Friday, February 21, 2014

Review: Isabella - Braveheart of France by Colin Falconer

Isabella: Braveheart of France

by Colin Falconer

About Isabella: Braveheart of France
Publication Date: September 3, 2013
Cool Gus Publishing
Paperback; 218p
ISBN-10: 1621250911

She was taught to obey. Now she has learned to rebel.

Isabella is just twelve years old when she marries Edward II of England. For the young princess it is love at first sight - but Edward has a terrible secret that threatens to tear their marriage - and England apart.

Who is Piers Gaveston - and why is his presence in the king’s court about to plunge England into civil war?

The young queen believes in the love songs of the troubadours and her own exalted destiny - but she finds reality very different. As she grows to a woman in the deadly maelstrom of Edward’s court, she must decide between her husband, her children, even her life - and one breath-taking gamble that will change the course of history.

Does she submit to a lifetime of solitude and a spiritual death - or seize her destiny and take the throne of England for herself?

This is the story of Isabella, the only woman ever to invade England - and win.

About the Author:

Born in London, Colin first trialed as a professional football player in England, and was eventually brought to Australia. He went to Sydney and worked in TV and radio and freelanced for many of Australia’s leading newspapers and magazines. He has published over twenty novels and his work has so far been translated into 23 languages.

He travels regularly to research his novels and his quest for authenticity has led him to run with the bulls in Pamplona, pursue tornadoes across Oklahoma and black witches across Mexico, go cage shark diving in South Africa and get tear gassed in a riot in La Paz.

His most recent novels are Silk Road, set in the 13th century, and Stigmata, set against the backdrop of the Albigensian Crusade in Southern France in 1209. He currently lives in Barcelona.

For more information please visit Colin Falconer's blog. You can also find him on Facebook or follow on Twitter.

My thoughts:

Isabella, proud daughter of the French King Philip IV, was raised from the cradle to look to her marriage to bring glory and honor to France.  She was raised to obey, but was a born observer.  So while she outwardly was everything she was meant and believed to be: innocent, complacent and even servile; inside Isabella a remarkable intelligent with the equally remarkable gift of insight into reading the innuendo and duplicity of politics.  She keenly observed the double entendre of politics and learned to listen and watch before she ever realized that she would desperately need these skills later in life.

Isabella was an innocent girl of twelve with a head full of romantic notions of knights and maidens and looked to marriage for true love, indeed she fell in love with her groom the moment she first saw him. Unfortunately for Isabella, she was an unknowing pawn in the never ending strife between England and France and her groom, King of England, Edward II was not a typical man.  Edward was neither a born leader nor a man of character and preferred almost any activity to kingship and most importantly was in love with another, Piers Gaveston.  Isabella realized quickly that she would have to fight to win the heart of her husband and she steeled her will and determination to do just that.

Isabella maintained the obedience that was expected of queens and did manage, almost through her shear will to win some signs of tenderness from her husband and in time managed to conceive several children.  Isabella tried to consul her husband to rule and for a time he heeded her advice, but after the execution of Piers, an event Isabella thought would be her liberation, another more devious and more politically motivated favorite emerged to rule Edward, Hugh Dispenser.

As Isabella became a woman she came to realize that it wasn't Piers or even Dispenser that was the problem for her, for her marriage and for her adopted country.  The problem was the inability of Edward to make a decision thoughtfully and stand by it, to rule wisely and shrewdly, to play the game of politics that Isabella had observed so keenly.  After so many years of marriage, of disappointment, betrayal, broken promises and virtual abandonment, the caged lion within Isabella rose and she took her life into her own hands.

Falconer breathes life into Isabella.  For this reader, her motives and her reasoning become understandable.  Falconer sheds the myth of Isabella as the "she-wolf" and brings to the reader the story of a child bride who learns that in order to survive she must go against everything she was raised to be and embody and to disappoint the hopes of her beloved father and France to save the country she had come to love.

I was intrigued from the first page and remained riveted until the last.  Isabella:  Braveheart of France is a must read and one you will not regret.  

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