The Queen’s Vow by C.W. Gortner

The Queen’s Vow by C.W. Gortner, published June 12, is another historical fiction powerhouse about a strong, young royal who cares for her family and her country more than herself.  Isabella of Castile is the daughter of the ailing Juan II and his second wife Isabel of Portugal, and she has a younger brother Alfonso, on whom she dotes.  Her relationship with her half-brother Enrique IV is tenuous at best, and when he is poised to takeover the crown when their father dies, her mother believes it is best to flee to Arevalo.

“I slowly reached up to take my mother’s hand.  I had never dared touch her before without leave.  To me, she’d always been a beautiful but distant figure in glittering gowns, laughter spilling from her lips, surrounded by fawning admirers — a mother to be loved from afar.”  (Page VIII)

Like most royal families, children rarely spend intimate time with their parents, though often they will spend more time with their mothers if they are girls.  Isabella spends little informal time with her mother until they are removed to Arevalo, and she has virtually no relationship with her father, Juan II.

“I was not yet four years old.  My father had been ill for weeks with a terrible fever, shut behind the closed doors of his apartments in the alcazar of Valladolid.  I did not know him well, this forty-nine-year-old king whom his subjects had dubbed El Inutil, the Useless, for the manner in which he’d ruled.  To this day, all I remember is a tall, lean man with sad eyes and a watery smile, who once summoned me to his private rooms and gave me a jeweled comb, enameled in the Moorish style.  A short, swarthy lord stood behind my father’s throne the entire time I was there, his stubby-fingered hand resting possessively on its back as he watched me with keen eyes.”  (page III)

Isabella knows that of all her siblings she is the last in line and as a female heir to the throne of Castile, she will likely be sold off into marriage for political or monetary reasons.  But as a young girl sent with her mother outside the company of the crown, she has the freedom to just enjoy her family.  Her and Alfonso have a great relationship, and she has a great relationship with Beatriz, her lady in waiting, but her respite from court intrigue does not last long.  Unfortunately, there are many times throughout the book that Isabella finds herself moving from place to place, fleeing those that would do her harm even her brother Enrique, whom she remains loyal to even though he is easily swayed by others.

Readers will experience the sorrow Isabella feels about her relationship with Enrique and how finally she must break that familial bond, if she plans to survive and marry the man she loves, Fernando of Aragon.  She is often tugged in more than one direction either between her family bonds and destiny or her duty as heir to the Castile throne and the pull of her heart. In a nation pulled this way and that by different powers and political interests attempting to usurp royal power outright or through the shadows, Isabella has many demands on her time and heart, and she’s pushed to the brink more than once. She’s a stronger woman than she realizes, and with Fernando at her side, they are a force to contend with.

The Queen’s Vow by C.W. Gortner is about a promise of a better tomorrow not only for Isabella and her loved ones, but also for the country she’s seen toil with her own eyes and hands. It is a novel of perseverance, following one’s heart and instincts, and justice, but it also is a novel of family and how it can be not only nurturing but also devastating if animosities and jealously are allowed to fester. Gortner is a master at historical details, weaving them throughout a narrative that is highly emotional, tense with drama, and at times poetic in its description of the Spanish landscape. Another winning novel from this author.

About the Author:

C.W. Gortner is the author of The Last Queen, The Confessions of Catherine de Medici and The Tudor Secret. He holds an MFA in Writing with an emphasis in Renaissance Studies from the New College of California.

In his extensive travels to research his books, he has danced a galliard in a Tudor great hall and experienced life in a Spanish castle. His novels have garnered international praise and been translated into thirteen languages to date. He is also a dedicated advocate for animal rights and environmental issues.

He’s currently at work on his fourth novel for Ballantine Books, about the early years of Lucrezia Borgia, as well as the third novel in his Tudor series,The Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles (US) or Elizabeth’s Spymaster (UK).

Half-Spanish by birth, C.W. lives in Northern California.


  1. I absolutely adore Mr. Gortner’s books and I hope to get my hands on a copy of this one soon! It sounds fantastic.

  2. You know how much I love historical fiction, but I really haven’t read much about the royals. I’m going to have to give Gortner’s books a try!

  3. As always, thank you, Serena, for this lovely and eloquent review. I’m honored to visit here again as part of my blog tour and hope your readers enjoy the book as much as you have!

  4. I love to watch stuff about the Royals but when I read about them, my brain gets spongy and I can’t keep the names straight. I believe I tried this author before and just couldn’t get into the book.

    • That’s a bummer. I have no problem following along with the family tree at the beginning, but then again, most of the ones I enjoy from this author are in the Spanish court which I know more about.

  5. Wasn’t this good! It’s the first by Gortner I’ve read but I plan to read more. Thanks for the rec of The Last Queen.

  6. This isn’t my kind of book, but I know lots of people who love Gortner’s work!

  7. Thank you for a beautiful review. Makes me want to go and grab this book.