Plot: Strong plotting and pacing is the result of clever foreshadowing that's much like the foreplay of the two rulers—Duchess Anne of Brittany and King Charles VII of France—that fills the first half of this engaging book. Though some aspects of the novel can feel repetitive, conflict and royal intrigue restore the pace.
Prose: The prose is practical, with no excessively flowery language. This benefits the story of the levelheaded queen-duchess, who teaches confidence and sensibility to King Charles VII.
Originality: It's refreshing to read about leaders who are able to feel compassion, even humility, as well as real love and respect for one another. Constant scheming and plotting is less the theme of this novel, but the power tussles are of course present.
Character Development: The repetition of character traits helps to give them substance, and their behaviors and inner feelings are multidimensional. Charles means well but is immature, Anne is mature and intelligent, Charles's sister Anne de Beaujeu is a schemer, and Anne's childhood friend Louis d’Orleans is enamored of his new queen.
Date Submitted: June 30, 2018
"Ms. Gaston masterfully conveys the passion, heartbreak, and determination of this royal couple."
"A historical dramatization of the 15th-century marriage between Anne of Brittany and Charles VIII of France.Upon the death of Anne’s father, Duke Francis II, she becomes the ruler of Brittany at the tender age of 11. Determined not to have her authority usurped by meddling advisers or foreign powers, she searches for a suitable husband whose allegiance will bring peace and security to Brittany. She’s offered protection—as well as condolences—by King Charles VIII of France, but she rejects his offer as an imperialist scheme to gain dominion over Brittany’s lands. In response to what he perceives as defiance, he attempts to impose French rule by force. Meanwhile, Charles has problems of his own. When his own detestable father died, he was too young to ascend to the throne, and so he labors under the officious rule of his sister, Anne de Beaujeu, the Duchess of Bourbon, who serves as regent until he reaches the age of majority. Charles eventually offers Anne a path to peace. If she marries him, he’ll immediately end his siege of Brittany. She’s filled with resentment, though, over his harsh treatment of Brittany and suspicious of any brokered compromise that surrenders her authority or ensures the future of Brittany will be in submission to a foreign ruler. Also, there’s the thorny problem of her marriage to Maximilian, the Archduke of Austria, who will one day become the Holy Roman Emperor, and an arrangement for Charles to marry his daughter, Marguerite. Gaston’s (Sense of Touch: Love and Duty at Anne of Brittany’s Court, 2016, etc.) research is admirably thorough—she artfully brings to life 15th-century Europe. Also, while the court politics of the day were knottily complex, she disentangles it all with laudable clarity. Gaston’s writing is elegant and historically authentic but also accessible. She doesn’t burden the reader with an endless train of linguistic anachronisms in order to achieve historical accuracy. Further, the romance between Anne and Charles is touchingly presented, one that traveled from suspicion and resentment through sober pragmatism to genuine love.A historically sharp and dramatically stirring love story."
Pub Date: Jan. 22nd, 2018
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Renaissance Editions
Program: Kirkus IndieReview
Posted Online: Dec. 18th, 2017
"An engrossing depiction of the meeting and marriage between Anne of Brittany and Charles VIII of France. As in her previous work, Sense of Touch, Ms. Gaston paints a colorful and interesting picture of court life in 15th century France. This book excels in humanizing one of the most misunderstood of French kings—his love and admiration for his strong wife and his self-deprecating look on his limitations and weaknesses. This fictionalized account of their complementary relationship is well worth the read."
"The highlights of the reign of King Charles VIII of France are covered in detail as well as his loving marriage to Anne, Duchess of Brittany. A delightful read with sparkling dialogue, Gaston puts a human face on these captivating historical personalities from the French Renaissance."
"A historically sharp and dramatically stirring love story."