nigh."

Geoffrey knew Eleanor was pregnant again, for Henry had announced it at their Christmas court. Divorced by the French king for her failure to give him a male heir, Eleanor had then borne Henry two sons in their first three years of marriage. To Geoffrey, her latest pregnancy had been another drop of poison in an already noxious drink, and he could muster up no sympathy now for Henry's complaint.

"What of it? You'd not have been allowed in the birthing chamber, for men never are."

"No. . .but I'd have been there to bury my son."

Geoffrey's mouth dropped open. "Your son?"

"He died on Whitsunday," Henry said, softly and precisely, the measured cadence of his tones utterly at variance with what Geoffrey could read in his eyes. "Eleanor kept vigil by his bedside as the doctors and priests tried to save him. She stayed with him until he died, and then she made the funeral arrangements, accompanied his body to Reading for burial. He was not yet three, Geoff, for his birthday was not till August, the seventeenth, it would have been-"

"Harry, I . . . I am sorry about your son. But it was not my fault! Blame God if you must, not me!"

"But I do blame you, Geoff. I blame you for your treachery, your betrayals, your willingness to ally yourselves with my enemies . . . again and again. I blame you for my wife's ordeal, which she need not have faced alone. And I blame you for denying me the chance to be at my son's deathbed."

"What do you want me to say? It was not my fault! You cannot blame me because the boy was sickly-" Geoffrey's breath caught in his throat as Henry lunged forward. Twisting his fist in the neck of his brother's tunic, Henry shoved him roughly against the wall.

"The boy has a name, damn you-William! I suppose you'd forgotten, for blood-kin means nothing to you, does it? Well, you might remember his name better once you have time and solitude to think upon it!"

Geoffrey blanched. "You . . . you cannot mean to imprison me?"

Henry slowly unclenched his fist, stepped back. "There are men waiting outside the door to escort you to a chamber in the tower."

"Harry, what are you going to do? Tell me!" Henry turned aside without answering, moved to the door, and jerked it open. Geoffrey stiffened, eyes darting in disbelief from the men-at-arms to this stranger in his brother's skin. Clutching at the shreds of his pride, he stumbled across the chamber, determined not to plead, but betraying himself, nonetheless, by a panicked, involuntary glance of entreaty as the door closed.

Will untangled himself from the settle, ambled over to the door, and slid the bolt into place. "Harry . . . do you truly mean to imprison him? God knows, he deserves it . . ." He trailed off uncertainly, for his was an open, affable nature, uncomfortable with shadings or ambiguities, and it troubled him that his feelings for his brother could not be clear-cut and uncomplicated.

Henry crossed to the settle and took the seat Will had vacated.

"If I had my way, I'd cast him into Chinon's deepest dungeon, leave him there till he rotted."

"But you will not," Becket predicted, smiling faintly as he rose to pour them all cups of wine.

"No," Henry admitted, accepting his cup with a wry smile of his own. "There would be two prisoners in that dungeon-Geoff and our mother. She says he deserves whatever punishment I choose to mete out, but that is her head talking, not her heart." After two swallows, he set the cup aside, for he drank as sparingly as he ate; Henry's hungers of the flesh were not for food or wine. "I'm going to try to scare some sense into Geoff. But since he has less sense than God gave a sheep, Ido not have high hopes of success."

"Just do not give him his castles back this time," Will chided, in a tactless reminder of Henry's earlier, misplaced leniency. "It would serve him right if he had to beg his bread by the roadside."

"Sorry, lad, but Scriptures forbid it. Thomas can doubtless cite you chapter and verse," Henry gibed, "but I am sure it says somewhere that brothers of kings cannot be beggars."

"I thought it said that brothers of beggars cannot be kings." Becket tasted the wine, then grimaced. "Are your servants trying to poison you with this swill, Harry? Someone ought to tell them that hemlock would be quicker and more merciful."

"This is why men would rather dine with my lord chancellor than with me," Henry told Will. "He'd drink blood ere he quaffed English wine. Whereas for me, it is enough if it is wet!" Becket's riposte was cut off by a sudden knock. Henry, the closest to the door, got to his feet; he was never one to stand on ceremony. But his amusement faded when a weary, travel-stained messenger was ushered into the chamber, for the man's disheveled appearance conveyed a message of its own: that his news was urgent.

