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Reign of Madness

Reign of Madness

4.3 16
by Lynn Cullen

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From the author of The Creation of Eve, “an intoxicating tale of love, betrayal and redemption,”* comes a novel of passion and madness, royal intrigue and marital betrayal, set during the Golden Age of Spain.

Juana of Castile, third child of the Spanish monarchs Isabel and Fernando, grows up with no hope of inheriting her


From the author of The Creation of Eve, “an intoxicating tale of love, betrayal and redemption,”* comes a novel of passion and madness, royal intrigue and marital betrayal, set during the Golden Age of Spain.

Juana of Castile, third child of the Spanish monarchs Isabel and Fernando, grows up with no hope of inheriting her parents’ crowns, but as a princess knows her duty: to further her family’s ambitions through marriage. When she weds the Duke of Burgundy, a young man so beautiful that he is known as Philippe the Handsome, she dares to hope that she might have both love and crowns. He is caring, charming, and attracted to her—seemingly a perfect husband.

But when Queen Isabel dies, the crowns of Spain unexpectedly pass down to Juana, leaving her husband and her father hungering for the throne. Rumors fly that the young Queen has gone mad, driven insane by possessiveness. Locked away in a palace and unseen by her people for the next forty-six years, Juana of Castile begins one of the most controversial reigns in Spanish history, one that earned her the title of Juana the Mad.


*The Washington Post

A Best of the South 2011 selection by Atlanta Journal Constitution

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Juana of Castile, the third child of Isabel and Ferdinand of Spain, was an unlikely heir to the throne. As a carefree 14-year-old living in Barcelona, she has no hope of inheriting the crown over her older siblings. But in 1496, at 17, Juana is sent from her beloved country to the Netherlands, a land "cold and gray as Judas's tomb," when her parents arrange for her betrothal to Phillipe the Handsome. Phillipe is handsome, yes, but he is also cruel. He neglects, manipulates, and abuses Juana in the hopes of gaining her kingdom, going so far as to spread a rumor that she is mad. On a return to Spain, Juana reconnects with lost love Diego Colon, a man she desires far more than Phillipe, whose manipulations of her grow in intensity over time, and who even convinces Juana's father, Ferdinand, of her madness. When Queen Isabel dies, Juana finally becomes queen, but it is the men around her who truly rule. Cullen's male characters are colorfully chauvinist, none more so than Phillipe. Cullen's (The Creation of Eve) written an intimate look at a historical figure few will know (though fans of Tudor fiction will certainly be comfortable with the era), an alternately strong and infuriatingly weak woman who in real life was thought to be dangerously mad and was kept a prisoner in her own home. (Aug.)
Library Journal
Set at the dawn of Spain's Golden Age, this is the story of Juana of Castile (1479–1555), known to history as Juana la Loca (Juana the Mad). Cullen's page-turning account depicts the intelligent, caring woman behind the legend. The novel opens in 1493 at the court of Juana's parents, Isabella and Ferdinand. Cristóbal Colón has just returned from his voyage to the Indies, and Spain is positioned to become a major European power. Juana's parents marry her to Philippe the Handsome, Duke of Burgundy, in order to cement a political alliance with the Habsburgs. The initially passionate marriage turns sour when Philippe becomes abusive and seeks to rule Spain as its king, not merely Juana's consort. VERDICT Cullen's second historical novel (after The Creation of Eve) is a sweeping study of political intrigue. But an equal focus on character development and plot makes for a satisfying blend of romance, family drama, and royal machinations. While not as well known to American readers as her mother, Queen Isabella, or her son, Charles V, Juana is a sympathetic heroine, and lovers of historical fiction will enjoy her story. [For another take on Juana, consider C.W. Gortner's The Last Queen.—Ed.]—Carly Thompson, Chicago Ridge P.L.
Kirkus Reviews

Cullen's second historical novel about Renaissance-era Spanish royals, this time concerning the "Mad Queen," Juana La Loca.

