British author Alison Weir has built a literary empire speculating about the sultrier side of life for kings and queens from centuries past. In "Captive Queen," the author titillates readers with a stunning portrayal of 12th-century virago Eleanor of Aquitaine. Weir's Eleanor is a lusty cougar of a queen, all too happy to abandon her doddering husband, France's King Louis VII, for up-and-comer Henry of Anjou, more than a decade her junior.

As in her previous novels, Weir frequently straddles a fine line between bodice ripper and historical fiction, and here, too, Eleanor's imagined erotic escapades prove a pleasant backdrop to her political plotting. ("Later, lying close to him in the afterglow of lovemaking, getting to know each other better, she knew she could never relinquish him.")

Even if the bestselling author's prose occasionally borders on such silliness, Weir knows how to wrest the most pleasure from the lives of long-dead royalty. As Eleanor hops from the throne of France to England, she experiences an all too temporary surge in power that leads to the intrigues hinted at in the title. As always, Weir renders the bona fide plot twists of her heroine's life with all the mastery of a thriller author, marrying historical fact with licentious fiction to create an escapist book perfect for summer reading.