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The Queen's Vow: A Novel of Isabella of Castile
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Group Read Discussions > July/August 2012: The Queen's Vow

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message 1: by Jackie, That's Her Constableness to you! (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jackie (TheNightOwl) | 3039 comments Discuss this book here... Remember to mark all spoilers!


Cayleigh (Cayleightheshell) I'm next on the library's wait list for this book, but the due date isn't until August 1st...I hope they are a quick reader!!


message 3: by JoLene, Mistress of the Challenge (new) - rated it 3 stars

JoLene (trvl2mtns) | 1731 comments I'm actually reading The Tudor Secret by Gortner for my F2F bookclub. I will hopefully get to Queen's Vow soon.


Ioana | 192 comments I started it yesterday, I like it so far.


Connie | 12 comments Im more than half way done. I love it- Isabella is such a dynamic, likable figure. If you haven't starting reading this one and you' re looking for a good, easy read for the summer, you should definately pick this one up.


Kate Quinn | 755 comments I've already read this one and enjoyed it hugely, so I'm dying to discuss it. :D

I'm so glad to read some HF that's not set in England. If you think about it, Spain is a country most of HF fans tend to knee-jerk associate with religious fanaticism and violence. Spanish characters in HF tend to be either religious fanatics/villains (like King Philip in any Tudor-centric book), or if they're good then they are pious saintly types like Katherine of Aragon. The reality is so much more complex - I thought one of the great strengths of Queen's Vow is that the book took you so completely inside this country that it no longer seemed like the two-dimensional land of bullfights and religious persecution.


message 7: by JoLene, Mistress of the Challenge (new) - rated it 3 stars

JoLene (trvl2mtns) | 1731 comments @Kate, I agree that it's a nice change of pace for something non-English or French. I read The Constant Princess several years ago. I was very intrigued by Isabella and Ferdinand from that book, but searched for a story featuring them. I only found that Plaidy had a trilogy about Isabelle, but it seemed to be out of print and not widely available in US. My library had it -- but in Spanish so ..... No go for me.


message 8: by Melissa (new) - added it

Melissa Eisenmeier (carpelibrumbooks) | 219 comments I picked up my copy at the library yesterday and am perhaps sixty pages into The Queen's Vow. Even though I kind of like Isabelle, I'm having a hard time getting into the book.


MissSusie I was so fascinated by this book I had never read anything about Spanish royalty so I learned alot. I also thought Isabella was a very strong woman. I am now reading The Last Queen I'm glad I read these in chronological order not publication order because this one starts out right at the fall of Granada.


Jessica Knauss (jessicaknauss) | 8 comments I'm planning to review this one, so I thought I'd set out my gripes here and hopefully you can refute them before I put that together. I want to love this book because I have a PhD in Medieval Spanish and I, too, am relieved to see popular HF that's not about England.

Gripe 1: Does anyone else think the author took on too much? A lot of the book is telling rather than showing because he has to cover such long periods. I personally would have read a series of books about Isabel la Católica with the time evenly spread out and properly shown. The beginning of the book has rich descriptions of Segovian architecture, and reading it, I wondered how he could raise the bar when he gets into Andalusia. Answer: he doesn't. He seems to get exhausted, just like Fernando during the siege of Baeza and just wants to finish this compelling, complex story.

Gripe 2: Inconsistent use of the Don title. Don is like English Sir: it can only be used with the first name, so "Don Antonio" and "Don Antonio de Nebrija" are correct, while "Don de Nebrija" is jarringly wrong. These occur on the same page. It would be so easy to get right!

Gripe 3: I wanted to see a lot more of Torquemada, and I wanted him to be more complex, rather than a shadowy ghost who scares Isabel into persecuting the conversos. Too easy.

I admire the author's undertaking, and there was a lot I liked, but these the main negatives I detected -- anyone agree or disagree?


Jessica Knauss (jessicaknauss) | 8 comments JoLene wrote: "@Kate, I agree that it's a nice change of pace for something non-English or French. I read The Constant Princess several years ago. I was very intrigued by Isabella and Ferdinand from that book,..."

You could try Crown of Aloes by Norah Lofts. I read it more than twenty years ago and it covers a lot of the same territory as this book, but I still remember some of the scenes and it seems to be available.


message 12: by Kirsten (new)

Kirsten (KirKir) A few chapters in and so far I like the book. I don't know if it is just me but I can tell Isabella is written by a man. I feel like when women write women, I connect better. Not to say a man can't write a great book from a woman's perspective ( and vice versa) but to me it is noticeable. Maybe I'm just crazy!


Jessica Knauss (jessicaknauss) | 8 comments Kirsten wrote: "A few chapters in and so far I like the book. I don't know if it is just me but I can tell Isabella is written by a man. I feel like when women write women, I connect better. Not to say a man can'..."

Yes, I think I agree with you. Her musings on wanting to be like a man in the beginning of the book struck me as inauthentic somehow. A woman writer would put it differently (I think).


Diane S ☔ Finished and I agree with Jessica. Wanted more depth from this novel so definitely felt he took on to much. I also could tell it was written by a man, the tone of this novel irked me somehow. Liked it, it was okay but I didn't love it and really feel it would have been better had he taken Isabella's life in two parts, two books.


message 15: by Barbara (new) - added it

Barbara (BarbaraSC) | 42 comments I just started reading this late last night, so I only had time to read the prologue and half of the first chapter. Since I'm only at the beginning of the book, I can't really make any comments, BUT, I am finding that the beginning is moving a bit slowly (the part about Isabella's childhood.)

Based on the posts in this thread, it seems as though the pace will pick up very quickly, so I guess I just need to give it a bit more time.


Cayleigh (Cayleightheshell) Woot! Just got a message from my library that this is waiting for me to pick it up! I can't wait to be able to join the discussion! :)


message 17: by Kate (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kate Quinn | 755 comments Jessica wrote: "I'm planning to review this one, so I thought I'd set out my gripes here and hopefully you can refute them before I put that together. I want to love this book because I have a PhD in Medieval Spa..."

Jessica, I can't answer as to the "Don" gripe, as I don't speak Spanish. Though I know the author does, so I'm surprised it's something he got wrong. As for Torquemada, I liked the depiction of him - I found him deeply scary. Though it would have been interesting to see why he was so convinced that the converso Jews were violating their conversions right and left, and thus had to be investigated and persecuted.


message 18: by MissSusie (last edited Jul 27, 2012 01:23PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

MissSusie Kate wrote: Jessica, I can't answer as to the "Don" gripe, as I don't speak Spanish. Though I know the author does, so I'm surprised it's something he got wrong. As for Torquemada, I liked the depiction of him - I found him deeply scary. Though it would have been interesting to see why he was so convinced that the converso Jews were violating their conversions right and left, and thus had to be investigated and persecuted.

I agree about Torquemada he was so creepy and scary and I think he was such a zealot that even without the decree I think he would have eventually took it upon himself to "take care" of the conversos.. I think the religious ferver in that time period was what drove him and others like him.


Jessica Knauss (jessicaknauss) | 8 comments Thanks to everyone who voted for and read this book. It's been great to have an opportunity to discuss it!


MissSusie This book has hooked me completely on this dynasty and time period I have since read The Last Queen by, C.W. Gortner and really liked it and am now starting on Sister Queens: The Noble, Tragic Lives of Katherine of Aragon and Juana, Queen of Castile by, Julia Fox.


Kristin Gleeson | 87 comments Jessica wrote: "Kirsten wrote: "A few chapters in and so far I like the book. I don't know if it is just me but I can tell Isabella is written by a man. I feel like when women write women, I connect better. Not t..."

I have to agree too on that part. I felt that her statements came across as unauthentic, especially since they were just said as a statement and no previous description or actions had occurred to help build a picture. Just the repeated references to Joan of Arc. I am only up to chapter five so far, so I can't comment with great authority yet, but so far I find it a lot of expositon/telling.



message 22: by Kirsten (new)

Kirsten (KirKir) Kristin wrote: "Jessica wrote: "Kirsten wrote: "A few chapters in and so far I like the book. I don't know if it is just me but I can tell Isabella is written by a man. I feel like when women write women, I conne..."

I am now over halfway through and while I am enjoying the book I will say that Isabella's character development is lacking and not always believable. I just don't think this book will be that memorable for me. However, I do find myself wanting to learn more about Isabella and her history which I think is a success for the author.


Cayleigh (Cayleightheshell) I'm about a third of the way in and something struck me, was Enrique IV really (view spoiler) and if so did he set aside his first wife for not concieving when really it was that he wasn't doing his part? That is harsh! And maybe gives me a little more sympothy to Juana, though that is cut out when you observe how she acts.


message 24: by Lisa (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lisa | 135 comments I started reading this today and I'm really enjoying it. This is the first C.W. Gortner book for me.