Snatching up the proffered letter, Henry stared at the familiar seal, then looked over at Will. "It is from our mother," he said, moving toward the nearest lamp. Will and Becket were both on their feet by now, watching intently as he read. "I have to go to Rouen," he said, "straightaway."

Will paled. "Not Mama . . . ?" "No, lad, no. She is not ailing. She has written to let me know that Eleanor is in Rouen."

--From Time and Chance by Sharon Kay Penman, Copyright (c) March 2002, Putnam Pub Group, a division of Penguin Putnam, Inc., used by permission.

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Table of Contents

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Interviews & Essays

Q:The traits that make Henry a great king--arrogance, daring,
single-mindedness, a love of conquest and power--do not necessarily
make him a great husband, father, or friend. What
price does Henry pay for his kingship?


A: A very high price, indeed. All of the above-named traits are not
virtues in a domestic context. Nor did it help that Henry was something
of a control freak. At least where his family was concerned, he
seems to have found it almost impossible to relinquish any real authority
and this reluctance doomed his relationship with his sons.

Q: Would you agree that betrayal--Becket's betrayal of Henry
and Henry's betrayal of Eleanor--is at the center of this novel?


A: Yes, I would, but we must remember that betrayal is rarely clear-cut
or unambiguous. Becket certainly did not believe he'd betrayed Henry.
Nor did Henry see his affair with Rosamund Clifford as a betrayal of
Eleanor, for it was understood that he'd take other women to his bed
when he and Eleanor were apart. Of course Rosamund was not just a
convenience. But as his emotional involvement with Rosamund deepened,
he at first refused to admit it and then managed to convince himself
that Eleanor did not realize Rosamund was not like his other
bedmates; she was much more than a casual conquest.

Q: The people Henry trusted most in the world--his mother,
his wife, and Becket--all questioned his decision to appoint
Becket as Archbishop of Canterbury. Why did he ignore their
warnings in this critical instance?


A: One of Henry's failings was his reluctance to accept advice once
he'd made up his mind. Hisstubbornness did not serve him well in this
case. Nor did his utter faith in Becket's friendship. He was so sure that
he knew Becket better than anyone, even Becket himself--with tragic
results.

Q: Becket was not of noble blood; he was the son of a merchant.
Henry overlooked Becket's humble origins, but others,
most notably his wife and mother, did not. Did his lack of rank
shape the course of his life in medieval Europe? Did his ambitions
and achievements come under extra scrutiny and criticism
because of his extraordinary upward mobility?


A: Most definitely. Many men looked at him askance from the first, resentful
that he'd been able to soar so high from such a lowly perch. Any
man as close to the king as Becket would have become the target of
jealousy and suspicion. But Becket's shame about his origins gave his
enemies a potent weapon to use against him. Our belief in equality
never took root in medieval soil. Even Henry, wanting to hurt Becket
during their confrontation at Northampton, instinctively lashed out
with a taunt about Becket's modest lineage.

Q: For the most part, your readers are not made privy to
Becket's inner thoughts and motivations. Why did you decide
to make him such an unknowable character?


A: Thomas Becket has remained an enigma for more than eight centuries;
I wasn't so egotistical that I thought I could solve the mystery of
this man in a mere five hundred pages! I made a deliberate decision to
distance myself from Becket and to filter impressions of him through
the perspectives of other characters. We see Becket through Henry's
eyes, through the eyes of his devoted clerks, skeptical fellow bishops,
the barons who loathed and mistrusted him, and the English people,
who readily accepted him as a saint in their midst.

Was he driven by raw ambition? Did he experience a religious
conversion that compelled him to forswear his worldly past? Did he
shed his identity as a snake sheds its skin, taking on the coloration of
each new role like Hwyel's chameleon? I thought it only fair to allow
my readers to make up their own minds about this most controversial
of archbishops. I realize that not every one will agree with my tactical
choice, but I felt most comfortable with this approach, which seemed
particularly well suited to Becket's quicksilver, inscrutable character and
contradictory history.

Q: One notable instance in which readers are given some insight
into Becket is when Henry tells Becket he wants him to
become Archbishop of Canterbury. Becket tells Henry he does
not want to jeopardize their friendship and asks:"Are you sure
I can serve both you and the Almighty?" Henry sidesteps the
question with a joke. What would a truthful response from
Henry sound like?


A: I suspect that Henry did not differentiate between his needs and
those of the Almighty, truly believing that if Becket served him well,
God would be satisfied, too.

Q: How much blame must Henry bear for Becket's murder?


A: Not as little as Henry thought or as much as his enemies claimed.
Henry twice did public penance for Becket's death, once at Avranches
and then again at Becket's tomb in Canterbury Cathedral. The first mea
culpa seems to have been a pragmatic political response, but his second
act of atonement appears to have been more heartfelt, less a pro forma
gesture than one of genuine emotion. I don't believe that Henry ever
felt much guilt over his complicity in Becket's death. It is human nature,
after all, to rationalize away the unpleasant, and kings are more adept
than most at that particular skill. I do believe he sincerely regretted that
he should have given his enemies such a sharp sword and that Becket
had come out the winner in their war of wills; not even a crown can
trump sainthood. And it is likely that there were some private regrets for
the man he'd once loved, the man he'd once thought Becket to be.

Q: Becket is not the only character in this novel with divided
loyalties. Ranulf is torn between his loyalty to Henry and his
loyalty to Wales. Did Henry serve well all those who were loyal
to him?


A: When Thomas, Cardinal Wolsey, was charged with treason by King
Henry VIII, he had a moment of belated epiphany and said, "Had I but
served God as diligently as I have served the king, He would not have
given me over in my grey hairs."

This would never have been said of Henry II. Whatever his other
failings, he did not discard men who were no longer useful, as too
many kings were wont to do. Henry rewarded loyalty with loyalty.

Q:The issue of crown versus church jurisdiction in criminal cases
involving church officials is an important theme throughout this
novel. Do you think this historical conflict in any way echoes
contemporary debates in the twenty-first-century United States
over sexual abuse in the Catholic Church?


A: When the current scandal spilled over into the public domain, it
definitely struck familiar echoes with me. Even after eight centuries,
we have not been able to agree where the boundaries should be drawn
between church and state. Little wonder that this incendiary issue set
Henry and Becket upon a collision course to disaster.

Q: Eleanor was counseled to either learn to love Henry less or
to accept him as he was. Has she truly managed to do either at
the close of this novel?


A: Yes, I believe that she did. Unfortunately for Henry, she took the
first road, not the second.

Q: Does Henry recognize the depth of his estrangement from
Eleanor or the depth of her anger once Rosamund Clifford enters
his life?


A: No, he did not, and his blindness was to cost him dearly. Henry
never learned to view life from any perspective but his own, and he
seemed to be genuinely surprised when his family's festering discontent
burst into outright rebellion. He continually made excuses for his sons'
lack of loyalty and refused to believe the Count of Toulouse's warning
that Eleanor was conspiring with his sons against him. Even on
his deathbed, he was still proclaiming his faith in his youngest son,
John; it was only when he was presented with incontrovertible evidence
of John's betrayal that he turned his face to the wall and spoke
no more.

Q: What made you choose Henry and Eleanor as subjects of
their own trilogy? What have been the rewards and the drawbacks
of focusing on two of the most celebrated and studied
figures in medieval Europe?


A: What novelist could resist the allure of such larger-than-life characters
as Henry and Eleanor? No Hollywood screenwriter could rival
their reality. They loved and schemed and fought and forgave and
fought again on a world stage, and eight centuries after their deaths,
people still find them as fascinating and elusive and compelling as their
contemporaries did. So I'd say the rewards are obvious.

The drawbacks? Perhaps the greatest one is that I had to forfeit the element
of surprise. My novels about medieval Wales were set in unexplored
terrain; my readers did not know what lay around every bend in
the road. Henry and Eleanor's story is far more familiar, even to people
not particularly enamored with the Middle Ages. Who hasn't seen The
Lion in Winter, after all?

Q:This novel covers a large canvas over a twenty-five-year period.
Was it difficult to decide what to stories to tell and what
stories to mention in passing or leave out entirely?


A: That is always a challenge. Usually some stories leap right off the
page, practically screaming to be dramatized. Where Henry and
Eleanor are concerned, there was almost a surfeit of riches. This is why
I chose to tell their story in trilogy form; that way being able to do justice
to all the critical events of their lives while not producing a book
that would make Moby Dick look like a minnow, size-wise!

