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The Queen's Vow: A Novel of Isabella of Castile

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

Very much enjoyed this book, and look forward to reading more fr

Very much enjoyed this book, and look forward to reading more from Mr. Gortner! I had known virtually nothing of Isabella of Castille, so this fascinating glimpse into the world of the Spanish Royals was quite enlightening.

posted by PeanutJim on August 19, 2012

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Most Helpful Critical Review

5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

The Queen's Vow starts with a bang and ends on an almost philoso

The Queen's Vow starts with a bang and ends on an almost philosophical note that really put me in the year 1492, on the brink of uniting the world's hemispheres at long last.

Oh, those middles.

Especially as the narrative draws to a close, there are more and more patc...
The Queen's Vow starts with a bang and ends on an almost philosophical note that really put me in the year 1492, on the brink of uniting the world's hemispheres at long last.

Oh, those middles.

Especially as the narrative draws to a close, there are more and more patches of time that are reported in a not very engaging way. It seemed the author got exhausted by the incredible demands of the subject matter. If he had had the time two or three books would have given him, he could have covered all the material as vividly as he does in the beginning. I have a PhD in medieval Spanish, so the basic story is all too familiar to me, and I hoped this book could send me back in time to viscerally witness the events as they unfolded. Many scenes are very successful, but they're laced together with straight explanations that needed a little something extra.

In particular, I would really have liked to see a lot more of Torquemada, the most controversial figure in a book full of controversial figures. He's portrayed as a ghoul who shows up at three different points to scare Isabella into setting up the Spanish Inquisition and expelling the Jews from her newly united Spain. I thought it was a missed opportunity to explore exactly what forces would make a person a proponent of such policies, but the character is so complex, he probably needs his own book anyway.

It would also be really nice if more historians would point out for the general public that Spain was the last European country to establish such an inquisition. These institutions were already at work in every other European country. Of course, it lasted a lot longer after that in Spain, but that's another story.

Isabel's female psychology seemed to be just out of reach of the author at times. When she says that she'd like to do all the things a man can do, it seemed like something a man would think a woman would say. Perhaps Isabel la Católica did indeed think women should have all the same advantages as men, but I suspect strongly that she would express it differently, or not at all, just putting on the armor and having done with it because of her obvious pragmatism.

On a more technical note, I'd like to explain that the "don" title in Spanish works the same way as "sir" in English: it's used with the first name. Just as "Sir Elton" and "Sir Elton John" are correct but "Sir John" (in this case) would be an enormous gaffe, so "Don Antonio" and "Don Antonio de Nebrija" are fine, while "Don de Nebrija" is jarringly wrong. This is easy to get right and I hope more editors will get wind of this as more Spanish-themed manuscripts cross their desks.

I was very excited about this book and enjoyed reading it, but I think my expectations might have been too high. So, love this book for the overwhelmingly iconic time it portrays and for the possibility it presents of getting inside the head of one of history's most interesting people. Love it because of the affection with which the author writes about Spain, which normally doesn't get much notice in historical fiction in English (except as a religious fanatic bad guy with lots of galleons to rob). Love it for the intense descriptions at the beginning of the book and the beautifully imagined personalities of Fernando of Aragon and Christopher Columbus. And hope that next time, the author doesn't take on quite so much material, because I think that is this book's main downfall.

posted by JessicaKnauss on July 30, 2012

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  • Posted July 30, 2012

    The Queen's Vow starts with a bang and ends on an almost philoso

    The Queen's Vow starts with a bang and ends on an almost philosophical note that really put me in the year 1492, on the brink of uniting the world's hemispheres at long last.

    Oh, those middles.

    Especially as the narrative draws to a close, there are more and more patches of time that are reported in a not very engaging way. It seemed the author got exhausted by the incredible demands of the subject matter. If he had had the time two or three books would have given him, he could have covered all the material as vividly as he does in the beginning. I have a PhD in medieval Spanish, so the basic story is all too familiar to me, and I hoped this book could send me back in time to viscerally witness the events as they unfolded. Many scenes are very successful, but they're laced together with straight explanations that needed a little something extra.

