Picking up Anne’s life after the death of her first husband, King Charles VIII of France, Anne soon winds up married to her late husband’s cousin and successor, King Louis XII – a man she has admired since childhood. Even though the marriage is presented as a love match on both sides, Anne, is determined this time to ensure the independence of her home duchy of Brittany — something she was unable to do with her first husband.
The problem with a love match however is that it’s far less intriguing than, say, a more uneven and unpredictable relationship — like the one Anne had with her first husband. That relationship helped make the first book in this series interesting. Also, the politics (mostly Louis’s efforts to annul his first marriage and Anne’s efforts to marry off her ladies-in-waiting) and warfare (chiefly Louis’s desire to conquer parts of Italy) were not particularly engrossing to me.
When I read historical fiction (which I do a lot) I’m much more interested in the people and their relationships with each other, rather than historical events. And while the author did make a valiant effort to include some of the memorable figures of the era (i.e. Christine de Pizan and Niccolo Macchiavelli), many of those passages felt forced and contrived. So that overall, this novel did not feel either fully believable or authentic. Plus, it ends VERY abruptly, without presenting much of a set-up for or motivation to head toward the third and final volume in the series.
Nevertheless, I will likely finish the series. After all, it’s not everyday you meet a smart, strong Medieval woman who is Queen of France twice over. I just can’t say this is among the better historical novels I’ve read. Maybe Anne’s life would have worked better with a two-novel approach.
More about the author, Rozsa Gaston.
You may be interested in my review of the first novel in this series: Anne and Charles: Passion and Politics in Late Medieval France.