Category Archives: C.W. Gortner

The Queen’s Vow by C.W. Gortner

The Queen's Vow
Queen Isabella portrayed as a woman, as opposed to inquisitor

The Queen’s Vow by C.W. Gortner
Ballantine June 2012
Hardcover 382 pages
Review copy from the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:3 Stars = Good, didn't totally rock my boat

From the glorious palaces of Segovia to the battlefields of Granada and the intrigue-laden gardens of Seville, The Queen’s Vow sweeps us into the tumultuous forging of a nation and the complex, fascinating heart of the woman who overcame all odds to become Isabella of Castile.

Gortner enjoys writing of female monarchs who may have been vilified or misunderstood, and his newest novel is no different. Queen Isabella is most remembered for her role in the Spanish Inquisition and for funding Cristobal Colon’s voyage. Was she a money hungry, blood thirsty monarch, with ethnic cleansing views similar to Hitler? That would be open to interpretation, and Gortner uses his research to try and portray Isabella in a more positive light. The story takes us through four parts, which were all discussed during the HF-Connection Read-along so I feel like I may be repeating myself here.

Using a first person perspective the author attempts to humanize Isabella as she deals with both political and marital conflict. I felt that with the many names coming and going, Carillo, Villena, Chacon, it may have been easier to get a full-figured view of the time period if we were able to see it through someone else’s eyes and feel more of a sense of the political upheaval as well. Instead, using first person view of Isabella we are limited to her actions, thoughts and fears, which sometimes made me feel like I was trying peer through the haze to gather what was really happening elsewhere in the opposing factions/realms.

However, the author was not writing a historical novel regarding the period of Isabella, he was writing a novel on the character of Isabella. He does a great job of offering a glimpse of what could have been going through her head at various times, and we witness Isabella’s transformation from young adult to wife and ruler. My favorite parts were the beginning, where Isabella is developing her relationships with her brother Alfonso, and half-brother Enrique. Those relationships helped humanize Isabella in my eyes, as I could see Isabella loved Alfonso very much and was willing to wait for Enrique’s reign to be over before she reached for the throne of Castile. Another relationship (but ended up being a bit anti-climactic) was the fate of Juana la Beltraneja, the issue of Enrique’s wife who was considered illegitimate. The political turmoil between the family and their advisers was well portrayed and I was eager to read how it would play out.

An underlying theme is Fernando and Isabella’s marriage, going through the motions of the begetting of heirs for their realm in hopes of solidifying future political alliances. The other theme is the aspect of religion and how Isabella’s beliefs helped shape her life and therefore how she governed. However, Gortner shows that Isabella did not make the important decisions on her own, as she had several people close to her that she listened to. He attempts to show Isabella as very reluctant to be the Inquisitor, and suggests that perhaps it is Fernando who had more religious zeal. The aspect of religion and the ultimate belief that all things are done for God and in His name is another important topic to consider when learning of Isabella’s actions. The horrors inflicted on her people can be seen as a casualty of war, as she was on a mission to save her soul as well as her people. And to be fair, Isabella was one woman, and a product of her times. Her decisions were not her own.

This is a satisfying read for those who are interested in seeing a characterization of Isabella that possibly offers clues to why she made the epic decisions that she did, especially in regards to the persecution of her people. I am a reader who has to like a main character in order to fully enjoy a book, and I am predisposed to disliking Isabella. I wanted to be able to love this passionate Isabella, but I still wasn’t able to in the end. There were many battles and struggles going on around Isabella which became a major thrust of the novel, and this helps portray the image of Isabella as a Warrior Queen, even though it was Fernando who was doing most of the battle organizing. The politics of the era are another major theme to the novel, and I found the Spanish maneuverings and battles for control of cities slightly confusing as there was a lot of this carried out throughout the novel.

However, Isabella exhibited tenacity, passion for her causes, and love for her family and Gortner does a thorough job of portraying these characteristics throughout the novel. My favorite scenes were those that focused around her children, and how she interacted with her children. I wish there were more towards the end of the book that focused on the marriage, but that too was overshadowed with the political upheaval and the conquests. I also loved Isabella’s maid, Beatriz, who came in and out of the story.

One of the children that Tudor fans should recognize would be her daughter Catalina/Catherine of Aragon, the first wife of Henry VIII of England. Another daughter is Juana de Loca/Juana the Mad, who was a subject of Gortner’s novel The Last Queen, which I enjoyed and recommend. I recently conducted an interview with the author regarding his research on Isabella and writing this book, which can be found here.

Along the same theme, I have to recommend Mitchell James Kaplan’s novel By Fire, By Water, which was a  favorite of mine. It features Luis de Santangel, a character who was also mentioned in The Queen’s Vow as he becomes entrenched on both sides of the Spanish Inquisition. For those who have read The Queen’s Vow and would like to comment on many of the topics related to the book, feel free to comment on any of the discussion posts of the read along.



Filed under 15th Century, 2012 Releases, 2012 Review, C.W. Gortner, Isabella of Castile

Interview with C.W. Gortner, author of THE QUEEN’S VOW

Please welcome C.W. Gortner who graciously agreed to answer a few questions regarding THE QUEEN’S VOW: A Novel of Isabella of Castile, which releases TODAY!!

