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The Last Queen

Average Rating 4.5
( 74 )
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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2006

    Passionate and Uncompromising Historical Fiction

    From the opening line: 'Midnight has become my favorite hour,' you know you are in the hands of a master storyteller, one who has turned the tables on popular history to present an erudite and compassionate view of one of history's most misunderstood figures. Known as the Mad Queen, in her own words Juana of Castile tells the story of her life, and what a life it is - filled with passion, intrigue, and terrifying betrayal. To my relief, I found Juana to be neither self-pitying nor morbid. In her candor and wit, Juana demonstrates a singular humanity that highlights the ruthlessness of her 16th century world. She is a brave and decisive woman, far removed from the 'victim' that she has so often been portrayed. Readers who known about her from films like 'Mad Love' will be intrigued by Gortner's deft handling of her mental state, and surprised by her own secret admissions. This is a refreshingly vivid and well crafted example of historical fiction that does not compromise, from a writer who obviously cares both for his subject and for the intelligence of his readers.

    12 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 24, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Moving Account of a Tragic Queen

    Juana of Castile has probably been shortchanged by history, which remembers her as the mad Spanish queen. C.W. Gortner, following considerable research, attempts to reconstruct what might have really happened, seeing in her a victim of the misogyny and politics of the time. One of the daughters of Ferdinand and Isabella (and sister of Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII's first wife), Juana is a lively and intelligent young woman who is betrothed to Archduke Phillip, heir to the Habsburg dynasty. When they meet in Flanders for the wedding, it's instant lust, and they're in bed with each other before the final marriage vows. Juana is happy for several years, until she realizes Phillip's true character at the time she becomes successor to the Spanish throne - he is vain, emptyheaded, and ambitious, a lethal combination in a ruler. Sadly, life begins to go downhill for her, and ultimately hers is a tragic fate, including a reputation for insanity which was probably undeserved - and motivated by politics. Beautifully written, sensuous and sexy as well as sympathetic, this is a book historical fiction fans will savor.

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 29, 2008

    Strong queen suffers demise

    Book Synopsis: Juana of Castile, the last queen of Spanish blood to inherit her country¿s throne, has been for centuries and enigmatic figure shrouded in lurid myth. Was she the berefet 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. I admit it. I am a history snob. I don¿t know what it is, but ever since I was young I found history boring and it was always my worst subject in school. But, I have been fortunate to have seen the error of my ways, and this book is a prime example. To be totally honest, I have never heard of Juana of Castile. This book has truly compelled me to learn more. After being part of an arranged marriage, Juana is unsure what is to become of her life. Her mother, Isabel, Queen of Castile, and Father, Fernando, King of Aragon, have worked hard to make their two countries unite and will do anything to ensure that their people are safe. They have arranged the marriage as a way of securing power and freedom for their people. Even though Juana is less than thrilled about marrying a complete stranger, she has the same tenacity that is characteristic of her mother and agrees for the good of the country. She is pleasantly surprised when she finally meets her husband, Philip, the Archduke of Flanders. Their marriage is riddled with love and passion that most newlyweds wish for and things seem to be going exceptionally well. Until Juana catches him in bed with another woman while pregnant with her first child. Philip is flabbergasted and apologizes profusely, but this is just the start of a life of betrayal that is to be Juana¿s curse. Growing up, I think a lot of little girls (mine included) dream of being a princess. When you read a book like this, you realize that being royalty is not so much of a blessing as a burden. Everything you do is scrutinized and you are expected to act and carry yourself in a certain way. But we see, time and time again, that Juana was courageous and wouldn¿t change her beliefs for anyone. Even after tragedy strikes, Juana is prepared to take her rightful place as Queen, even if it means fighting those she is closest too. In the end it just wasn¿t enough. In a shocking turn of events she ends up a prisoner and is never allowed to fulfill her rightful place as Queen. Many historians have speculated that Juana was schizophrenic and that is what led to the imprisonment that she endures for most of her life. Mr. Gortner does and excellent job of portraying a vibrant woman whose sanity was stretched to its limits by the betrayal and cruelty that would likely break any ¿sane¿ person. I applaud his efforts to show us the other side of Juana la Loca and show that maybe she wasn¿t insane after all, but simply a victim of

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2008

    An amazing story.

    The Last Queen is the fictionalization of the life of Juana, the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella, the ¿last Queen of Spanish blood to inherit her country¿s throne.¿ Many myths have spread throughout the sands of time. Who was the woman behind the myths? Was she insane? The setting is 1492, the year Columbus discovered the New World. She and her sisters are married to strengthen the throne. It is fortunate that Juana comes to love the man she marries. Perhaps it is her upbringing that form her strength and determination to fight for the throne and the unity of Spain, risking all that she holds dear. C.W. Gortner brings Juana back to life. He introduces her to his readers. It is obvious that Gortner has well researched the life of Juana. He brings passion and expertise to this beautifully written story. While I know in my head that this is a fictional tale, my heart tells me that Gortner has written with much more truth than fiction. The Last Queen is an amazing story, and it is sure to make a best seller list. Fans of historical fiction will greatly enjoy The Last Queen. .

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 3, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    C.W. Gortner has me hooked on the Spanish Royals

    Another fascinating book, as historical fiction I don’t know how much is true but I like that it wasn’t that Juana was really loco but that her husband & Father drove her to action and they spread the rumors that she was mad. I have read plenty of books about women being put in asylums because they didn’t act in a way their husband or fathers thought they should and this was closer to our own time than this so it is easy for me to believe that this may have been the case with Juana. Also who wouldn’t go mad when everything you know and love is ripped from you and you sent away never to see anyone again? People romanticize royals so much but the more I read about them I think it’s really a terrible life, someone else is always running your life, there is always someone out to usurp your throne, you have to put up with all these people with their own agendas especially the religious leaders that seem to want to rule over everything. I read The Queen’s Vow first then this one and I’m glad I read them in this order instead of the published order because this book picks up pretty much where the Queen’s Vow leaves off so it was interesting to see the relationship with her mother before I got to the book about her, so for people who haven’t discover this author yet, I’d read them in the order I have. This is historical “fiction” and for me when an author takes liberties I don’t mind and as I said above I liked this take on her life, even if it isn’t factual, if I wanted completely factual I would read a non-fiction. But what this does is makes me want to do more research and read up on what her life was really like and for me that’s the key to historical fiction when it makes you want to find out more. Audio production: There were times when Marguerite Gavin’s voice was so breathy that it bothered me and there is one spot in the beginning of the second half where her voice changes completely in tone and volume in the middle of sentence then goes back to how it sounded at the beginning it kind of threw me and think it was some kind of editing gone wrong. ( I meant to write it down at what time but didn’t). but all in all I thought she did a pretty good job at the narration although it was uneven at times. I am hooked on C.W. Gortner and the Spanish Royals I’ve already bought another book about Juana & Catalina/Catherine to continue my immersion into this time period. I will also be getting any other books written by this author! 4 ½ Stars

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2011

    The Last Queen C.W. Gortner

    The Last Queen C.W. Gortner
    C.W.Gortner chose to write this book because he is a half-Spanish person and he probably had a lot of background of the Spanish culture and what their traditions were and are. So it was pretty easy to write this book for him and ti give many detail, which he did. Gortner was trying to convince the reader that being a queen isn't as easy as some people think. He does a very good job of showing it by using the main character Juana the queen of Castile who had to marry Philip the archduke of Hapsburg at a very young age. For four years she loved him and then for five she hated him, with him she had six kids. This book is for people who are sixteen and older, if a younger person then sixteen reads this book they might not understand it the way the author intended it to be. The way Gortner wrote this book was amazing he used some of the Spanish words that made it very challenging, he was very detailed in painting a picture of the states and the people. This book changed the knowledge of queens in general for me, I never thought that queens had so much to do and I would recommend this book to people who want to know more about Spain and the life of a queen.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 13, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Captivating Throne of Passion Reviewed by The Story Woman

    Juana's courage, strength, and passion amazed me as The Last Queen came of age so vividly under C.W. Gortner's admirable pen. This historical novel is fraught with crushing battles of power and chilling intrigue throughout the courts of her parents, Isabel of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon, and of her husband, Philip of Flanders, as the Infanta of Spain attempts to take her rightful place on the thrown she inherited from her mother.

    My soul was struck as I witnessed, through Gortner's well paced story, the agony Juana endured as her faithless husband raped her night after night, as she was forced to leave her first born behind in Flanders and another child taken from her breast by her father to raise as his own, and as she ultimately succumbed to the captivity that often befell women of royalty in those times. Had she been driven mad by her treacherous husband and her scheming, duplicitous father as they vied for her position or had Juana la Loca, as she came to be known, been wrongly labeled and shut away by the two men she learned to loathe?

    That question is one for which we don't have an answer, but I felt compelled to honor her sanity and believe she would overcome the perils in her path to rule over the people of her beloved Spain. Her fate was sealed in loneliness and sorrow with no escape. I felt her loss as well as my own.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 31, 2008

    A Must Read!

