About the Book: Juana of Castile, the last queen of Spanish blood to inherit her country’s throne, has been for centuries an enigmatic figure shrouded in lurid myth. Was she the bereft widow of legend who was driven mad by her loss, or has history misjudged a woman who was ahead of her time? In his stunning new novel, C. W. Gortner challenges the myths about Queen Juana, unraveling the mystery surrounding her to reveal a brave, determined woman we can only now begin to fully understand.
The third child of Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand of Spain, Juana is born amid her parents’ ruthless struggle to unify their kingdom, bearing witness to the fall of Granada and Columbus’s discoveries. At the age of sixteen, she is sent to wed Philip, the archduke of Flanders, as part of her parents’ strategy to strengthen Spain, just as her youngest sister, Catherine of Aragon, is sent to England to become the first wife of Henry VIII.
Juana finds unexpected love and passion with her handsome young husband, the sole heir to the Habsburg Empire. At first she is content with her children and her life in Flanders. But when tragedy strikes and she inherits the Spanish throne, Juana finds herself plunged into a battle for power against her husband that grows to involve the major monarchs of Europe. Besieged by foes on all sides, her intelligence and pride used as weapons against her, Juana vows to secure her crown and save Spain from ruin, even if it could cost her everything.
My Review: Until I read The Other Boleyn Girl earlier this year, the subject of the queens and kings of long ago was not very interesting to me. In fact, I probably never would have picked to read a book like this. But when this book came on offer for virtual tour, I jumped at the chance having so greatly enjoyed The Other Boleyn Girl.
I am so glad I did, because I absolutely loved this book. This has been an extraordinarily busy week for me, and I just did not want to put this book down. I brought it everywhere with me, hoping to sneak in a page here and there.
I knew nothing about this legendary queen, but what a fascinating history! Gortner portrays Juana’s stubborness, her strength and self-doubt, her courage, and love of country so deeply that you feel you are right there with her. I felt so much of what she felt as she faced a life I can’t even imagine. From the various manipulations of her birth family to her husband, whether or not she was at all insane, I think she was mostly a smart woman with incredible courage and force of will.
Gortner spent six years researching this book and it shows. The details are present without being overwhelming and the characters are sharply drawn and feel so authentic. The plot moves at a perfect pace…trust me when you start this book you won’t want to put it down. Highly Recommended.