Nicole (coliefly) | 3 comments The book was a fast read and a fascinating topic. I dont know anything really about this period of history. I thought the author took an interesting angle in trying to describe Isabellas thought life and what may have motivated her to make the decisions that she made. I liked that the author didnt villianize her as a religious fanatic but tried to imagine what her upbringing was like. I found that he portrayed her as a likeable character who stood by her convictions and forged her own path.


message 26: by Cayleigh (last edited Aug 02, 2012 06:51AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Cayleigh (Cayleightheshell) I just finished today. I enjoyed it, and reading it has really got me interested in reading more books in this area.

I read Reign of Madness Reign of Madness by Lynn Cullen earlier in the year about Queen Juana and I thought Fernando as C.W. Gortner wrote him, well I could see how the younger version of Fernando in Vow came to be the unsatisfied power-hungry man in Madness.

Torquemada, now him I didn't find so oppressive as previous commenters stated. Or maybe because of their comments I hyped his "bad guy-ness" up in my head. So I found the angry letters and the one big blow up at the end a little bit fell flat. I think a whole book, or several for that matter, could be written about Isabella's treatment and borrowing from and then expulsion of the jews.


Jessica Knauss (jessicaknauss) | 8 comments I think a whole book, or several for that matter, could be written about Isabella's treatment and borrowing from and then expulsion of the jews.

I completely agree!


Jessica (jla525) | 15 comments I liked this book for the most part. I agree with previous posters that something about Isabella just felt not quite authentic for me. I wanted something else from her. Like some consistent gumption or something.

IMO, this is less to do with the author being a man and more about the fact that the author was trying so hard to make her likable he made all of her mistakes/wrong doings more about pressure or desire to please others than about her own flaws.

I will tell you one thing that drove me crazy. I felt like there was an abundance of spittle. LOL, those Spaniards must just drool all the time.


Kristin Gleeson | 87 comments Really I would rate this a 3.5 rather than a 4 star read. I looked forward to reading a novel that would give life and breath to such an historical character and shine light on the beginnings of the Spanish Inquisition, so notorious in modern history.[spoiler alert] The author did in fact create a real sense of Isabella as a youth and created a convincing portrait of her feelings for her growing love for Fernando, later her husband and of her mother. As the novel progressed the author gives a telling insight into the struggle Isabella had in uniting Spain under one ruler and ousting the Moors from Spanish land. However once the novel progressed from the personal story of her struggle to become queen to the political history of Spain, the reader loses some of the story's depth and the character relationship becomes no more than superficial as the author tries to cover too many years of her reign in too few pages. The novel is reduced to a novel of events, one after the other, and the reader's involvement lessens. The novel ends with one long scene in an effort brings the reader back into the story, the queen's iconic discussion with Christopher Columbus, but for me it rang out only as larger than life figures marking a momentous event rather like a school pageant. The author writes well and I suspect if he had written only about the early years the whole novel would have been as immensely enjoyable as the first third.


Jessica Knauss (jessicaknauss) | 8 comments Kristin wrote: "Really I would rate this a 3.5 rather than a 4 star read. I looked forward to reading a novel that would give life and breath to such an historical character and shine light on the beginnings of ..."

I'm completely with you on this one!


Jessica Knauss (jessicaknauss) | 8 comments Jessica wrote: "I liked this book for the most part. I agree with previous posters that something about Isabella just felt not quite authentic for me. I wanted something else from her. Like some consistent gump..."

Yes, this is what I mean. Have Isabel be the principal mover of her own reign, not just heavily influenced by men. I'd have loved to have seen a real decision process.


Emily | 58 comments I can understand why she was portrayed that way. Given the time period, she still did... well, amazingly well. But I agree with wanting to see her writing more policy and smacking someone with the Queenhammer.

I had a hard time not rolling my eyes at the way Columbus was portrayed, however. Maybe I just took too many Latin American history classes where they implied he was, well, kind of an idiot.


message 33: by Anne (new) - rated it 3 stars

Anne Ipsen | 121 comments Kristin wrote: "Really I would rate this a 3.5 rather than a 4 star read. I looked forward to reading a novel that would give life and breath to such an historical character and shine light on the beginnings of ..."

I totally agree


message 34: by Jackie, That's Her Constableness to you! (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jackie (TheNightOwl) | 3039 comments I finally finished this last night and I agree with many of the comments here. Kristin, I think you were spot on with your comment. The middle part dragged for me and I think he covered too much during that time period. I also agree with some of the commenters in saying that I wish Isabella was more assertive in her dealings. Despite my gripe, I thought her personality was well rounded. Also, I loved what she did for women and education. I adored the descriptions of her feelings on reading.