    In 15th century Spain, Juana 1 of Castile is born the second daughter of Queen Isabella of Castile and King Ferdinand of Aragon whose marriage united the two kingdoms, but it was her mother who possessed the most power and greatest influence. Beneath the intensity of her politically shrewd mother, the serious, introverted Juana grew into adolescence, well educated in Latin and music. At the age of 16, her parents betrothed her Juan to Philip of Flanders, the heir of Emperor Maximilian I. With a magnificent entourage in tow, Juana crossed the vast waters to Flanders, arriving sick and in a weakened state. At first sight of her betrothed, Juana is bewitched by his handsomeness and succumbs to his attentive charms. Philip is also intrigued with his new wife. Soon, however, intertwined with the birth of their children, Philip¿s infidelity tarnishes their marriage. His strong political ambitions clash powerfully with those of her parents and Spain. All her attempts to influence Philip otherwise are thwarted by Philip¿s power-hungry advisors. Juana is caught between the dreadful clashes of her mother and husband. Matters deteriorate when Philip enters into an alliance with France, historical enemies of Spain. Philip grows progressively more menacing towards Juana and her parents in his quest to rule Spain. His terrible conspiracies result in continual betrayals as Juana struggles to maintain a stance amidst a world of powerful, ruthless men. When a series of deaths strikes the royal heirs of Spain, Juana is forced to become queen with Philip as her royal consort. Before long, she is betrayed on all sides by callous, authoritative men, and Juana finds herself imprisoned for madness. Christopher Gortner spins a grand tale of opulence and deception, privilege and destruction, madness and fragile love. His riveting prose grabs the reader¿s emotions from the very start and twists and wrenches them until the very poignant ending. Inspired by his love for his Spanish heritage, Christopher Gortner paints a vivid picture of life in 15th century Europe. He writes in an evocative prose, rich in quality and simplicity. Books like this happen rarely. The author is a skilful writer who artfully relays a rich story peppered with unpredictable twists and turns that keeps the reader enthralled upon every word to the very end.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 15, 2013


    Loved this book. Not one dull sentence. I highly recommend this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 8, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    powerful and unforgettable

    With his debut novel The Last Queen, author C.W. Gortner has painted a powerful, moving and haunting portrait of Queen Juana de Castile, the last queen of Spain known as Juana La Loca or the Mad Queen. Written in the first person, this book easily transported me into Juana's world as she tells of her childhood, her tumultuous marriage to Philip, heir to the Habsburg Empire and her unexpected and incredible rise to the position of Queen of Spain-a position for which she fought and sacrificed everything.

    The Last Queen is a gripping story that takes you by the hand and doesn't let go until the last page is turned. It is a drama that comes to life under Gortner's deft pen and meticulous historical research. It is a story of passion, of love for one's land and people, of longing for love and the innocence of childhood. Ultimately, Queen Juana's story is a sad one, filled with intrigue, betrayals, and psychological-political battles against power-hungry clergymen, monarchs, and lords. It is a story that will stay with you long after you've read the last words.

    Gortner's style of writing is simply beautiful. It drew me in every time I picked up the book. His writing brought the setting and characters to life rendering them vivid and exotic and very real. Here's an example from page 27: "The Alhambra reclined on its hill, tinted amethyst in the dusk. Above its towers, the sky unfurled like violet cloth, spangled with spun-glass stars." Sometimes Gortner's descriptions were utterly breathtaking (I read them twice just to savour them) and his storytelling brilliant, making me keenly feel Juana's isolation, her heartbreaking separations, and her engulfing desperation.

    There are a few explicit but brief sex scenes that thankfully do not use vulgar terms. However, this book isn't a romance novel and these scenes are not glorified. I admired Juana's fidelity to her husband, although he did not reciprocate. Gortner skilfully portrayed the strengths and weaknesses of the female monarch and how a man could use his manhood to conquer. But Juana's spirit was not easily broken.

    A reader may be sceptical when a man writes in the voice of a woman, but Gortner's portrayal captured Juana's feelings, fears and pride so convincingly, I related to her as a woman. The author states in his own words regarding this fact: "I can't afford to be ambiguous: I must become the person I am writing about and stay true to the facts of her life, even if she does something that I, as myself, would not do."

    I was really taken in by this novel, especially since the topic of losing one's mind or suffering from extreme mental trauma can be more easily understood given certain circumstances, and Juana's situation was certainly one that could drive a person to insanity. But sometimes, insanity is a matter of perspective. If you like historical fiction, you must add this book to your reading list. It is truly an unforgettable read. For me, Gortner has just become one of my favourite authors.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 10, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    The Forgotten Queen's Story comes to life!

    I picked this book up because it was a bargain book. I never expected to love it and find a new author! Juana was a strong woman, ahead of her time. What she went through was disturbing. I know all about Tudor history and about her sister (Katharine of Aragon/Queen of England) but I knew nothing about Juana. I'm so glad C.W. Gortner brought her story to life! I can't wait to read his newest "The Confessions of Catherine de Medici."

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2014

    What a wonderful book!  This gives a whole new perspective on th

    What a wonderful book!  This gives a whole new perspective on the life of Juana "la Loca".  I could read it again and again.  The author writes with such passion that you can almost feel what it would have been like to be Juana living in a time when women had no rights.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 4, 2013

    Wonderful read

    Could not put this book down. Full of surprises.