    In particular, I would really have liked to see a lot more of Torquemada, the most controversial figure in a book full of controversial figures. He's portrayed as a ghoul who shows up at three different points to scare Isabella into setting up the Spanish Inquisition and expelling the Jews from her newly united Spain. I thought it was a missed opportunity to explore exactly what forces would make a person a proponent of such policies, but the character is so complex, he probably needs his own book anyway.

    It would also be really nice if more historians would point out for the general public that Spain was the last European country to establish such an inquisition. These institutions were already at work in every other European country. Of course, it lasted a lot longer after that in Spain, but that's another story.

    Isabel's female psychology seemed to be just out of reach of the author at times. When she says that she'd like to do all the things a man can do, it seemed like something a man would think a woman would say. Perhaps Isabel la Católica did indeed think women should have all the same advantages as men, but I suspect strongly that she would express it differently, or not at all, just putting on the armor and having done with it because of her obvious pragmatism.

    On a more technical note, I'd like to explain that the "don" title in Spanish works the same way as "sir" in English: it's used with the first name. Just as "Sir Elton" and "Sir Elton John" are correct but "Sir John" (in this case) would be an enormous gaffe, so "Don Antonio" and "Don Antonio de Nebrija" are fine, while "Don de Nebrija" is jarringly wrong. This is easy to get right and I hope more editors will get wind of this as more Spanish-themed manuscripts cross their desks.

    I was very excited about this book and enjoyed reading it, but I think my expectations might have been too high. So, love this book for the overwhelmingly iconic time it portrays and for the possibility it presents of getting inside the head of one of history's most interesting people. Love it because of the affection with which the author writes about Spain, which normally doesn't get much notice in historical fiction in English (except as a religious fanatic bad guy with lots of galleons to rob). Love it for the intense descriptions at the beginning of the book and the beautifully imagined personalities of Fernando of Aragon and Christopher Columbus. And hope that next time, the author doesn't take on quite so much material, because I think that is this book's main downfall.

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 22, 2012

    Holding a new novel by C.W. Gortner in your hands is like the ex

    Holding a new novel by C.W. Gortner in your hands is like the excitement felt the night before a long awaited trip. The anticipation of embarking on a new literary adventure is tremendous, and once the novel has begun, each turn of the page is a moment to be savored... The Queen's Vow is no exception to this type of delight.

    From the first page of this enthralling novel, the reader is given a heartfelt introduction to one of histories most empowering women, Isabella of Castile. Her life was surrounded by chaos and the ever looming threat of danger, but had her destiny been known to the political leaders of her time, her life wold have been in even more peril. Since this was not the case, everyone, including Isabella, thought there was little use for her beyond that of a political marriage. But when a sudden turn of events puts her within reach of the crown, she must utilize her innate strength and wisdom in order to prove worthy of her natural right.

    Told in elegant prose, and steep in historical detail, The Queen's Vow illuminates the life of Isabella flawlessly. The three dimensional characters are vastly different, allowing the reader to form a unique connection with each one. In addition to this, like Gortner's other novels, it is amazing how each character can demand so much of the readers attention without ever taking away from the emphasis on the main character. There is no need for any foreknowledge of Isabella of Castile or the Spanish Inquisition in order to fully comprehend and immerse yourself within this book. In fact, even if you are well versed in these subjects, there is still so much to gain by reading this exceptional literary work. I highly recommend The Queen's Vow to anyone who takes pleasure in historical fiction while receiving a fascinating history lesson; it will no doubt hold a special place in your library.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 19, 2012

    Very much enjoyed this book, and look forward to reading more fr

    Very much enjoyed this book, and look forward to reading more from Mr.
    Gortner! I had known virtually nothing of Isabella of Castille, so this
    fascinating glimpse into the world of the Spanish Royals was quite enlightening.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 3, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    A book history lovers should check out!

