Can Anne make a home for herself in her enemy’s divided court?
In 1491, France conquers Brittany. To make peace, fifteen-year-old Duchess Anne must marry the young French king. Only her pride sustains her when she arrives in France, defeated, friendless, and homesick. Her principal duty as queen is to provide an heir.
All France rejoices when Charles-Orland is born—except one woman. Countess Louise d’Angoulême resents the tiny, beguiling Queen Anne from the moment they meet. The countess is determined that her son shall reign. When the king sets off for Italy, his sights set on conquest, he appoints his sister as regent. Countess Louise, using her considerable skills for intrigue, grasps the opportunity to challenge the queen.
Can she befriend her husband’s sister, who orchestrated the defeat of Brittany, and regain control of her beloved duchy? Can she protect her marriage from Louise’s determination that her son will be the next king? And whose son will succeed to the throne?
This coming-of-age story, based on actual historical events and real people, takes place at the dawn of the turbulent French Renaissance, when royal women emerge from the shadows to wield power.
Plot/Idea: In a very well-executed plot involving the lives of two women: Anne, Duchess of Brittany, and Louise, Countess d'Angouleme, during the late 1400s in the royal court of France, Morgan proves adept at informing the reader of the historical timeline while still engaging them in an exciting and suspenseful tale.
Prose: Morgan's third-person narrative works well in this setting and she deftly weaves in sights, smells, and sounds of the time period, thus fully immersing the reader.
Originality: This is classic historical fiction and feels successfully executed, even as it does not bring particularly novel elements to the genre.
Character Development/Execution: The two protagonists are well-drawn, and Morgan does an excellent job of illustrating their parallel situations while still showcasing Anne's pragmatism, pluck, and morality against Louise's conniving and scheming personality.
Date Submitted: May 12, 2022
Morgan’s story is brimming with unforgettable characters. Anne’s similarities to Louise—including being forced into marriage by the unbending Madame la Grande—are overshadowed for the women by familial resentments, personal envy, and ambition that pit them against each other, though, with time, Anne acquires her own reasons to envy Louise. The novel boasts a compelling supporting cast as well, and devotees of historical fiction will be left wanting more time with the rest of Morgan’s people. Her love and knowledge of the era are well felt in the lavishly detailed world building, as is her attention to the conventions of the time in her characters’ thoughts and actions. There is also significant consideration paid to the period’s religious beliefs, lending the novel a decided authenticity that is sometimes rare in the genre.
The focus here isn't on love affairs or wars and politics—though they are present and affect the story’s events—but instead on the heroines’ emotional lives and reactions to the common struggles for women during the Renaissance, facing mighty obstacles regardless of their capability or high-born status. The result is a charming historical coming-of-age story, with Morgan breathing fresh life into overlooked historical figures.
Takeaway: Lovers of historical fiction will be delighted by this rich portrayal of an overlooked Renaissance queen and her courtiers.
Great for fans of: Elizabeth Chadwick, