Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Last Queen: Review & Giveaway

Juana of Castile, daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella never planned on becoming the last hereditary Queen of Spain. C.w. Gortner's vividly adventurous novel The Last Queen takes readers on Juana's journey from girlhood to the first tumultuous and then desperately lonely years of her reign. As her parents' third child, there is little thought that Juana will one day rule Spain. All of the Spanish infantas, Isabelle, Juana, Maria, and Catalina, along with their brother Juan, are educated far beyond their counterparts in other European countries. They also live a much different daily life. Instead of the elaborate courts, clothing, and castles of England and France, they have spent much of their growing up years following their parents as they wage battles to unite the kingdoms of Aragon and Castile into one glorious Spain, and then roust the Moors, who have ruled southern Spain for centuries.
As the second daughter, Juana was betrothed to Archduke Philip of Habspburg, heir to Maximillian I, the Holy Roman Emperor. At sixteen she traveled to Flanders, now known as Belgium, for her wedding. It was a passionate love match between Juana and Philip for several years, although Philip also had many other companions. Juana was comfortable and happy in her role as mother and Duchess, but still clung to many of her Spanish traditions, which were much more conservative than those of Flanders.
Juana always remembered that she was a Princess of Spain, and she was the representative of her country in Flanders. With the untimely death of her brother Juan, who left no heirs, the succession of Spain passed to Isabella, now a pregnant Queen of Portugal. Isabella died giving birth to a son, who lived less than two years, and Juana was now heir to the Kingdom of Spain, one of the few where women could inherit.
At the age of twenty-three, pregnant with her fourth child, Juana travels to Spain with Philip to be sworn in as the heir. Philip, hungry for his power jure uxoris is upset at Juana being put before him in ceremonies and seating, as well as the excitement the Spanish people show at seeing her, abruptly leaves after just a few months, leaving Juana to give birth to their son Ferdinand alone.
Juana returns to her husband and children in Flanders, leaving baby Ferdinand with the very ill Queen Isabella. There, she is imprisoned in her apartments by Philip, who is plotting with the Spanish ambassador to gain Juana's power for Philip. Upon Isabella's death, the couple travel to Spain, Philip and his retinue resplendent in elaborate clothing unlike anything seen in Spain before, and Juana with her small group of servants under heavy guard in traditional conservative Spanish clothing. Remembering the words of her mother, Juana knows that everything she does must be for the good of Spain. Splitting the kingdoms of Castile and Aragon would lead to civil war and hopelessness for the people. Juana must do all she can not only to be crowned Queen of Castile, but to be named heir of Aragon.
Despite years of brutality at the hands of her husband, Juana is steadfast in not turning over her power to him or their son Charles, with Philip as regent. Philip bribes the Spanish lords and spreads tales of Juana being insane to undermine her position. As if years of being locked up, separated from her children, beaten, and often raped, wouldn't make a person a little crazy! Eventually Juana is betrayed by all that should protect her, husband, father, son, and even her childhood companion/servant are taken from her. Juana dies imprisoned by her son Charles I of Spain. Her refusal to abdicate her powers kept Aragon and Castile together as one Spanish kingdom, and paved the way for the greatness of Spain as a country of explorers and seamen.
I absolutely loved The Last Queen. I sympathized with Juana, a girl thinking she was going to grow up, marry and have children, read to them, play with them, and someday be a grandmother, but was instead separated from her six children before the eldest was even ten years old. She grew up admiring her mother and loving her father, and stood fast to her mother's strength while being betrayed by her father's jealousy.
I know you all want to read The Last Queen, now, so I am offering my gently-read copy as a giveaway! GIVEAWAY INSTRUCTIONS:
  • Open to US residents only.
  • Leave a comment with a way I can contact you, telling me a favorite historical fiction book you've recently read.
  • For an extra entry, become a Follower. If you are already a follower, leave a separate comment reminding me.
  • For a third entry, tweet about this giveaway, mention it on your FaceBook page, or mention it on your blog.
  • That's it! 3 comments, 3 entries.
  • Giveaway will end Wednesday, February 24 at 11:59 PM EST
Official FTC Disclosure: I requested a copy of The Last Queen from from C.W. Gortner's Website, but was not compensated in any other way for this review.



Sue said...

I just finished (this afternoon) The Heretic's Daughter. I love historical fiction and love reading about amazing women and how they shaped our world. Thanks for the giveaway.

s.mickelson at gmail dot com

Lyn said...

Hi Elizabeth. Just dropping by to see if you are enjoying the snow. Have a good day.

concretenprimroses said...

Wow! This one sound great. I might have to insert it into my pile of books to read, near the top!

guru said...

I have read a lot of period books, but I guess my favorite historical fiction book would be Romeo and Juliet.

SusanB said...

This sounds like a great book. I love historical fiction. The last book I read was The White Queen by Gregory.

SusanB said...

I am a follower. Thanks for the giveaway.

Gwen said...

My most current fav in historical fiction is Inpatient with Desire by Gabrielle Burton. Burton took 17 real diary pages from Tamsen Donner and crafted them into a heart wrenching story of what happened that 4 months that the Donner Party were trapped in the Sierras.

Gwen said...

I am a follower.

Gwen said...

I tweeted,

Mystica said...

I would like the opportunity of reading this story which sounds most unusual.

Nicole said...

I just finished The White Queen by Phillipa Gregory.


Sandra K321 said...

One of the more resent historical fiction I've read that I really enjoyed was Shades of Gray by Jessica James, which takes place during the Civil War. But I can't wait for my copy of Drood to arrive!

Sandra K321 said...

I just became a follower via Google.

Anonymous said...

Sounds great! I also love historical fiction from Philippa Gregory.
bethnaf at hotmail dot com

Blogspan said...

This sounds like a great book. Thanks for the giveaway.

little bird said...

my most recent book was of Marie Anntoinette

little bird said...

already following you

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