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  • Posted November 2, 2013

    Sometimes we think political corruption is rampant in 2013 - and

    Sometimes we think political corruption is rampant in 2013 - and it is - but history shows that not a lot has changed. I was greatly moved by this novel, The Last Queen. I did not know extraordinary story of Queen Juana. The novel is written in first person, and moves along quickly. The author made Juana's words very clear, and painted a picture of an upstanding, elegant woman who trusted too many people, and loved her country. I am inspired to read more about Spanish history after finishing this book. Well done and highly recommended.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 9, 2013

    Interesting historical fiction

    Juana of Castile's life consisted of one betrayal after another. Her life exemplifies the powerlessness of women in the 16th century, even royalty. What a sad life Juana led. No wonder she apparently fell into a depression after losing everything and everyone she cared about.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2013

    Highly recommended- check it out

    This book is very well written and the historical information is very accurate and gives a great window into the manipulative and violent royalty of Spain and Europe during the middle ages.
    I was mesmerized by the details of the royal families as well as the the underlying story of love and betrayal of a queen who couldn't seem to catch a break.

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  • Posted June 21, 2013

    I recommend all to read this compelling novel.

    Really enjoyed this reading The Last Queen. Mr. Gortner kept me interested throughout the story. It was riveting. I felt the experiences of the characters as if I was living right along with them. I hope the next book I read by Mr. Gortner keeps me to the very end as this one does. I don't want to give anything away to those who haven't read this novel so will just say it was happy to sad and everything in between.

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  • Posted March 11, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    A Tragic Life, an Emotional Read

    I read this for a book club that I belong to called: European Royalty Group. Here is my review. It was a quick read for me- only took a day and a half. I'm not sure how anyone else is going to feel but it was an emotional read for me. I don't know if it's my mood or hormones or if the author was just that good at portraying Juana's emotions but I actually cried at a few parts. I cried when she found Phillip cheating on her and I cried when her father betrayed her. What a tragic life this poor woman lived! Betrayed by all those close to her!
    I found myself wondering as I was reading it what was fact and what was fiction. I was really pleased that the author included an afterward that states what was fact and what was fiction. Now I find myself really wanting to read up on Juana and Phillip to see what history has to say. I've always been familiar with "mad" Juana due to my long standing fascination with the Tudors but I never knew her as more than Katherine (or Catherine, which-ever you like) of Aragon's older sister. It was nice to go outside of my English History box and read about another monarch of the "Tudor" time period.

    ps... it was also interesting to see things from Juana's perspective- because you wonder if things really went the way the author described she may not have been "mad" at all. It's kind of like Gregory Maguire's books- all it takes is a change of perspective and suddenly people's actions take a new meaning.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 14, 2009

    THe Last Queen by C.W.Gortner

    I just finished the book, The Last Queen by C.W.Gortner and I have to say I really enjoyed it. I have read a lot of books about the Tudors and the Elizabethan era but I never had much interest in reading anything other than English and Irish history. I read quite a few different reviews on this book since I started blogging and I was excited to read it. I was lucky enough to find the only copy at the bookstore.

    This story takes place in the 1500's in Spain during the rule of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand. The main character Juana is one of the daughters of the king and queen, sister to Catherine of Aragon. Juana was married off to Phillip of Flanders, heir to the Hapsburg throne, at the age of 13, . She swore that she had no interest in marrying someone she did not know and she did not want to leave her beloved Spain. She did ultimately get married to Phillip and their marriage at first was a very loving marriage and they started a family.

    After there was numerous tragedies in her family, her role changed and she was in line for the throne and found out that people she trusted were working against her for their own purposes. She finds herself as a political prisoner in a power struggle between her husband, father and other monarchs in France, Flanders and England who worked to see that she did not ascend the throne.

    I found Juana to be a very strong woman, forced to obey the men around her and still maintain her dignity as a woman and mother and ultimately as the last Queen with Spanish blood to be on the Spanish throne. I think that C.W. Gortner did a remarkable job of making Juana a very compassionate woman in spite of her "reputation as being crazy".

    I have only before read bits and pieces of Queen Juana as being "mad" and "insane" and it was refreshing to have this regal lady portrayed in a sympathetic light. I really enjoyed this book. Because of liking this novel I intend to read more on Queen Juana. I would highly recommend this book.

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  • Posted August 10, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A Gripping Adaptation

    As a fan of historical fiction, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was interesting throughout. The characters were complex and well written. I didn't know very much about Juana de Loca prior to this book, except that she went insane. She was truly a strong and compassionate women who endured the abuse of men in her life and found a way to stand up for herself and her children. Great read if you're are interested in historical fiction.

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