Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner

Teddy's thoughts:

Juana, daughter of Queen Isabel & King Ferdinand of Spain was raised to be a pawn. She was betrothed as a toddler to Philip of Flanders, heir to the Hapsburg throne, to improve political alliances with Spain.

At 16 she was sent with her attendants to Flanders, to marry Philip. She did not want to go but knew it was her duty. Once she met Philip and saw how handsome he was, she fell in love with him. Their first years together were romantic and happy one's. Juana had a daughter and then a son, which made Philip very happy.

Juana was given an education, as a child she was raised to be a good wife and to gently persuade her husband to agree with Spain on issues that may arise. However, after a few year of wedded bliss, Juana's brother and the sister and nephew died. She was next in succession to the Spanish throne.

Though she was not raised to be Queen, she knew it was her duty. However, this created a power struggle with her husband. She also had to struggle with other men of power to take her rightful place as Queen.

This is an enthralling story of greed, lust, power, loyalty, and friendship. C.W. Gorther keeps the story going in perfect pitch! His vivid re-telling of the last Queen of Spain is quite believable and you can tell he really did his research to keep historical facts accurate.

I could not put this book down and it kept me up into the wee hours of the morning. I highly recommend this wonderful book. If you love historical fiction, you must read this book!


Marg's thoughts:

As much as I love reading historical fiction that is set in England, every now and again I really appreciate a change of location and characters. If that sounds a bit like you, then you can't really go wrong with The Last Queen by C W Gortner.

Whilst a lot of historical fiction fans will be familiar with the life and times of Catherine of Aragon, I must confess that I knew very little about any of her other family members. In this book, the author focuses on the life of Juana, Catherine's older sister who married into the Hapsberg family, to Phillip of Flanders (known as Phillip the Handsome). What started out as an arranged marriage quickly turned into a passionate, loving marriage but just as quickly turns into a passionate marriage of what can be a far stronger emotion - loathing and hate.

Due to a series of tragedies that hit the Aragonese royal family, Juana becomes the rightful heir to the Castilian throne. She is however forced to fight for her birthright against not only against her husband who was determined to claim the throne for himself, but also against the church, her own remaining family members, and against the distrust of the idea of a queen reigning.

As husband and wife engage in political power plays to try and gain the upper hand, as family members betray each other, and as mother becomes separated both physically and emotionally from her children, we are left with a portrayal of a woman who many would have envied as having everything, but who is left with nothing. Some of the choices that Juana did make seem somewhat foolhardy and yes, slightly mad, and the author does not shy away from these events. The portrayal of Juana is handled with sensitivity and perceptiveness, and yet as a reader, it is quite easy to be swept up in the drama and the emotion of the story.

I am glad to have been introduced to this fascinating character who in some ways is a footnote in history for many non-Europeans. I will definitely be looking forward to reading more from C W Gortner.

Rating 4.5/5


  1. I really liked this one, too! I'm glad it's getting a lot more readers since it went into paper back!


  2. Hi Teddy -- Thanks so much for this review, I am reading Signora Da Vinci by Robin Maxwell now, and The Last Queen is next for me. I'm really looking forward to it. I love discovering new under-publicized historical figures and I've read so many hist-fic books about Katherine of Aragon with Juana as a side character, but never a book focusing on her specifically. I hear C.W. Gortner's next book is about Catherine de Medici, who has rapidly become a very popular character for historical novels as of late. I think it says a lot about the author as a writer to be able to write so beautifully (so I hear) from a female POV, despite his being a man. I look forward to reading it for myself! :)

  3. I really enjoyed this review - thanks for posting it!

  4. I am really looking forward to reading CW's take on Catherine de Medici!

  5. I recently received it from the author but haven't yet had the chance to read it yet. I am so excited to read about Juana after learning a little bit about her.

  6. I really loved this novel...and I think Gortner did an excellent job with Juana. I was swept up in the story and highly recommend it to historical fiction readers.

    Great review!

  7. Marg, it looks like we both agree that this was a wonderful book!

    Lezlie and Serena, I was so happy to receive this book. I haven't read much about Juana and I was also swept up in the story.

    Alle and Dollygurl, I am sure you will both enjoy it. Allie, I'm so glad that you enjoyed Signora Da Vinci!