For your newest novel, The Queen’s Vow, what is the biggest message about Isabella that you are trying to convey?
As with my previous novels, my original intent was to uncover the flesh-and-blood woman behind the legend. Isabella of Castile is most often known as the queen who sent Columbus to America and the fanatic who unleashed the Inquisition. But few of us know the tumultuous, fascinating story of her rise to the throne or understand the complex choices she had to make as a woman in power in a time when women rarely ruled. So, for THE QUEEN’S VOW, I decided to explore how Isabella became the woman and queen we think we know. My biggest message is that, like all of us, she was first and foremost a human being.  She had both extraordinary qualities and terrible ones; she was an exceptional woman and a fallible one, molded by her particular circumstances and the era in which she lived. Perhaps more so than any of my other characters, Isabella’s contradictions ultimately define her.
Is there something you came across in your research for this novel that took you by surprise? Interesting facts about the characters?
I was very surprised to discover how passionate Isabella was. When we think of her, we get this mental picture of a staid, unyielding queen; certainly, the trajectory of her later years, which I cover in my first novel about her daughter, The Last Queen, shows a woman dedicated to protecting Spain and stoic in her faith and personal tragedies. However, the young Isabella sparked a civil war in her determination to marry Fernando of Aragón! I also had had no idea she was so forward-thinking in terms of women’s education. Isabella was born into a Spain fragmented by discord; bitter antagonism and private feuds had sowed near-total disorder. Even the most noble men were barely literate, and women scarcely at all. Isabella herself had no formal education, save for basics. Comparing her schooling, as it were, with that of Elizabeth Tudor, born eighty-two years later, offers startling contrast. Here we have two of history’s most famous queens, each of whom became a symbolic personification of her particular land, yet while Elizabeth enjoyed an impressive training that prepared her, even if accidentally, to rule, Isabella had none. She lamented her lack of education and in her early thirties, dedicated herself to mastering Latin. She also championed a decree that facilitated women’s entry into universities. She was the first queen of her country to allow women to earn degrees and become professors; she also brought the first printing presses to Castile, thereby sowing the seed of Spain’s golden era of letters in the 17th century.
What was the hardest scene to write?
Definitely, the scenes related to the Inquisition. I write about people who lived in the past and thus I strive to stay true to their way of viewing the world, but I rarely share their beliefs. Religious intolerance, cruelty to animals, any kind of human-phobia: these are hot-button topics for me, and yet the 16th century is defined as much by its injustice as its glamour. You can’t really write about a Renaissance person without touching on these unsavory traits, and it was challenging for me personally to get into Isabella’s skin and see the world as she did, when she was contemplating these deeds. But, part of being a writer is being able to disappear into your character, so I had to find that dark place inside me that we all have, though few of us admit it—that cellar in our minds, where anything different from what we find familiar frightens us and can lead us to condemn it. Hell and Heaven were not abstract concepts to the 16th century mind: most people genuinely believed in a retributive God and an afterlife of glory or eternal damnation, dependent on what, and who, you were in life. Saving your soul was therefore paramount to a woman of Isabella’s deep convictions.
Was there a scene that your editors made you cut that you wish could have stayed?
No, not really. I mean, there are always those scenes that we are fond of that our editors don’t particularly love and therefore must be sacrificed, but in the end editing is part of creating a final product that is accessible to readers. With my other books, yes, there were scenes I’d have loved to retain but with this novel, very little was actually cut. It came together in unexpected ways but never overflowed the perimeters that I had defined for it. It was orderly, much like Isabella herself.
Your historical novels have featured strong female figures. Is there a male monarch who’s story you would consider writing someday?
Absolutely, but the market is defined by readers and publishers, and so far, male lead characters have not proven as successful within the area that I’m currently writing in. With my Tudor spy series, I’m very fortunate to have a male lead and it makes for an exciting change for me as a writer. And of course, there are several kings I’d love to write about; perhaps, I’ll be able to one day. Certainly, I am always exploring ways to tell different stories that will appeal to my readers and my publishers.
Tell us about what you’re working on now. What is the time-table for your Spymaster Chronicles books?
The second book in the Spymaster Chronicles is titled The Tudor Conspiracy. It is finished and currently with my US and UK editors. Publication will be in 2013; I know these things always take longer than we like, but books have to be edited and covers designed; the text has to be set, and then there’s the daunting process of scheduling and marketing. However, I think the wait will be worth it: Brendan’s next adventure is a dark quest set in the winter of Bloody Mary’s reign, shortly before the Wyatt Revolt.
Now, I’m writing my next historical novel about Lucrezia Borgia, tracing her so-called Vatican years, from her youth as the illegitimate child of an ambitious Spanish churchman to her thrust into notoriety as the pope’s daughter and savage struggle to define herself as a woman even as she battles her family’s lethal ambitions and her own dark heart. Lucrezia is my first ‘non-queen’, so to speak, though it could be argued she was regarded as royalty in her era. Once again, I’ve found myself drawn to a woman who has been vilified by history. I am enthralled by Lucrezia and her world, as I hope you will be.
Thank you so much for having me. I sincerely hope readers enjoy THE QUEEN’S VOW. I’m always available to chat with book groups via Skype or speaker phone; to learn more about me and my work, please visit me at:
 Also, join us at HF-Connection where we will have a Read-Along of this novel, begining July 7, 2012. See the announcement here.