    sabella of Castille is a historical figure that I would think most people are familiar with. If, of course, you paid attention in history class. She is an intriguing person because she did what other women of her time weren't allowed to do: She took her fate into her own hands. In this novel, C.W. explores the life of Isabella, from childhood to adult. Her father died when she was very young. As the kings sister, she grew up knowing what her life might behold. She had no real political desires of her own. However as fate would have it, she was destined to rule. She stood up to those who would resign her to a life not of her choosing. She married for love and ruled a kingdom.
    C.W. Gortner has written a highly entertaining novel about Isabella's life. The book begins when she is a young girl who is brought to court after many years away to celebrate the birth of her brother's heir. She's not accustomed to all the finery, the intrigue, the scandal, and the backstabbing. However it's at this court she meets Fernando, prince of Aragon, the one she is not only destined to rule with but also to unite their kingdoms . They have an instant connection but it seems for a time, fate has other plans. Their road to be together is paved by war and scandal. Isabella has to deal with her brother, King Enrique, who wants to marry her off to secure his kingdom. Defying him is an act of treason.
    This novel has many ups and downs. It's a fascinating and emotional journey about one of the most famous queens in history. Gortner brings to light fascinating details that help seal Isabella's historical legacy. This is a book I would recommend to all you history lovers out there.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 29, 2013

    A Queens Vow

    It was well written, but kind of a let down-not exactly meeting the expectations set forth by ratings & reviews. Definatly worth readimg if you love history as I do, however I felt the author wasted half the book on Isabella's younger years than on her actual reign, marriage, accomplishments.....the actual fight to unite Spain under one monarchy was hastily done...... 3/5 stars from Tisha Sanders

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 16, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    good read

    liked it!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 3, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Fascinating

    I have read a lot of books about the Tudors and The Romanovs but have never delved into Spanish Royalty so this book was extra fascinating to me. This book was so well written I really enjoyed it and as I have said I love a historical fiction book that’s makes me want to do more research. I also plan on reading Gortner’s The Last Queen about Isabella’s daughter Juana. I found this book so fascinating and I learned much about Spanish Royalty and how Spain was united. It was also fascinating to learn about Catherine of Aragon’s mother since I have read so much Tudor historical fiction. This was my first book by, C.W. Gortner and will not be my last I plan on reading everything he has written because his writing is fabulous he kept me interested from beginning to end, this book never got dull and held me rapt it was hard to put down. I know this is Historical Fiction and Mr. Gortner has said he took a few liberties but I really want to think that Isabel didn’t want to enforce the Spanish Inquisition I liked her I thought she was an amazingly strong woman especially considering her mother was a little well, crazy, maybe today she would be manic or bi-polar and be on meds but at that time in history there was no such thing. I liked the fact that she chose her own husband (even though there were a few liberties taken with their story) I thought they made a great power couple their styles of rule complemented each other very well. With the hints we got in this book about Juana’s personality I am going to go right into reading The Last Queen while this one is fresh in my mind. 4 ½ Stars

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 20, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Who knew that King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of grade school

    Who knew that King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of grade school lore shared such a passionate romance? Thanks to the imaginings of renowned historical fiction novelist, C.W. Gortner, the 15th century Spanish monarchs sizzle in The Queen's Vow. Gortner implicitly understands the underpinnings of the heart of a powerful woman. She's a military commander and a mother. She's a royal pawn and a supreme ruler. She's a wifely figurehead and her husband's equal, if not, superior. Isabella is a complicated contradiction and Gortner tenderly adds fascinating shades of light and dark to his depiction of her. But most of all, he makes her come alive on the page from a nubile maiden to Columbus' champion.

    Where the novel shines is in the loving, yet beleaguered, relationship between Ferdinand and Isabella. Surviving many attempts by her brother and his minions to marry her off to a Portuguese royal, Isabella outwits their schemes by uniting with the man of her own choosing. Through their holy vows, they are able to bring together the divided kingdoms of Castile and Aragon to form a fully united Spanish realm. But politics aside, the romance of their attraction is nothing short of poetic in Gortner's prose.

    Though we stood in a crowded hall for this first public meeting, witnessed by dozens of eyes and ears, it was as if Fernando and I were alone in our recognition that without each other, life could only be an incomprehensible labor.

    From their first impromptu dance as children in a garden in Segovia to the formation of their unshakable bond forged through decades on the throne, they never lose faith in each other. Despite Ferdinand's numerous infidelities and Isabella's proclivity to emasculate her husband in public, the two depend on the strength they find in their partnership. This sense of teamwork provides the resiliency that finally drives the Moors out of their country after the imposed threat of centuries of occupation.

    Their remarkable achievements are also tempered with vagrant obstructions concerning the religious rights of their subjects. Through harassment, intimidation and finally by decree, they order every Jewish person, who refuses to convert to Catholicism, to leave the country. This Inquisition is a stain on the reputation of an otherwise spectacular reign.

    While daring and adventurous throughout the book, Isabella meets her match when she comes face to face with Christopher Columbus. Her head is turned by the handsome, yet arrogant, navigator. Despite a bankrupt treasury mortgaged on her crown jewels, she is willing to invest in his daring mission to cross the Ocean Sea. Little does she know, the epic results her patronage will bring. Highlighting this momentous occasion, Gortner beautifully describes the historic nature of their illustrious meeting.

    What was it about this man, that he could rouse such emotion in me? I now believed he was indeed someone I'd been destined to meet, an act of fate I could neither resist nor evade.

    What Gortner does so brilliantly is dramatize a vast multitude of historical events into a compelling, riveting drama. Nearly 400 pages of battles and betrothals, plots and persecutions move at a brisk pace as seen through the eyes of the woman who experienced it all firsthand. It is a masterwork by a skilled craftsman to weave the fictional with the factual in such an entertaining way. It is a tale that will delight romantics and historians alike.

    Overall, make a vow to read this book.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2012

    Great book!

    I love this author and this book met all expectations!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2013

    Recommendable

    The book was exciting but some of the Spanish throws you off. I would recommend to historical fiction readers as well as CW. Gortner's other books. Not so much for Book club discussion though.

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  • Posted December 26, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    I know very little about Queen Isabella. I know she's the one

    I know very little about Queen Isabella. I know she's the one who funded Christopher Columbus's infamous voyage. And I know a little about the Spanish Inquisition. But, outside of that I have no idea about the woman behind the crown and how she came into power.

    It must have been terrifying at times to live in the manor that Isabella did in her childhood years. A royal princess basically banished and living in poverty. It's interesting to read how her half-brother treated them. He must have known he wasn't a very good king to keep Isabella and her brother so far from court. He feared an uprising to place either one of them on the throne (mainly her brother at first). I admired Isabella for not only surviving this trying to time, but she honestly seem to come out of it an upstanding young women.

    She held strong to her convictions despite that fact that there were so many that wanted to manipulate her. She felt she was the rightful Queen even though her brother had a daughter (even if he was not her father). She positioned herself so that the people wanted her to rule. She aligned herself with the country Aragon by marrying the heir. Even before she became Queen, she carried herself like she may one day rule. It was interesting to watch her grow throughout all this because she honestly believed in the beginning that she would never rule. But, as truth became reality, she did what she had to do.

    One of things that has always fascinated me about Queen's Elizabeth I was that she was a woman ruling in a man's world. After this book, I now feel the same way about Queen Isabella. She may have been married to King Fernando, but she alone had the right to make decision when it came to Castile. There were so many that tried to brush her off because she was a woman. She didn't' let the men around her control her. I think she honestly made decision based on what she felt was for the good of her country. It's unfortunate that she's remembered for things that I don't think we fully understand.