I don't know much about Spain's history nor have I read many books based on its historical figures prior to this one, so I really found this book fascinating.
I thought it was a good start to get an overall picture of Isabella's reign.

Oh and one thing that really bugged me were the constact physical descriptions of Christopher Columbus. Jeez, I got it the first time!


message 35: by Kath (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kath (kathologist) | 14 comments I have a penchant for historical history of cultures besides rulers. I found this book began to grate on me early on. It is written in a style more like a romance novel that glosses over the darker aspects. It also pushed my buttons for the unapologetic hate towards other monotheistic religions as a legitimate reason to massacre and marginalize others. My most satisfying HF reads contain what life was like in the time and place, to give you a good idea of the environment and how people coped with daily life.


message 36: by Anne (new) - rated it 3 stars

Anne Ipsen | 121 comments Kath wrote: "I have a penchant for historical history of cultures besides rulers. I found this book began to grate on me early on. It is written in a style more like a romance novel that glosses over the darker..."
Me too--I am getting tired of reading about petulant, spoiled princesses/queens, regardless of country/historical period. I kept wondering how the author would deal with (1) the inquisition (about which I had no desire to read) and (2) Columbus--both treatments were non-starters.


message 37: by JoLene, Mistress of the Challenge (new) - rated it 3 stars

JoLene (trvl2mtns) | 1731 comments I finally finished the book today. I started on the 1st or 2nd of the month. Reading was competing with the Olympics and a week-long visit from family. Despite being completely intrigued by Isabel as a historical figure, I wasn't pulled into the story.

I agree with a lot of the comments -- the pacing was uneven. The book covered a lot of detail in some areas but then abruptly ended. I don't know much about Spanish history, so having a bit more background about the conflict with the Moors would have been interesting. I would have preferred that information rather than all the descriptions of the weather. (Although I was surprised that they seemingly have very cold winters --- I think of Spain having a mild climate)

I will definitely search out more information about Isabel and Spanish history. A visit to Granada has been on my wish list for a while and this just peaked my curiosity even more :-D


message 38: by Donna (new)

Donna (drspoon) JoLene wrote: "I finally finished the book today. I started on the 1st or 2nd of the month. Reading was competing with the Olympics and a week-long visit from family. Despite being completely intrigued by Isabe..."

I agree with your comments and those of others who have posted previously. Actually, I chose not to even finish the book after being well into it (almost 200 pages!) - something I rarely do. I simply was not compelled to keep reading. I, too, will seek out other books about Isabel and Spain.


Jennifer (Jefrstarr) | 2 comments Jessica wrote: "I'm planning to review this one, so I thought I'd set out my gripes here and hopefully you can refute them before I put that together. I want to love this book because I have a PhD in Medieval Spa..."

Gripe #1: Yes, he did take on a lot, as many people try to do. With that said, I also would have kept reading.

Gripe #3: I agree that I would have liked to have seen more of him but not necessarily for the sake of a more complex character. I think developing him would have highlighted this part of the story line more. Focusing on the persecution would have been a little more interesting than focusing on the moors.


Jennifer (Jefrstarr) | 2 comments Jackie wrote: "I finally finished this last night and I agree with many of the comments here. Kristin, I think you were spot on with your comment. The middle part dragged for me and I think he covered too much du..."
I actually found her quite assertive for her time period. She was doing behaving in ways that women did not behave. Besides the cultural issue of being expected to marry a certain way, interact with her husband a certain way, greet her troops a certain way (all of which she broke the mold), socially, being any more assertive would have caused a problem.


Bgmcleod | 3 comments Jessica wrote: "I'm planning to review this one, so I thought I'd set out my gripes here and hopefully you can refute them before I put that together. I want to love this book because I have a PhD in Medieval Spa..."

I would agree that the author took on too much for one novel. I have finished the book, and felt if just skimmed the surface of everything. I'm not sure if one can cover everything that is going on with just one person's POV. What is going on in Aragon? How did relations with Portugal get there where they were? I also thought Isabella is written too simplistically. There had to be more going than what is presented. A more thorough series would address this.


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Books mentioned in this topic

The Tudor Secret (other topics)
The Constant Princess (other topics)
The Last Queen (other topics)
Sister Queens: The Noble, Tragic Lives of Katherine of Aragon and Juana, Queen of Castile (other topics)
Reign of Madness (other topics)
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Authors mentioned in this topic

C.W. Gortner (other topics)
Lynn Cullen (other topics)