Filed under 15th Century, Author Interviews, Author Post, C.W. Gortner, Isabella of Castile

>Book Review: The Tudor Secret (The Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles) by C.W. Gortner


The Tudor Secret (The Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles) by C.W. Gortner
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin (February 1, 2011)
ISBN-13: 978-0312658502
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!!
The Burton Review Rating:Five Glorious Stars!

Once upon a time there was a writer striving to become published so he did it his own way via the self-publication route. Out came The Secret Lion: Book One of The Spymaster Chronicles and although it caught my eye, it wasn’t readily available unless I wanted to pay a pretty penny. Several years later, this same author found huge success with his 2009 novel The Last Queen, and then again with The Confessions of Catherine de Medici. I loved these two novels as C.W. Gortner easily became my favorite male author to read. Imagine my joy when I heard that Gortner’s first spy novel had been picked up by St. Martin’s Griffin for a reissue after Gortner tweaked it up a bit. I was thrilled to receive a review copy of one of the first Tudor novels that had originally sparked my interest a few years ago. Gortner has another hit on his hands, as once again he takes the blogging community by storm with the story of a fictional character inserted directly into the intrigues of the dangerous Tudor courts.

This new novel takes on the name The Tudor Secret and follows a young squire Brendan Prescott who is a new arrival at a court that is about to become entwined once again in its perils of succession. King Edward VI is dying, and the Dudley family that raised Brendan the foundling is controlling all information in and out so that no one really knows what is going on with the young King. Princess Elizabeth has few friends, and one of those is Master Cecil. Brendan realizes quickly that his own survival depends on cooperating with Cecil and his cohort the deadly Walsingham.. all in a bid to save Elizabeth from peril at the hands of the scheming Dudley upstarts.

Most Tudor fans know the story of  how the monarchy changed hands from King Edward to Lady Jane and finally Queen Mary I. Gortner doesn’t bore us with the replaying of these same historical details and the struggle of the people during these times. Instead, he turns this well-known story into a spine-tingling mystery of many depths with romance, friendship and loyalty as underlying themes. I found the mystery angle to be well written and expertly interwoven into historic events, making this an unforgettable story for Tudor fiction fans. The Tudor Secret also shows a rare outsider’s look at Elizabeth and her sister Mary, as opposed to the many Tudor reads that typically focus on a noble or member of the royal family. I relished the tones of deviousness that Gortner put on some regular faces such as the Dudley men who I love to hate, Frances Brandon and Master Stokes. And I loved the rare favorable look at Cecil, who becomes Elizabeth’s biggest ally during her reign. Although some Tudor aficionados may take slight with the convenient plot twists that Gortner utilizes, I loved every scandalous moment. Any book that has me itching to get back to it is a win-win in the entertainment department, and this blends two genres that I love seamlessly together: historical fiction and mystery, set in one of my favorite eras to read about.

The Tudor Secret is full of suspense and fast-paced adventures which is an exciting departure from Gortner’s previous successful novels which focused on members of royal families, and I cannot wait for another Spymaster Chronicles novel! Those who are bored with the everyday Tudor-style novel should find a renewed interest in the genre with this new perception from a commoner new to the courts. C.W. Gortner is easily my favorite male author at this time for historical fiction, whether it is this historical mystery genre or otherwise. Congrats to C.W. for another excellent novel that I would love to recommend to any Tudor fiction fan, and it was well worth my wait. Five stars for its entertainment value, its mystery twists and the scandalous secrets!


Filed under 16th Century, 2011 Releases, 2011 Reviews, Bloody Mary, C.W. Gortner, Edward VI, Elizabeth I, Tudor

>Book Review: The Confessions of Catherine De Medici by C.W. Gortner


The Confessions of Catherine De Medici by C.W. Gortner
Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books (May 25, 2010)
ISBN-13: 978-0345501868
Review Copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
The Burton Review Rating:FourStars!


The truth is, none of us are innocent. We all have sins to confess.

So reveals Catherine de Medici in this brilliantly imagined novel about one of history’s most powerful and controversial women. To some she was the ruthless queen who led France into an era of savage violence. To others she was the passionate savior of the French monarchy. Acclaimed author C. W. Gortner brings Catherine to life in her own voice, allowing us to enter into the intimate world of a woman whose determination to protect her family’s throne and realm plunged her into a lethal struggle for power.

From the fairy-tale châteaux of the Loire Valley to the battlefields of the wars of religion to the mob-filled streets of Paris, The Confessions of Catherine de Medici is the extraordinary untold journey of one of the most maligned and misunderstood women ever to be queen.

In this long awaited novel from the author of The Last Queen, C.W. Gortner brings to life another female queen who has perhaps been maligned by history. As this is my first novel primarily focused on Catherine de Medici, she has previously been a figure shrouded in the superstition that she was a witch, as she was known to have embraced Nostradamus’ teachings. She was a woman scorned by her husband as she was forced to stand by and allow her royal husband have a mistress who helped rule France. In Gortner’s telling, he begins Catherine’s story from when she was an orphan in Florence, Italy, who was caught between the political strife of the Medici and the Hapsburgs. Catherine is immediately portrayed as a strong character who recognized the need for self perseverance in times of political turmoil.

She is finally sent to France to wed Henry, the Duke of Orleans and the second son to King Francis of France. It is not apparent until later on that Catherine herself would eventually become Queen of France, but when that happened she enjoyed little from the title as she was seen only as a means to beget heirs. Catherine’s life at this point is written to be pretty dull as she gives the king many children in rapid succession in this story. When her husband King Henry suddenly dies Catherine’s life and her story turns into something more interesting as she is finally in control of some of her fate. She seeks the knowledge of the likes of Nostradamus to help aid her with the decisions of the future. Her son Francois is betrothed to Mary Queen of Scots, but she spends little time with them. The tensions increase as she finds herself Regent after her eldest son’s death, and she sends the young Mary Queen of Scots back home to Scotland.

The story then focuses on the pressures on Catherine as she is trying to balance the battles that began brewing between the Catholics and the Protestants. She tries to show leniency to the Huguenots, but her nobles will not hear of it. Eventually when her son Charles takes the throne he exhibits some of Catherine’s tolerance but welcomes a known traitor back into the courts. Catherine would rather not call attention to the leniency towards the Huguenots at this time, especially when the person is Coligny, a previous lover of Catherine’s. This is where the novel started to take off for me, the previous events did not show dramatic flair until at this point when Catherine is struggling to save France from unnecessary trouble.

Catherine is about fifty at this point in the novel, and it is here that we see more of the relationships between Catherine and her children. Although this is probably a novel that shows Catherine in a much more tender light than other authors tend to show, Catherine is not portrayed as an overly loving mother; though earlier on at the birth of one of her sons, she doted on him more than her others. But I felt that not much else was given to specifically characterize that Catherine truly cared for them as other than pawns for power. When the time comes for her sons to take the throne, she is more in a battle with the nobles to maintain control of the governmental issues. When Charles is in his twenties, she had to let go of the idea that she was in control, yet she relinquishes it unwillingly for the purpose to not cause friction.When she betroths her favored daughter Margot to Henri of Navarre is when we feel Catherine’s pain of being a mother to royal children; bemoaning the idea that princesses cannot marry for love but only for the good of the realm, although this empathy is quickly dispensed with, as the relationship between mother and daughter is made irreparable.

The title suggests murderous secrets and enlightening confessions are to be made by Catherine, but for the most part that would be misleading. I had envisioned more scandals and prophecy-type focus, but this was more humanizing rather than taking advantage of the Medici reputation. Being told in first person, it definitely gives a more personal slant on Catherine’s character, therefore it seems to take away some of the intrigues that are generally perceived of her. Gortner plays down the liaisons with the likes of Nostradamus, but does have Catherine fingering amulets with unholy thoughts. All in all, if you are looking for the same old same old on the scandals of Catherine, you may be disappointed. If you want what actually could be an accurate depiction of Catherine’s life, this would be a great start.  Encompassing a large period of time, Gortner also touches on some of the important issues that France experienced and tries not to confuse us with too many characters at once. The author’s note wraps everything up nicely for the politics of France, of which it seemed was Catherine’s driving force throughout her life. Instead of being portrayed as being in the eternal quest for ultimate power, Catherine is depicted as being the protector of France, and regardless of the dastardly deeds she may have done, they were for the good of the realm. This is a great read for those who would like to know more about the possible reality of how Catherine saw herself, and I am always intrigued at how well Gortner displays his heroines as he does it in such an effortless and comprehensive way. Although the book does not release for another few weeks, Goodreads is already showing a 4.45 average rating among 11 raters, with 7 reviews.

Stay tuned for the rest of the events at the Historical Fiction Bloggers Round Table that continue for the rest of this week! A beautiful necklace is just one of the giveaways being held at the main site, so please go check it out!


Filed under 2010 Releases, 2010 Review, C.W. Gortner, Catherine de Medici, HF Bloggers Round Table

>The Sunday Salon~ Stuff & More Round Table Events coming your way..


The Sunday

Happy Sunday! Sip along with your sweet tea or flavored fake coffee, click the pics to visit other virtual reading rooms.. tell us..what are you reading this week??

This week I tried and tried and tried to get into the reissue of The Brothers of Gwynedd by Edith Pargeter. I am not giving up. I am putting it aside, which is book one of this quartet. I cannot stand it. But okay whatever we’ll see what happens when book two has to be read. This is the pitfall when you agree to review a book for a publisher. You cannot just throw it against the wall and use it for kindling. You must compose a cohesive thought, go over pros and cons of the writing and the plot, and get into the nitty gritty of the subject matter.

Normally that’s not a big deal. Millions of book bloggers do it every day. I am not sure if I can do it though, ever again. I will try, because I have invested a year in this book blog to make it something I am proud of. But what would make me ecstatic is to say I am going on hiatus, because my brain cannot handle one more written word.

But I made a promise when I accepted the backlog of twenty books that are impatiently waiting on my shelf for me to read and review. So I have to try. The Blogger Burn Out that I have mentioned before is still clouding my psyche. Obviously. I just have much much much more pressing things going on in my real life that have accumulated into one big tornado that is hanging over my head instead of going away. And it doesn’t just include the fact that I have a full time job, I am part of a family of four, and summer is coming.

Why am I torturing myself with piles of books that scream silently?  Because I honor my word, and I love my book blogging buddies. I do like to read books, but I am getting tired of the whole process where everything is scheduled according everyone else’s schedule. What about my schedule? When did the book review process become a review robot process? Wasn’t this supposed to be fun?

So I set aside The Brothers of Gwynedd and started Jane Feather’s newest release, All the Queen’s Players. This will fit in with the Tudor Mania Challenge that is underway right now. (got a Tudor read this summer? Add your link!!) The book is so-so, sort of fluffy, and contains really insipid lines that grate on one’s nerves but at least it doesn’t take me three hours to get through two pages like The Brothers of Gwynedd.

For the Tudor Mania Challenge, there has been confusion. Please enter the LINK TO YOUR REVIEW in the Linky tool. Enter the name of the book then the name of your blog in parentheses. Such as: Secrets of the Tudor Court (The Burton Review)

This linky tool is how I am determining the winner of the challenge. I will have to delete all entries that are not linked to a review. The linky tool is for the competition, the comments are for comments such as if you would like to join us. A comment is not required to enter the competition, a link to the challenge is not required, all that is required is a link to your Tudor Themed Book Review that has been posted between May, June and July. The reviewer with the most Tudor Themed Reviews linked up via Linky tool will win a book of their choice from the Book Depository of a $15 value. More details are on the post page. So far, Arleigh and I are tied for first place with one book review each! =)

This week I posted a review of Mitchell James Kaplan’s debut novel, By Fire, By Water. A wonderfully insightful read that really portrays a vivid characterization of The Spanish Inquisition via its main protagonists. I will welcome the author to The Burton Review with an author supplied guest post when it comes closer to its release date of May 18.
And this is after the main May event of the Historical Fiction Bloggers Round Table featuring a blogger favorite, C.W. Gortner. Gortner’s previous release The Last Queen was touted by all and was a virtual wild fire of praise. His newest novel, The Confessions of Catherine de Medici is going to garner even more praise as history lovers embrace the story of an evil queen made likable.

The event begins NOW and runs for the upcoming week. My review will post tomorrow. Scheduled posts for the event include the normal guest posts, interview and creative posts authored by the very talented bloggers who are members of the round table. You guessed it, I will just have the review as part of the event, as my brain simply cannot handle one more thing at this time. But you need to stay tuned to the main site for the Round Table and see what fabulous giveaways we have in store for you courtesy of the generosity of C.W. Gortner!! You will not be disappointed.

And last but not least, I sent Lizzy at Historically Obsessed my ARC of Jean Kwok’s book, Girl in Translation, for a book signing event at Powell’s on Friday night. This was a great book and I cannot wait to hear what fun times Lizzy had! I ran a giveaway for the book and using, the winner is….ICEDREAM!! Email has been sent. The book was fantastic and you all need to read it. This was one that I read in a single day, I could NOT put it down. It was a fabulous break from all the historicals that I have been focused on lately. (review) Goodreads shows it already has 79 ratings and a 4.25 average rating.

Happy Mother’s Day to all! May you be blessed with hugs and kisses and perhaps.. fine jewelry.


Filed under C.W. Gortner, HF Bloggers Round Table, Jean Kwok, The Sunday Salon, Why I Blog

>The Sunday Salon~ Sniffles


The Sunday

Is anyone here who participated in the Read-A-Thon? I am not one of them. But I hope everyone had tons of fun. How many books did you read? I have a head cold and that is not the best thing to have when needing to focus on tiny letters. But this week has been a busy week blog-wise: I added two new giveaways making that three giveaways you can enter for now.

The giveaway for Monica Fairview’s The Other Mr. Darcy ends 10/26;
Simon Cox’s Decoding The Lost Symbol ends 10/29;
Diane Haeger’s The Queen’s Mistake ends 11/6.

Be sure to enter for your chance to win one of these books today! I’m a little saddened by the lack of response to the Decoding the Lost Symbol post. Sniffle. But that bodes well for those who really want this book, it is a very quick giveaway sponsored by the publisher. I did receive the book and I look forward to reading it and getting that Nicolas Cage-Explorer feeling. (I did not enjoy Tom Hank’s hair in the DaVinci Code movie.)

In other bookish news, I composed a Fall Preview of certain books for the Examiner, I’d love for you stop by. You can also subscribe to the posts that I enter there, and don’t worry, I would be lucky to post once a week there, so your inbox will not be inundated with Examiner links when you do subscribe. I still haven’t gotten a penny for this affiliation, and I would like to change that someday but I need you stop by and show some support. I appreciate it in advance, I really do!

