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Anne and Louis: Passion and Politics in Early Renaissance France
Rozsa Gaston, author
The story of the first years of Anne of Brittany's marriage to Louis XII, King of France, Anne and Louis is Book Two of the Anne of Brittany Series.

Finalist

Plot/Idea: 10 out of 10
Originality: 10 out of 10
Prose: 10 out of 10
Character/Execution: 10 out of 10
Overall: 10.00 out of 10

Assessment:

Plot: Historical fiction must have its own plot and follow along with history, and this is truly a balancing act. This book handles that balance with superb skill and the author successfully wills Anne of Brittany alive without making the read a stuffy history lesson. Readers will be pulled into the story and plot.

Prose: The prose is smooth, mostly flawless, and engaging. It moves the pace of the book appropriately and paints vivid images of past times. The prose summons the history of Anne of Brittany and the surrounding characters to life.

Originality: The historical story of Anne of Brittany is original and recounted in a unique manner here. The syntax and prose sound accurate to the appropriate time period, and readers will feel as if they've traveled back in time.

Character Development: The characters project strong voices that engage the reader throughout the novel. The dialogue is sharp and engaging, and one of the strongest elements of the book.

Date Submitted: August 31, 2018

Reviews
Eleanor Brown, New York Times bestselling author

 “A lively, engaging story, rich with historical detail that brings the story of a forgotten queen to life. Reminiscent of Philippa Gregory and Jean Plaidy, Anne and Louis gives voice to Anne of Brittany, allowing her to step from the historical shadows and illuminating her as a determined and influential political figure, as well as a bright and devoted woman in her own right.”—Eleanor Brown, New York Times bestselling author, The Weird Sisters,The Light of Paris (November 1, 2018)

InD'tale Magazine

"A gripping novel about a larger than life queen, Anne and Louis is a smartly written read filled with both passion and wit." (October 31, 2018)

Kirkus Reviews

"A dramatically engrossing and historically searching tale about a powerful duchess."

In 1498, Anne of Brittany pines to marry King Louis XII of France, but considerable political hurdles must first be cleared in this sequel.

Anne is the duchess of Brittany and the sovereign ruler of the land now that her husband, the philandering Charles VIII, has died. She deeply loves Louis XII and he returns her affections. The two yearn to have a child together, but Anne refuses to entertain his offer of marriage until he can legitimately annul his union with Princess Jeanne of France. Jeanne is a decent woman, but is grotesquely deformed physically and incapable of bearing the child for whom Louis so desperately pines. Problematically, Jeanne is exceedingly popular with the people, so Louis must tread carefully in dissolving the union. While he was forced by Jeanne’s father to wed her out of practical concerns, he was still at the age of consent (14 years old) and he did consummate the marriage. Louis turns to Pope Alexander VI, reliably corrupt, for
his blessing, but in return must grant his eldest son, Cesare Borgia, an elevated title and a French princess. Cesare chooses Charlotte of Naples, but she rejects his attentions—she is “one of the most refined maids of honor at Anne’s court,” and he is repulsively coarse as well as infamously dangerous, reputed to have murdered his own brother. Cesare,
though, remains obstinate: “The young braggadocio had taken up residence nearby and wouldn’t leave France until he had gotten what he came for: a noble French bride, preferably a princess.” Gaston (Anne and Charles, 2018) continues her dramatic exploration of Anne’s life, and like the novel’s predecessor, her extraordinary travails and triumphs are depicted in lively, expressive terms. In addition, the author’s historical research is scrupulous and exacting, down to the dialogue. Gaston expertly depicts Anne’s—and Brittany’s—predicament (“She would return to Brittany and Louis
would follow, should he obtain his annulment. She would not consent to become his wife unless a marriage contract was signed that assured her full rights as sole sovereign and administrator of her duchy”). In addition, the author skillfully explores the intersection of the French world with a budding Italian Renaissance.

