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The Last Queen

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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 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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  • Posted September 13, 2009

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    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 April 22, 2014

    Definitely recommend!

    Wonderful book!

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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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  • 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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  • 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

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    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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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2009

    Gives a great account of the royal courts of Castile and Aragon and their unification.

    C. W. Gortner weaves an intricate story about royal succession and the roles of the infantas' of Spain. The reader can't help but feel for the infantas and the situations that they find themselves in.

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  • Posted July 18, 2009

    Very good read

    I bought this book on a whim and ended up putting off reading it for a couple of weeks but it was well worth it when I got to it. The main character is a woman often neglected by literature. There's no end to the books out there about Elizabeth the I, but this is a queen of which I'd previously heard very little and led a very different life in a similar time. Her story is somewhat tragic towards the end, but seeing as it's at least loosely based in fact it would be disappointing if it wasn't. Despite her less than happily ever after ending it is a book I would highly recommend, once I started it I had a hard time putting it down and hated the fact that it had to end.

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  • Posted July 15, 2009

    Historical drama about Juana of Castile

    The Last Queen is an awesome read. I was shocked to see what this poor woman, Juana, daughter of Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand, had to endure. I felt terrible when I got to the end but I suppose that's what good writing is all about.

    I don't usually read historical novels but once I started reading this book, I couldn't put it down. The author must have done a tremendous amount of research and it opened up a whole new world for me.
    Lorraine M. Larose

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  • Posted April 30, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Why had I not heard of Juana of Castile before?

    Good historical fiction not only entertains readers by transporting them to another time and place, but also informs. Often you can learn more through fiction than you can through dusty tomes written by historians.

    Such is the case in Gortner's brilliant novel The Last Queen. I was ignorant of the lifestory of Juana of Castile until I read this book, and I wonder why her story isn't more popular. It is filled with passion, intrigue and betrayal by those who should have supported and defended her.

    Juana was the daughter of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, who I knew growing up as the patrons of Christopher Columbus. She was the sister of Catherine of Aragon, the queen of England and first wife to King Henry VIII. She was married to Philip, the Archduke of the Hapsburg Empire and mother to Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor.

    And because of deaths in her family, she inherited the title of Queen of Castile.

    Her story is well known in Spain and Europe, but is relatively unknown in the United States. Gortner brings to life a woman who history has marginalized as being "mad." This is Juana's side of the story and it leads me to think that the official historical record may have been propaganda covering the truth of "Juana la Loca."

    I highly recommend this book.

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