    This is the first book I've read by this author. Historical fiction can be hard to write when you're trying to stick to what is none and adding what is not. I was impressed with this book, and I'll be adding C.W. Gortner to my list of historical fiction authors!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 21, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    COMPELLING AND COMPLEX STORY OF ISABELLA OF CASTILE! THE QUEEN


    COMPELLING AND COMPLEX STORY OF ISABELLA OF CASTILE!

    THE QUEEN'S VOW: A NOVEL OF ISABELLA OF CASTILE by C.W. Gortner is a wonderful fiction fiction. The powerful,complex, and compelling story of Isabella of Castile from 1484,her exile as a young child to her becoming Queen of Spain to 1492. It is her story from her young childhood during her exile,to her husband,Ferdinand of Aragon,their trials,struggles,triumphs, danger,sadness,hopes and dreams. While, some though of Isabella as an evil Queen,she did what she thought was best for her Kingdom,her people,her courage,and her strong will. She was considered a controversial Queen,her and her Prince Aragon brought two realms together.A powerful story. If you enjoy historical fiction at its best than "The Queen's Vow" is a must read. Received for an honest review from the publisher and Library Thing. Details can be found at the author's website,Ballantine Books,an imprint of the Random House Publishing Group, and My Book Addiction and More.

    RATING; 4

    HEAT RATING: MILD

    REVIEWED BY: AprilR, My Book Addiction and More

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 20, 2012

    The Queen's Vow by C.W. Gortner is a story of Isabella of Castil

    The Queen's Vow by C.W. Gortner is a story of Isabella of Castille and her life from a young girl from 1484 to Queen of Spain in 1492. Isabella, her friend Beatriz and her brother Alfonso are children when they are taken from their home with their mother to live in the court of their half brother, King Enrique of Castile. Danger abounds at every turn with court intrique and jealousy because Alfonso is legally the heir to the throne after Enrique. Queen Juana has other ideas though and she intends for her daughter Joanna, whom is rumored to not be the child of Enrique, to be the heir. Isabella is soon accused of treason and kept a virtual prisoner. She is betrothed to Alfonso of Portugal but she refuses to marry because she wants to choose her own husband. She had secretly been in contact with Ferdinand of Aragon and with the help of King John II of Aragon, Ferdinand's father, they are betrothed. Because Isabella and Ferdinand were second cousins they could not marry without a dispensation from the pope. This was obtained with the help of Rodrigo Borgia.


    Isabella's reign as Queen of Castile started after the death of her brother Alfonso, he named Isabella heir to the throne on his deathbed. Isabella's reign was not an easy one, what with the threat of being usurped or assassinated by supporters of Infanta Joanna. She had to be very strong willed and became a powerful leader along with her husband Fernando. She proved to be a formidable ruler and was successful in quelling several rebellions. She was also known for her reforms and bringing peace to Spain and restoring the countries finances. She went along with Ferdinand during the wars with the Moors and unfortunately she is known for her part in the Spanish Inquisition, the expulsion of the Jews from Spain. Isabella and Ferdinand had five live children of which the youngest Catalina (Catherine) of Aragon was married first to King Arthur and then after his death to King Henry VIII.


    I found this story very interesting and informative. I had previously read Mr.Gortner's book The Last Queen, which was about Isabella and Ferdinand's daughter Queen Juana and I was excited to read his latest work. As with all of the author's previous books, The Queen's Vow is very well researched and told in a way that is so easy to read as historical books can be quite dull and boring at times. Mr. Gortner brought the character's to life and I felt that the descriptions of the times were so accurate that I felt myself seeing Spain in my mind as it was, the smells, and sounds. I love to be able to put myself in a story and CW. Gortner can certainly do that with his storytelling. I highly recommend this book for any historical fan out there, no matter what era you are interested in. I give it 5 stars!!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 18, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    The Queen’s Vow is a biographical novel about the life of

    The Queen’s Vow is a biographical novel about the life of Queen Isabella of Castile who married Prince Ferdinand of Aragon in the 15th century. Isabella makes an intriguing heroine, strong, determined, savvy when confronted with the numerous political intrigues, decisions and responsibilities she faced. As a young woman, she manoeuvres her way through court plots and cold-hearted enemies until a stroke of fortune/misfortune makes her the official heiress to Castile. The novel spans most of her life and includes both the good decisions and bad decisions this tough woman made – from starting the Inquisition to funding Christopher Columbus’ expedition to discover the new world.