Q: In your "Author's Note," you discuss when and where your
narrative deviates from the historical record. What particular
challenges does historical fiction pose? How are you constrained
by the historical record? How do you decide when to
take fictional license?


A: In writing my historical novels, I obviously have to rely upon my
imagination to a great extent. I think of it as "filling in the blanks," for
medieval chroniclers could be utterly indifferent to the needs of modern
novelists. Sometimes it is necessary to "invent" essential details; for
example, chroniclers often report a death without specifying the cause.
But there is a great difference between filling in the blanks and distorting
known facts. I also attempt to keep my characters true to their historical
counterparts. I do my best to build a strong factual foundation
for each of my novels and rely upon my Author's Notes to keep my
conscience clear.

Q: How long did the research take for this novel? Do you do
research in the beginning and then start writing or do you research
as you go along?


A: It usually takes me about three years to research and write one of my
historical sagas; this is one reason why I take medieval mystery breaks,
for they can be completed in only a year.

Chance was so long in the making because of circumstances beyond
my control. My first mystery, The Queen's Man, was nominated for
an Edgar and it was decided that I should follow it up with another
mystery. I therefore put Chance aside--much to Henry and Eleanor's
dismay--and wrote Cruel as the Grave. The plan was then to finish
Chance once I'd coaxed my pouting Plantagenets into cooperating again.
I did not expect to come down with mononucleosis and I most definitely
did not expect it to lay siege to my immune system for 18 months!
I research as I write--that is, I do specific research about a particular
castle or town or battlefield.

Q:What kinds of sources did you use for this novel? Did Henry
or Eleanor leave personal papers or diaries behind?


A: I make use of secondary sources such as historical biographies and
translations of primary sources like chronicles, letters, charters, and
government records. I do not have the linguistic skills to read medieval
Latin or medieval French and I am sorry to say that Welsh continues to
elude my best efforts. Fortunately, I have always been able to find translations
of the materials I need.

There are some extant letters written by Henry and a few by
Eleanor which are part of the correspondence of state and therefore
not that personally revealing. A notable exception is the outrage that
sears through the formal phrasing of the ill-advised letter Henry sent to
the French king after Becket's flight into exile, which I quote in Chapter
17 of Chance. And Thomas Becket's letters to the Pope also shine a
light into his psyche, displaying his aggrieved sense of injury, his instincts
for high drama, his weakness for self-pity, and his stark, stubborn
courage. Moreover, as I said in my Author's Note, the Henry-Becket
schism is probably the best-documented episode of the Middle Ages, a
veritable treasure trove for historical novelists.

Q:Which writer would you invite to a reading group meeting to
discuss what work? What would you most like to ask him or her?


A: Emily and Charlotte Bronte, if I'm not limited to the living. If I am,
I'd love the opportunity to meet Harper Lee and to ask her why she
never wrote another book after her classic To Kill a Mockingbird.

Q: What other titles would you recommend for a reading
group discussion?


A: Any of my books! Seriously, I do think Here Be Dragons would be a
good candidate, as would The Sunne in Splendour. If you want to stray
from Penman territory, I would highly recommend anything by Alice
Hoffman or Barbara Kingsolver.

Q: How would you describe your average workday of writing?


A: I work on a chapter at a time and do not sit down at the computer until
I have all the research done and the scenes in my head, waiting to spill
out onto the page. I do not set specific work hours as some writers do. I
generally stay with a chapter until I am satisfied, do very little rewriting,
and if a scene is going well, I've been known to keep night owl hours.

Q: What will The Devil's Brood, the final installment in the
Henry and Eleanor trilogy, cover? When can your readers expect
to find in the bookstore?


A: I plan to begin The Devil's Brood with Henry's return from his self-imposed
exile in Ireland, when he reluctantly agreed to do public
penance for Becket's death, taking a solemn oath before the papal
legates that "he neither ordered it, nor willed it, and that when he
heard of it he was greatly grieved." The final entry in my trilogy will
deal with Henry's fraying bond with his wife and sons, surely one of
history's most dysfunctional families. I expect to end the book with
Eleanor's release from confinement upon Henry's death and Richard's
accession to the throne.

