The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner

Welcome to the Savvy Verse & Wit tour stop for C.W. Gortner’s The Last Queen, which is new in paperback this month.

About the Book:

Daughter of Isabel of Castile and sister of Catherine of Aragon. Married at sixteen and a queen at twenty-five. Declared mad by history. Juana of Castile, the last true queen of Spain. Ruled by her passions, Juana’s arranged marriage to Philip the Fair of Flanders begins as a fairytale romance when despite never having met before their betrothal, they fall violently in love. Juana is never meant to be more than his consort and mother to his heirs until she finds herself heiress to the throne of Spain after tragedy decimates her family. Suddenly she is plunged into a ruthless battle of ambition and treachery, with the future of Spain and her own freedom at stake. Told in Juana’s voice, The Last Queen is a powerful and moving portrait of a woman ahead of her time, a queen fought fiercely for her birthright in the face of an unimaginable betrayal. Juana’s story is one of history’s darkest secrets, brought vividly to life in this exhilarating novel.

C.W. Gortner’s The Last Queen is a roller coaster ride of emotion dramatizing Juana of Castile’s adolescent years, her marriage to a man she doesn’t know, and her return to her homeland. Juana is an impetuous child, independent, passionate, and compassionate. Her passions often lead her astray, cause her to act outside the norms of royal protocol, and jump to conclusions. While history views Juana as loca or mad, Gortner’s dramatization examines possible explanations for her behavior. Juana witnesses the surrender of the Moors and Boabdil at the hands of her mother, Queen Isabel, as Spain reclaimed Granada.

“The lords closed in around him, leading him away. I averted my eyes. I knew that if he’d been victorious he would not have hesitated to order the deaths of my father and my brother, of every noble and soldier on this field. He’d have enslaved my sisters and me, defamed and executed my mother. He and his kind had defiled Spain for too long. At last, our country was united under one throne, one church, one God. I should rejoice in his subjugation.

Yet what I most wanted to do was console him.” (Page 11, in the hardcover)

Shortly after Spain regains its footing, Juana is informed that she must marry the Archduke of Flanders, Philip, a man she was betrothed to and does not know. Juana is adamant that she will not marry this man, until her father treats her as an adult at sixteen and explains the political situation Spain is in and how her marriage to Philip could improve it. While she is young and passionate, she is frightened of the man she will marry and what married life entails. She’s timid and accepting of her new life, which she discovers has more passion than she expected. However, even in this new, passionate existence, she is uneasy with her new role, the new customs she must learn, and the influence her husband’s advisor, Besancon, has over Philip.

“She lay against mounded pillows, her eyes closed. I gazed on her translucent pallor, under which bluish veins and the very structure of her bones could be traced. A linen cap covered her scalp; her features seemed oddly childlike. It took a moment to realize she had no eyebrows. I had never noticed before. She must have had them plucked in her youth; those thin lines I was accustomed to seeing arched in disapproval were, in fact, painted. Her hands rested on her chest. These too I stared at, the fingers long and thin now, without any rings save the ruby signet of Castile, which hung loosely on her right finger. I hadn’t realized how beautiful her hands were, how elegant and marble-smooth, as if made to hold a scepter.

The hands of a queen. My hands.” (Page 201, in the hardcover)

Gortner’s writing easily captures the fears of a young royal as she is shipped off to Flanders to be married. Readers will feel her apprehension and wish her well even as she boldly stares her fate in the eye. As the plot thickens against her and her homeland, Juana is fortified in her resolve and her passion girds her against the obstacles to come. Gortner’s characters are well developed, leaping off the page to battle interlopers, defend their family’s honor, and looking for justice when wrongs are committed by trusted advisors and family members. Readers will curl their toes in anxiety as Juana faces turncoats and ghosts and wish her triumph in the end. Overall, The Last Queen is an exceptionally well-crafted historical novel that will have readers dealing with a range of emotions from sorrow to anger. Gortner excels in building tension and leaving readers exhausted from the ride.

Also Reviewed By:
The Burton Review
Reading Adventures


C.W. Gortner’s fascination with history is a lifetime pursuit. He holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Writing with an emphasis on Renaissance Studies from the New College of California and often travels to research his books. He has experienced life in a medieval Spanish castle and danced a galliard in a Tudor great hall; dug through library archives all over Europe; and tried to see and touch — or, at least, gaze at through impenetrable museum glass — as many artifacts of the era as he can find.

Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House, publishes The Last Queens in trade paperback on May 5, 2009. A Random House Readers Circle Selection, it features a reading group guide and Q&A with the author. C.W. Gortner is also available for reader group chats by speaker phone or Skype.

Visit the author’s Reading Group information.

He lives in Northern California. You can visit his Website.

***Giveaway Information***

1. 1 entry, comment on my review.

2. 1 entry, comment on this guest post, here.

3. Tell me if you are a follower or follow this blog and tell me for a 3rd entry.

4. Spread the word on your blog, etc., and get a 4th entry.

Deadline May 22, 2009, 11:59 PM EST


***Giveaway Reminders***

1 copy of Rubber Side Down Edited by Jose Gouveia, here; Deadline is May 15 at 11:59 PM EST