    The author paints a softer version of this fascinating woman than history has depicted. He does an excellent job of demonstrating some of the emotional turmoil she experienced when making hard decisions or trying to protect her people. Isabella definitely walked a fine line between King Enrique, the Catholic Church, and the many Jews or Conversos in Spain. The novel also delves into descriptions of her family, other historical persons, and physical surroundings with astounding detail.

    I always know I'm settling down for a rich read when I pick up any of Christopher Gortner’s novels. And this one was no exception. He is highly knowledgeable in the Renaissance period and this comes through strongly in this latest novel. The beautiful prose, blended with bountiful detailed descriptions, make this novel a delight to read. His uncanny ability to delve deep into the thoughts of the historical figure he writes about is what truly brings to life his main characters.

    If you have never read one of C.W. Gortner’s novels, then this is a good one to start with. Queen Isabella was the mother of Juana, the main character in another of Gortner’s novels, The Last Queen. And don’t forget to pick up The Confessions of Catherine de Medici! He truly is a talented author with a knack from bringing these famous women to life. Very Highly recommended.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 17, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Isabella's initial exposure to politics comes just before the de

    Isabella's initial exposure to politics comes just before the demise of her father, a man who will die from grief after his closest adviser is murdered. At least that is what Isabella's furious mother believes. Standing by her father's deathbed, Isabella is startled to recognize the look of greed on her half-brother Enrique's face, a look that clearly presages the kind of King he will become. For The Queens's Vow is about Isabella's newly found fortitude which will be sorely tested first by her brother, advised by the evil Marquis of Villena, and then as the novel progresses by numerous other so-called "advisers." Sometimes readers may forget that Kings and Queens are human beings with strengths and fragile aspects of personality that shape history for years, if not centuries. We are reminded in this fiction account that women were not expected to be successful rulers, being deemed less possessed of intelligence, capabilities, and skills necessary to accomplish such a daunting task. Isabella is presented as a woman ready to rule wisely and fairly, a woman who learns from her own mistakes.

    Before that comes to pass, however, King Enrique seems incapable of fathering an heir while his wife manages to conceive a beautiful girl, much to the delight of court and public gossipers. That wouldn't matter much to Isabella except that the Queen insists her daughter is the heir to the throne and does everything in her power to guarantee that neither Alfonso (Isabella's other brother) nor Isabella will ever rule Castile. Queen Juana's road to perdition makes for tense and riveting reading, supplemented by the increasing notorious influence of the King's own lover.

    Isabella's world dramatically alters after she meets Prince Ferdinand of Aragon; they are magnetically connected immediately with a tenderness and passion totally unexpected in the swirls of Court dissension and machinations. Their brief meeting marks the beginning of an eventual marriage of mind and heart that will have its highs and lows but more notably will be marked by the manner in which they treat each other, with respect and equality hardly seen in that particular country or century. Their union continues with the rise of military conflicts and the Church's insistence that an Inquisition be conducted to root out Jewish conversos heretics (and more as Isabella suspects) that is earning Spain divine disfavor. These are just a few of the contentious problems that the couple must deal with as they begin to raise a family and gird Spain for prosperity in years to come!

    The Queen's Vow is finely researched and even more finely written! We come to know Isabella intimately in mind, heart, and body as she lives through a tumultuous time, her intense longing to be the determiner of her own unique destiny! Many have been Queens but few manifest the regal qualities that truly define female leaders like this magnificent "Majestad." Phenomenal accomplishment, C. W. Gortner - this novel deserves the highest acclaim!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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