As to when it might be in the bookstores, I do not want to tempt
the fates by making any predictions, for my memories of mononucleosis
are still too vivid for comfort.
Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide


In When Christ and His Saints Slept, acclaimed historical novelist Sharon Kay Penman portrayed all the deceit, danger, and drama of Henry II’s ascension to the throne. Now, in Time and Chance, she continues the ever-more-captivating tale.

It was medieval England’s immortal marriage—Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II, bound by passion and ambition, certain to leave a legacy of greatness. But while lust would divide them, it was friendship—and ultimately faith—that brought bloodshed into their midst. It began with Thomas Becket, Henry’s closest confidant, and his elevation to be Archbishop of Canterbury. It ended with a perceived betrayal that made a royal murder seem inevitable. Along the way were enough scheming, seductions, and scandals to topple any kingdom but their own. . . .

Only Sharon Kay Penman can re-create this truly tumultuous time—and capture the couple who loved power as much as each other . . . and a man who loved God most of all.


Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 34 )
Rating Distribution

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(23)

4 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 34 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 22, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    Time and Chance

    I have not quite finished reading Time and Chance - mainly because I don't want it to end. This time period in English history is fascinating and I think Sharon Kay Penman makes her characters and plot so interesting that you don't even realize you are receiving a history lesson! I am hooked! I have read many of her other books - Time and Chance is definitely a 10 whereas some of the others I may have even rated as low as a 6. Henry and Eleanor both make for great storytelling--and it is fun to believe that the author has really pegged their personalities. Also I think she does a great job keeping her characters consistent considering how many there are and all the conversation going on. I would think it would be hard to keep the great variety of personalities in order when it came to inventing conversation or personal reactions to plot situations -- but Sharon Kay Penman seamlessly slips back and forth between characters without losing any credibility. I think that is a measure of great writing ability.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 30, 2004

    Where did Ms. Penman go?

    After reading When Christ and his Saints Slept, I looked forward to Time and Chance. What a disappointment. Nowhere in it's pages did I find the usual captivating stye of Ms. Penman, and I only carried on reading in the hopes she would appear. Not one of her better books, oh well maybe a re-read of Sunne in Slendour will help restore my faith.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2002

    Such a disappointment

    After waiting so long for the sequel to "When Christ and His Saints Slept", this book was snapped up in minute...and found to be, well...very boring. The characters had no life. Unlike the other books by Ms. Penman, this latest effort was a waste. I doubt now I'll read the third book of this trilogy...or will wait to pick up a copy at the library.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 27, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    another great sequel

    Henry II of England was a formidable historical figure - just think of all that he accomplished or was involved with - Henry FitzEmpress later known as Henry Plantagenet, ruled as Count of Anjou, Count of Maine, Duke of Normandy, Duke of Aquitaine, Count of Nantes, King of England (1154–89) and Lord of Ireland; he also controlled Wales, Scotland and Brittany. He fathered 8 children on Eleanor of Aquitaine, two who later became king - Richard the Lion-hearted and John of Robin Hood fame.

    This part of the trilogy concerns the time of strife when Harry was in constant disagreement with Thomas Becket, his Archbishop of Canterbury, over the manner in which the punishment of the clergy concerning wrongdoings. Becket wanted he Church to maintain its sovereignty and Harry wanted the misdeeds punished under normal English law. In the end, after 6 years of exile, Becket was murdered.

    Thinking of all that you would believe that the story that was told here would have been a bit boring, but Harry is brought to life with all his vigor, faults, and personality that this reader is eager to take up the next part of the tale of King Henry and Queen Eleanor.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2012

    2nd in a trilogy

    The middle years of Henry II's reign. I would call it the Beckett era.

    Beckett is still a controversial figure. Was he a priest of unmoving principle? Or was he an agressive chameleon using those abilities as a means to power?

    The author seems to lean to the latter. In this novel Thomas Beckett is more of a preener while at the same time being an enigma.

    This one characterization is enough to read this novel. This even when we know what will happen.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 10, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Beautifully written!