A dramatically engrossing and historically searching tale about a powerful duchess. (Nov. 12, 2018)

Midwest Book Review

Anne and Louis is a masterpiece that paints an extraordinary vision of its times . . . a powerfully-written saga that requires only an interest in a compelling love story and its historical background to prove satisfying, revealing, educational, and hard to put down.

Anne and Louis: Passion and Politics in Early Renaissance France: The First Years of Anne of Brittany's Marriage to Louis XII will delight readers of historical fiction who want their dramas firmly rooted in facts. This audience—especially those who enjoyed the first book in the Anne of Brittany series—will find a compelling continuation of the saga in this story of Anne, the Duchess of Brittany, who has a country to run even as her lover Louis has a controversial annulment to pursue in order to fulfill his romance with Anne.Even more complicated are the politics which dictate their romance and relationship. This is an overlay which creates seemingly insurmountable controversies between the couple and their individual political circles, and is deftly explained by Rozsa Gaston, whose saga assumes no previous knowledge of Anne of Brittany, Louis XII, or French history and politics. This makes the tale accessible to both history buffs and those with a milder familiarity with the era.

At age 21, Anne was both a widow and the ruler of a kingdom, as committed to maintaining Brittany's independence from France as she was in seeing her relationship with Louis become a bond between their countries.Their struggles in 16th-century Europe on the cusp of the Renaissance era come to life as Anne finds herself caught between love and country.Chapters don't just build the characters and explore the issues between Anne and Louis, but also probe their world. Thus, the romances and relationships between others are also presented within the context of the social mores of their times ("When he looked up, Charlotte of Naples and Aragon was floating toward him in the full glory of her youth and serene beauty. He felt himself in the presence of a goddess. One day such a glorious creature would grow into a woman like his mother or the duchess Anne. For such a woman, an offer of marriage must follow a kiss. But first, a kiss. Her father would kill her; her mother would roll over in her grave. She had allowed him to take her hand.").

Rozsa Gaston presents a rich, multifaceted universe through the eyes of a number of characters who interact with their world, which she spices with vivid descriptions to bring the setting to life through the eyes, experiences, and thoughts of many: "Anne of Brittany turned her back on her high-spirited charges to climb the final steps to the summit. At the top the flat marshy countryside spread out before her. In the late morning sunlight the bay of Mont-St.-Michel shimmered in the distance like a beckoning jewel. Beyond the bay was the Mor Breizh, also known as the Channel, the body of water over which Brittany’s settlers had traveled from the British Isles. She drank in the view as her lungs filled with fresh sea air."

Adding to the feel of the story are lovely color artworks and images of the times, which pepper a saga that brings to life Anne's concerns, her people, her romance, and her conundrums. From her distrust of Italian politics and her appetite for luxury to the impact of her relationship with Louis, yet another powerful strength to this story is its astute assessment of how the personalities of each affected their choices and political perceptions: "Her Louis was too nice a man to be entering into agreements with wily Italians seeking to take advantage of his innate decency. She would protect her husband’s interests while this sharp second secretary remained among them. Louis’ step sounded on the stairs above and all eyes turned. As Anne gazed at her husband’s beneficent expression and handsome yet careworn face, her heart hurt. She knew behind her, the shrewd young Florentine would be sizing him up and determining sooner rather than later that France’s king could be easily manipulated on the Italian peninsula."

All this means that the story about a changing society as the Renaissance gets started is given a personal touch that brings the entire era to life through Anne's eyes and the experiences of those who interact with her.The result is a powerfully-written saga that requires only an interest in a compelling love story and its historical background to prove satisfying, revealing, educational, and hard to put down, all in one.

Quite simply, “Anne and Louis is a masterpiece that paints an extraordinary  vision of its times, capturing the facets of a social and political milieu with historical accuracy and vibrant emotional resonance.”—D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review (October 3, 2018)

The Freelance History Writer

“Filled with strong women characters and jam-packed with history, Gaston gives us a lively narrative of an intelligent woman who diligently maintained the independence of her beloved duchy while navigating French politics during her marriage to King Louis XII.”

—Susan Abernethy, The Freelance History Writer

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