My DH constructed the fourth bookcase for the hallway. That was fantastic, and I now have plenty of room to add more books and keep them within their genres. Always a great feeling!! We have room for another bookcase in the foyer so I am happy. And I can share a shelf and a half with the kiddos. (Anything beyond that will have cause for serious discussion.)

I finished reading Delilah by India Edghill just last night, and yep, it will be another positive review for the blog. I really enjoyed it, and I wish I had more time in my reading schedule to jump on her previous title, Queenmaker. Be on the lookout for the review to post in a few days. The book itself is available for per-order: Delilah: A Novel and will be released 11/24/09. Next, I plan on reading a new romance, My Unfair Lady, by Kathryne Kennedy, so hopefully I could be ready for a 11/18 guest post. I have about 32 books to review. Ugh.

Historical fiction author Confessions of Catherine de Medici by GortnerC.W. Gortner has unveiled the cover of his highly anticipated book, The Confessions of Catherine de Medici which releases 5/25/10. This is definitely a fantastic cover! This is one of those books that began building buzz the moment he announced he was working on it! His fantastic novel, The Last Queen, took blogland by storm in multiple book blog tours, and I can only imagine this new release will surpass our expectations. No pressure! He wrote a fantastic guest post for my blog which you can find here. Catherine De Medici is one of those queens that has inspired countless books, but this one is going to stand out on its own just as The Last Queen did due to Gortner’s superior writing style. No pressure!

The synopsis for his newest forthcoming title: “The most infamous queen of the Renaissance reveals her secrets in an epic tale of persecution, intrigue, and betrayal.
At the age of fourteen, Catherine de Medici, last legitimate descendant of the Medici blood, finds herself betrothed to the King Francois I’s son, Henri. Sent from her native Florence to France, humiliated and overshadowed by her husband’s life-long devotion to his mistress, when tragedy strikes her family Catherine rises from obscurity to become one of 16th century Europe’s most powerful women.
Patroness of Nostradamus and a seer in her own right, accused of witchcraft and murder by her foes, Catherine fights to save France and her children from savage religious conflict, unaware that her own fate looms before her — a fate that will demand the sacrifice of her ideals, her reputation, and passion of her own embattled heart.
From the splendors of the Loire palaces to the blood-soaked battles of the Wars of Religion and haunted halls of the Louvre, this is the story of Catherine’s dramatic life, told by the queen herself. “

Virginie of Virginie Says.. honored me with this pretty award. All I have to do is answer these questions:

1. Where is your favourite place to read a book? In bed
2. Bookmarks or dog ears? Bookmarks, I use ones that Arleigh sent me, my favorite one is here.
3. What is the best book you’ve read so far this year? Several awesome books were read this year, but I’d say a toss up between The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner & Twilight of Avalon by Anna Elliott
4. Do you like to snack while reading and if so, what is your favourite snack?
Not really. A cup of tea is an indulgence for me and is preferred.
5. Book borrower or book collector? DEFINITELY a collector =)

In sad news, there is a search on for Morgan Dana Harrington who disappeared from a concert on 10/17/09. My thoughts and prayers go out to her family, and I hope there is a happy ending. Thank you to Susan from West of Mars for posting about this.
Morgan Badge

Along with my cold-induced sniffles, the disappearance of a young, vibrant 20 year old like Morgan Harrington is definitely cause for sniffles, I can only imagine the heartbreak and grief and sorrow that friends and family are going through. Don’t mean to be a downer, but if you could help get the word out, especially those in VA, maybe we can help find her.
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Filed under C.W. Gortner, The Sunday Salon

>Guest Author C.W. Gortner, author of "The Last Queen"


It is with extreme pleasure to offer this guest post by author C. W. Gortner, author of novel “The Last Queen”. I recently finished this novel (please see my review here) and I was caught up in the intrigue of Juana of Castile, who was indeed the Last Queen of Spanish blood to inherit the throne of Castile. She is an amazing character, and one which historians differ on their views of whether Juana was mentally disturbed or not.

With the Paperback release of “The Last Queen” today, Gortner is embarking on a virtual tour to intrigue us even more! Tomorrow please visit Amy at Passages to the Past to see what fascinating details awaits us there!

Thank you to Christopher Gortner for supplying us with some more wonderful insight on this subject, Juana La Loca.

Power and Intrigue: Being a Queen of Spain Is Never Easy

by C.W. Gortner

In 1538, John Knox issued his pamphlet, The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women, in which he denounced the rule of women as “unnatural”. The pamphlet is a classic example of 16th century misogyny; like many men of his era, Knox believed women had no place on the throne and he saw the ascendancy of such queens as Mary Stuart and Elizabeth I as a sign of corruption in the moral fabric of society.
Of course, history has proven him wrong. Elizabeth I brought glory to her island kingdom; Catherine de Medici steered France through one of history’s most savage religious conflicts and though her life was disastrous, Mary Stuart left behind a lasting legacy through her son James I. But they were not the first women to wear crowns in their own right; before them was Isabel of Spain, who overcame significant odds to become queen of Castile. Like Elizabeth I, Isabel was a female monarch of the Renaissance; in her lifetime she held more power and ruled a larger portion of Spain than her husband Ferdinand of Aragon. And she bequeathed all her power to her second eldest daughter, Juana of Castile, the central character of THE LAST QUEEN.
The kingdom Juana inherited had only recently been united under her parents. Isabel and Ferdinand’s marriage brought Castile and Aragon under one rule, ending centuries of rivalry. Their union also allowed them to fulfill the ambition of every Christian monarch of Spain: to banish the Moors and unite the entire country. By the time Isabel and Ferdinand accomplished this, France’s centuries-old centralized monarchial power menaced Spanish interests in the Mediterranean, while England had survived years of civil tumult to be ruled by the new Tudor dynasty. The Renaissance, flourishing in Italy since the 1400s, was about to sweep north, and Isabel of Castile was determined to place Spain at its forefront. She curtailed her nobles’ lawlessness; initiated strict new laws of adherence to the throne; and wrestled a feudal court into modernity. She, in fact, managed to achieve what no king in Spain before her had.
Why, then, did her daughter Juana experience such terrible difficulties when the time came to assume her throne? First of all, it is important to note that none of Isabel’s daughters were expected to rule; though all four reaped an enviable education, their anticipated roles in life were as queen-consorts. Though she had achieved the throne, Isabel apparently never paused to consider that her realm might fall to one of her daughters; it was only through misfortune that Juana suddenly found herself heiress to Castile and to her father’s realm of Aragón, which at the time did not sanction female succession.
Misogyny of the type promulgated by Knox was a major obstacle and source of conflict for Juana. Her husband Philip of Habsburg actively campaigned against her because he could not accept the lesser role of king-consort that accepting her as queen entailed, and Castile itself had a fractious yet powerful nobility, which had flourished during the long medieval age of divisiveness. They’d chaffed under the strict rule of Ferdinand and Isabel, who stripped them of their affluent holdings to support the Crown, their intrigues and zealous self-aggrandizement curbed by monarchs with no tolerance for anything that did not put Spain first. Isabel was definitely a queen to be reckoned with; but it cannot be overstated enough that she also had her husband’s support, something Juana lacked. Ferdinand may have held the lesser power on paper, but at court Isabel set him at her side as her equal and she never let her nobles forget it. With her demise and Ferdinand’s banishment (he had no further right to call himself king of Castile after his wife’s death) the nobility surged up against Juana, flocking to the bribery offered by her husband, Philip. They had determined that under no circumstances would another queen rule over them and they plunged Castile into chaos to prevent it.

Being a queen of Spain had never been easy. Only a handful of women had held power in Castile and all faced the machinations of the nobility, prejudices of their male counterparts, and, at times, the lethal ambitions and envy of husbands or sons. Juana of Castile stepped into the formidable shadow cast by a warrior-queen mother with only her bravura, her determination, and her blood right to do battle with. Unlike Isabel she lacked the support of her spouse and her nobles; she did not even have the ability to raise an army.
Yet like Isabel before her, she never conceded defeat.
C.W. Gortner holds an MFA in Writing, with an emphasis in Renaissance Studies. He is the author of THE LAST QUEEN and THE SECRET LION. His novel about Catherine de Medici will be published by Ballantine Books in 2010. He enjoys interacting with his readers and is always available for reader group chats. Please visit him at:

THE LAST QUEEN: Ballantine Books Trade Paperback – Available May 5, 2009 in bookstores everywhere!
Other Stops on C.W. Gortner’s tour:
May 4, ’09 – Historical Tapestry
May 5, ’09 – A Bookish Mom
May 5, ’09- The Burton Review
May 6, ’09 – A Bookish Mom
May 6, 09 – Passages to the Past
May 7, ’09 – Savvy Verse & Wit
May 8, ’09 – Savvy Verse & Wit
May 11, ’09 – Ramya’s Bookshelf
May 13, ’09 – Medieval Bookworm
May 14, ’09 – Jo-Jo Loves to Read
May 15, ’09 – Bookgirl’s Nightstand
May 15, ’09 – Medieval Bookworm

May 19, ’09 – Sam’s Book Blog

May 19, ’09 – The Bluestocking Society
May 20, ’09 – Popin’s Lair
May 20, ’09 – The Epic Rat
May 21, ’09 – Marta’s Meanderings
May 21, ’09 – The Epic Rat
May 22, ’09 – The Book Connection
May 25, ’09 – Book Addiction
May 26, ’09 – The Book Faery Reviews
May 27, ’09 – Cafe of Dreams
May 28, ’09 – Cafe of Dreams
May 29, ’09 – A Book Lover
THE LAST QUEEN VIRTUAL BLOG TOUR ’09 will officially begin on May 4 and end on May 29. You can visit C.W.’s blog stops at in May to find out more about this talented author!As a special promotion for all our authors, Pump Up Your Book Promotion is giving away a FREE virtual book tour to a published author or a $50 Amazon gift certificate to those not published who comments on our authors’ blog stops. More prizes will be announced as they become available.


Filed under Author Post, C.W. Gortner, Isabella of Castile, Juana of Castile, New Release

>Review: "The Last Queen" by C.W. Gortner

> Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books (May 5, 2009)
ISBN-10: 0345501853

The Burton Review Rating = 5 stars!

