Posts Tagged With: Spain

The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory

the-constant-princess

Synopsis:

Splendid and sumptuous historical novel from this internationally bestselling author, telling of the early life of Katherine of Aragon. We think of her as the barren wife of a notorious king; but behind this legacy lies a fascinating story. Katherine of Aragon is born Catalina, the Spanish Infanta, to parents who are both rulers and warriors. Aged four, she is betrothed to Arthur, Prince of Wales, and is raised to be Queen of England. She is never in doubt that it is her destiny to rule that far-off, wet, cold land. Her faith is tested when her prospective father-in-law greets her arrival in her new country with a great insult; Arthur seems little better than a boy; the food is strange and the customs coarse. Slowly she adapts to the first Tudor court, and life as Arthur’s wife grows ever more bearable. But when the studious young man dies, she is left to make her own future: how can she now be queen, and found a dynasty? Only by marrying Arthur’s young brother, the sunny but spoilt Henry. His father and grandmother are against it; her powerful parents prove little use. Yet Katherine is her mother’s daughter and her fighting spirit is strong. She will do anything to achieve her aim; even if it means telling the greatest lie, and holding to it. Philippa Gregory proves yet again that behind the apparently familiar face of history lies an astonishing story: of women warriors influencing the future of Europe, of revered heroes making deep mistakes, and of an untold love story which changes the fate of a nation.

This is the first book in Philippa Gregory’s Tudor series. In this book we meet Katherine of Aragon, first as a girl of 5, then as a girl of 15, as she marries Arthur. We watch their love and affection develop, and their intimacy increase, until one fateful day when Arthur dies. Katherine, a strong-willed woman, determined to be Queen of England, steps up and tells one great lie – that their marriage was not consumated. The result – her marriage to Arthur’s brother Henry. We see them crowned, and Henry become Henry VIII. With her power she manipulates, goes to war and struggles with the reality that her parents have used her as a pawn in their power struggle in Europe. But Henry is youthful and lustful – he longs for war, love, attention and an heir. How long until his eyes stray and her deadly secret is revealed?

This was an enjoyable read. Gregory takes us on a historical adventure, in both England and Spain, incorporating their two histories. She writes about European battles between France, England and Spain, and of Spanish battles with the Moors. She looks at how people are the same, even if they have different religion, and she shows what lengths people will go to to achieve their ambitions.

I liked how Katherine was written, a strong women, determined to do whatever it takes to achieve her destiny, even lying and manipulating, but yet a gentle, loving woman, who mourned Arthur’s death and was crushed by the death of her little boy. Henry was a bit irritating, but well written, as he was just a spoilt boy, as can be seen through his history and his string of marriages.

The ending is not a surprise because this is based on English history, but I liked how Gregory broke off. There are no surprises but that does not spoil the book at all. Gregory has re-told this event in history with creativity and passion. This is a good book, well worth reading.

8/10

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The Lost Diary of Don Juan by Douglas Carlton Abrams

Seville, Spain in the year 1593 is a wealthy city.  The gold and riches pouring in from the New World have led to prosperity for Spain but unfortunately the country has lost many of its men to recent wars and the colonization of the New World.  There are more widows and lonely wives than ever before.  The result of the low male population is the rise of the Galanteador, a gallant or seducer.  The most successful and famous of these was Don Juan Tenorio.

Don Juan was abandoned as an infant at a convent in Seville.  He was raised by the nuns who were thrilled to have a child in their care.  Growing up amidst a group of women has great advantages for Don Juan.  He learns to understand and love them in a way that many men do not.   At the age of fifteen he falls in love with a young novice but their affair is found out and he is expelled from the convent.   He briefly lives in a nearby monastery where he is mistreated by the monks, so he leaves to make his own way in the world. 

After several years as a burglar Juan is befriended by a Marquis who trains him to be a spy and Galanteador.   Juan learns quickly and soon exceeds the Marquis in talent.  He becomes famous for his exploits with women.  He worships women and he believes that he could never be happy with just one.  His happiness lies in showing each different woman how beautiful she is, regardless of her age, race or station in life.  Then one day Don Juan meets the beautiful Ana and she has an unexpected effect on him.

The narrative will leave you breathless.  It has amazing sword fights, frantic escapes, a fantastic bull fight, the horrors and torture of the Inquisition and steamy love scenes.   It is full of action and excitement and I couldn’t put it down!   The characters run the gamut from charming and endearing to dastardly and evil.   I was rooting for Don Juan as he grew from his experiences and finally learned the truth about love.

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