    It’s greatly recommended - no actually you SHOULD read When Christ and his Saints Slept. Not only does it give you the background, an introduction to some characters that are featured in this book, and a lot of history, Time and Chance is a continuation of previously mentioned novel. There’s just something about Penman’s words that weaves the entire story into one very long epic movie like book. Everything is so well written, and descriptions are spot on and accurate. There are a lot of characters, yet maybe around 3 or 4 will stand out to you and you’ll take a liking to them. All the characters are written, and have distinct personalities to make them easier to remember. Some from the previous novel are also mentioned (Ranulf for example, who is one of my favorites). You do find yourself attached to some characters - I was happy to see William Marshall! he quickly became a favorite of mine. It was interesting to see the friendship between Thomas Becket and King Henry. It just deteriorated as you progress through the book (sometimes you feel like they’re bickering like children and you want to send them to their respective corners) it was interesting to see what happened that led up to Thomas getting killed. What was also interesting was when Rosamund enters the picture. Now, I’m all Team Eleanor when it comes to this issue (in fact, if I was Eleanor things would have ended up bloody if I were standing face to face with someone like Rosamund). I didn’t really like her, not just because she ended up breaking the band but because she just seemed like an empty headed bimbo with no purpose whatsoever except to make Henry happy (I’m sure he liked it that way too). I really did sympathize with Eleanor in this book. Not only was she extremely strong in so many ways (seriously Henry? making her pop out child after child and having Rosamund on the side? wow. Talk about having the cake and eating it whole) and I loved reading about her. She’s a fascinating character, especially for being a woman during that particular time period. This was a great book to read. A lot of information to swallow, a lot of rich fantastic characters that make the plot interesting and run smoothly. A must read for historical fiction fans, and fans of Sharon Kay Penman. Those curious would be better off with When Christ and his Saints Slept (where everything begins).

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2008

    A must read..........

    This series should be required reading. Old English History coming to life - this is certainly my most favorite time period to read about and I found myself constantly 'googling' for more information about these people. The struggle between Becket and Henry II and then the constant struggle between Henry II and Eleanor was so powerful - and what three difficult people. My favorite character, Ranulf, was so necessary - he acted as everyone's conscience throughout the novel and it always kept things balanced. I can't wait for the 3rd book - I'm hooked on the author.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2002

    brilliant follow-up to a magnificent first

    as always, penman has managed to make me feel reunited with long lost friends...the long wait was well worth it...if you have read 'when christ and his saints slept' you will not want to miss this deftly crafted sequel...as soon as i turned the last page i was lamenting the fact that the thrid has not been created as of yet...as they were in life, they are in print....henry and eleanor...completely, totally, and utterly intoxicating.....

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2002

    insightful look at Henry II

    Early in his reign, King Henry II successfully subdues his rebellious lords, who prefer their little fiefdoms to a powerful central state figure like His Highness. He decides he must also act accordingly with the Church in order to bring the priests in line. He chooses his most trusted ally Chancellor Thomas Becket to serve as the Archbishop of Canterbury though his friend is not a priest. However, once Sir Thomas takes over his new position, he changes his philosophy and becomes a fanatical supporter of the Church publicly opposing much of what his mentor desires. <P> Though over a decade younger than his wife Eleanor, Henry still loves her madly. He sires two daughters and five sons with her, while anchoring the throne for his Plantagant descendants (Richard, John, etc.) through war, treachery, and statesmanship. However, his fame (or shame) in history hinges on the murder of Sir Thomas, considered a saint by almost everyone else in the country. <P> TIME AND CHANCE, the sequel to WHEN CHRIST AND HIS SAINTS SLEPT, is an insightful historical fiction that brings to life the Henry II nation-building era. Reminding the audience in many ways of A Man for All Seasons, the tale is vividly loaded so that the audience can see a critical period in the building of a nation. Henry is a complex individual whom Sharon Kay Penman insures the audience fully comprehends how deep the King was. The look at the fights Henry fought and their impact on his family, his subjects, and his enemies make this mid to late twelfth century tale a must read for genre fans. <P>Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 4, 2012

    For All History Lovers

    As usual, Ms. Penman weaves a fascinating tale while staying true to historical events. No "dry" historian here. One can always depend on her for a well written, engaging story while learning a thing or two.

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  • Posted October 12, 2011

    Will buy a used paper copy for 1.99

    Won't spend this much on 1 Nook book when the used book is so much cheaper.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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