“Juana of Castile, the last queen of Spanish blood to inherit her country’s throne, is 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 this stunning novel, C.W. Gortner challenges centuries of myths about Queen Juana, unraveling the mystery surrounding her to reveal a brave, determined woman we can only now begin to fully understand.”

This is the story of a daughter of the infamous Ferdinand and Isabella, who was branded with the name Juana the Mad. Being told in first person through Juana’s eyes made the read more enjoyable and the writing flowed flawlessly from page to page. The novel begins at the youth of Juana as she adapts to her duties of being a member of the royal family in Castile and Aragon. We follow her as she marries and has children. Unfortunately for her, life is not as grand as it should have been, for Juana was surrounded by people who used her for her status alone. She and her siblings were bred as pawns for future marriages and never had a chance at living for themselves. Juana was made painfully aware that her first duty was to Spain, and to her mother’s prized Castile. She initially fell in love with her husband, Philip of Flanders, and happily gave him children, until she was forced to defy him due to his power hungry ways.

Unexpectedly and probably the most heartbreaking realization for her was the fact that her father was using Juana once the Queen Isabella died. Juana held fast to her beliefs and stayed strong in her resolve in order to secure the succession for her sons, and to honor the wishes of her mother Isabella. Gortner does a fine job in showing the strength of Juana’s resolve and her unwillingness to back down.

She had never expected that through one tragedy after another she would even have to ascend to the throne, as she was not the first in line. Although Juana resisted her fate as queen, she finally understood what her mother had been working for her entire life. Juana, the last Queen of Spanish blood to inherit the throne, was never able to feel at peace in her life, there never seemed to be someone that she could trust with her life. Everyone about her had their own agendas, and even her eldest son had a hand in keeping her imprisoned. The emotional upheaval that Juana felt time and time again may have contributed to outbursts that probably lead to the stigma of being ‘mad’, and one could not blame her even if it were true. The novel does not outright say whether or not she did go mad, and it doesn’t support or deny it.

I am someone who’s favorite thing to read is Historical Fiction. I therefore could be biased in the review because of that, but I do not hesitate to recommend this to anyone else interested in Historical Fiction, European history, Castile and Aragon or simply the King and Queen of Castile. I only knew snippets of Juana’s reality, and I found this novel on Juana La Loca to be enthralling. I enjoyed learning more about Ferdinand and Isabella as well, I was quite surprised with the political outlook of Ferdinand. This was literally a page-turner, I was so wrapped up in the story of The Last Queen I did not want to put it down, nor did I want it to end. I am not a connoisseur of European history so I cannot attest to the facts of the events that C.W. Gortner wrote. But the fact that the story was told so exquisitely was enough for me. I could not find any faults with the book, and I am waiting with bated breath the next C.W. Gortner release which is about Catherine De Medici. There is a very interesting Reading guide at the end of the book, where certain points are explained that I enjoyed also.
Please see the Guest Post that C.W. Gortner is going to share with us! I am so excited to learn even more about Juana through him!
Other Stops on C.W. Gortner’s tour:
I will list all the blog tour stops on tomorrow’s Guest Author Post!


Filed under C.W. Gortner, Isabella of Castile, Juana of Castile, Review

>The Sunday Salon *Giveaway Winners*

>The Sunday

Happy Sunday to everyone! It’s a bit rainy here in Texas but we enjoyed the outdoors yesterday with the frisbee and the kite.

I wanted to post the winners of my book giveaway for Kevin Roose’s “The Unlikely Disciple”:

The top 5 winners are:

NightDweller, Bridget3420, Sharon54220, TaterTot, and Alyce

Congrats to you… Please respond to my email so that I can get the addresses out to Hachette.
I am going to have about 5 book giveaways (2 starting tomorrow) during May, so stay tuned!

Have a great Sunday everyone.. I’ll be doing laundry, maybe some housework, and watching cartoons and th purple Barney.. but I really want to continue C.W. Gortner’s “The Last Queen“.. it is really good and was worth the wait. On May 5th the author will be here with a guest post, I am really excited about that!
Juana of Castile, (1479-1555), daughter of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile; Sister to Catherine of Aragon (1st wife of Henry VIII). Also known as Juana La Loca, Juana the Mad, and referred to as Joanna in its Latin form, she was the mother of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. She married Philip the Handsome, or Philip The Fair, of Burgundy, who became the first Hapsburg ruler in Spain.

Children from this marriage:Eleanor (1498 – 1558) Charles V Holy Roman Emperor (1500 – 1558) Isabella (1501 – 1526) Ferdinand I Holy Roman Emperor (1503 – 1564) Mary (1505 – 1558)Catherine (1507 – 1578)

Some believe Juana suffered from schizophrenia, which was exploited by the people closest to her: her husband, her father, and her son. They used her, and lied to her, for their own power plays. Juana was locked away and imprisoned, just as her maternal grandmother was.

In C.W. Gortner’s novel of Juana, he attempts to portray the Queen as determined and brave, and to shed light on the mystery of her ‘illness’ as he writes through Juana’s eyes.


Filed under C.W. Gortner, Meme, New Release, The Sunday Salon, Tudor