Cullen's challenge is considerable: find a viable story in the life of Juana, daughter of Isabel and Ferdinand, who is known chiefly for having spent 46 years imprisoned by her family as a madwoman.And find it she does, although it only covers Juana's brief pre-imprisonment life.Ranging from 1493, when Juana, a teenager, first spots the flaws in her parent's supposedly idyllic marriage, to 1509, when all the shoes of fate finally drop, this is primarily a tale of a woman's futile struggle against the entrenched patriarchy of her time.As Cristóbal Colón (Christopher Columbus) returns in triumph to her parents' court, Juana is entranced by his son, Diego Colón.Soon, though, she is married off to Philippe the Handsome, a Burgundian archduke (and Habsburg heir) who rules Flanders.Far from home, she is at first infatuated with her Habsburg husband.However, as the licentiousness of Philippe's court compared to the relative austerity of Queen Isabel's continues to shock, her Spanish ladies desert her, except for scholarly and chaste Beatriz.Philippe's infidelities bring an end to the extended honeymoon, as does Juana's delay in producing a male child.Their son Charles is born, but his deformed jaw (a Habsburg trait) impedes both nutrition and speech; however, Charles will continue the Habsburg dynasty as Holy Roman Emperor.A number of premature deaths has made Juana the heir apparent to the Spanish throne.But Philippe, by spreading rumors of her mental instability (due, he self-servingly claims, to excessive love for him, despite the fact that their marital relations are now mostly forced), manages to impugn Juana's competence enough to elevate his own rank from King-consort to King.Juana's ingrained ineptitude at both overt confrontation, and the more acceptable female route of subversive sabotage, will lead to her downfall, as will her passion for the commoner Diego.

Although the outcome is known, the suspense never waivers.

From the Publisher
“From such rich history, Cullen imagines an even richer fiction…[She] has created another masterstroke of historical romance. In full service to the story, perfect sentences are strung together like so many pearls.”

Atlanta magazine


“One of the greatest love stories I have ever read…Captivating.”

—Bella Online

Product Details

Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.40(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
“From such rich history, Cullen imagines an even richer fiction…[She] has created another masterstroke of historical romance. In full service to the story, perfect sentences are strung together like so many pearls.”
Atlanta magazine
“One of the greatest love stories I have ever read…Captivating.”
—Bella Online

Meet the Author

Lynn Cullen is the author of The Creation of Eve, named among the best fiction books of 2010 by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She is also the author of numerous award-winning books for children, including the young adult novel I am Rembrandt’s Daughter, which was an ALA Best Book of 2008. An avid traveler and historian, Cullen lives in Atlanta.

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Reign of Madness 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Zicke More than 1 year ago
Being from Europe I know that being Royalty was nothing like the stories Disney likes to tell. So when I heard about this book I was intriqued. A lot of history based books can be quite dull. This is not one of those. It tells the story of Juana la reina, Queen Juana, sadly also named Juana la loca, Juana the crazy one. Even though it is fiction it is based on real historic events. A few "rumors" thrown in, to make it more interesting, of course. It "tells" her life story out of her own view. With all the emotions, sadness, crazyness, sorrow, pain, lonelyness, but also joy and love she certainly could have felt. This book gives an intersting "inside" look into the way life for her actually could have been and throws a shodow of doubt onto what history books have tought us. Even though it is a work of fiction it shows a lot the way things, politics, family, marriages, etc. were back then and the expectations that came with it. I highly recommend this book. Especially to anyone trying to find a more intersting way of expanding their horizons beyond of what history books have tought us.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've read some of Cullen's earlier books and knew I'd be in for a treat with her latest historical fiction and, more than being pleased, I was dazzled. About the time Christopher Columbus is sailing the ocean blue we have the story of Juana of Castile, daughter of Isabel and Fernando, who is destined to inherit the throne. What starts out as a touching romance in the arranged marriage of Juana and Philippe "the Handsome" soon turns into a lusty union and plots to grab the crown. Oh, the intrigue! The treachery! I couldn't turn the pages fast enough to find out what happens next. All this plays out in the sweeping panorama of Western Europe which Cullen obviously has researched thoroughly to be able to paint such a vivid picture of the landscape, politics and culture of the times. I think it's Cullen's best book yet. Fans of well-told historical fiction or just good story-telling shouldn't miss it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a well written and fascinating historical fiction novel. It is based on the life of Juana of Castile, the daughter of the king and queen that sponsored Christopher Columbus. The novel includes poison, cruelty, rumors of insanity, children, adultery, love, loyalty, betrayal, hope, lies, selfishness, and more. Wonderful book. This novel deserves an A+++++
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
While I'd really enjoyed the last book by Lynn Cullen I'd read this one was only ok... I didn't really care about the protagonists and there seemed to be details of the plot that were glossed over.... The "historical" piece of this work of fiction is quite fictionalized and yet the author didn't take her conceit far enough to make it successful. Ok, but nothing special.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My book club loved this book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lynn Cullen enabled me to discover some Spanish history that I have never knew about. Her story is fiction but based upon facts. Queen Isabel and her daughter lived similar lives.They both had unfaithful husbands and servants, children that had unfortunate lives,unattainable lovers. Lies and deceptions were common place. The book was not just about Juana but also about the lives and desires of her mother, father, siblings. and her husband Philippe and his grandmother. Cullen related how all their ambitions and the cultures of their countries affected their children's lives and even Columbus and his sons' lives.
RoseCLewis More than 1 year ago
Love the work of Lynn Cullen. This book is a trip through 15th Century Spain and a history lesson about the happenings after Columbus's discovery in 1492.
gl More than 1 year ago
I was intrigued by the story and knew very little about Spanish history and about Juana the Mad when I began reading Reign of Madness. I think that this lack of background information made it easy for me to dive into the story, to sympathize with Juana and to find myself staunchly on her side. Juana had never expected to become queen of Spain. She was the daughter of Queen Isabela, one of the most powerful queens in Spanish European history and the mother of Charles V, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire but she was third in line to the throne. Cullen's book is historical fiction and much dramatized, but I was fascinated by Juana's situation and her reaction to her husband's dominance and manipulation. His power over her -- from his position as husband and her lack of allies in the Netherlands -- and his emotional and sexual dominance kept Juana from exercising her considerable political power. The relationship between Juana and her mother Queen Isabela is even more fascinating. Juana grew up intimidated by and scared of her mother, the Queen. But Juana eventually understands her mother's point of view and the lessons that Queen Isabela tried to pass on and the attempt to reconcile is heartbreaking. If you enjoy historical fiction, intrigue and drama, you will thoroughly enjoy Reign of Madness. I highly recommend it! ISBN-10: 0399157093 - Hardcover $25.99 Publisher: Putnam Adult (August 4, 2011), 448 pages. Review copy provided by the publisher.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
petersl More than 1 year ago
Once you dive into this book - you will not be able to put it down. : )
K_Torghele More than 1 year ago
Cullen has done it again - written a book so compelling and filled with carefully researched gems of history that I lost hours of sleep to have the satisfaction of knowing how Juana's life evolved from being a beautiful young princess to being unjustly labeled, "Juana the Mad." The characters come to life by being multidimensional, making them believable. As the book gets deeper into their lives, one yearns to personally intervene to change the inevitable outcomes. I appreciate books that clarify history in such an entertaining way by an author I trust to have thoroughly researched and documented historical facts that otherwise might be lost to future generations. Thank you, Ms. Cullen for another treasured read.
JemilleWilliams More than 1 year ago
Reign of Madness is an account that begins as a sunny romance and ends in gothic noir. Juana of Castile was a bartered bride, following in her sister Catherine of Aragon's doomed footsteps, bargained off as a political pawn to Habsburg Philippe the Handsome, Archduke of Flanders. A flowering branch of one of the mightiest family trees in history, she was the daughter of Spain's Ferdinand and Isabella. Her brother-in-law was history's most infamous king, Henry VIII. She gave birth to a full house of two emperors and four queens, yet spent the last five decades of her life alone under house arrest in a convent. At 16 years of age she left the hilly high country of sunny Spain and descended to the rainy grey lowlands of the Netherlands, becoming mired in a sordid Renaissance Gaslight. Initially swept off her feet by her handsome groom, she acquiesced to an impromptu marriage with none of the pomp due her circumstance. She never saw her mother again, and surely came to wish she hadn't seen her father again after his duplicitous treachery. Her story reflects the sad reality of the lot of the woman, even when that woman's title was Queen. In the end, she is betrayed by husband, father, and son, and left childless and alone in a tower. Most historians disagree with her moniker of Juana the Mad, and Reign of Madness chronicles the rampant use of poison widely employed back in the day to kill or merely weaken its victims. Through disinformation and innuendo her power is wrested from her and the affections of her children alienated. Lynn Cullen continues to outdo herself with each successive work. She obliquely mentions Juana of Castile in her wonderful Creation of Eve and her story unfolds in Reign of Madness. Her meticulous research gives substance and texture to the fascinating historical faction of one of history's most hapless heroines. Cullen pulls the reader right into the heart of the court and castle, bringing home the passions and disappointments of this most pitiful queen. The maps and family charts are a welcome enhancement and aid in keeping the august cast of characters straight. Her frequent inclusion of nature, especially birds, brings a vibrant immediacy to her writing that draws the reader deep into the narrative. Her mastery of the telling sexual details is not lurid, but evocative of Edith Wharton. Like a train wreck, you won't be able to stop turning the pages, in false hope that surely things can't go as badly awry as they seem.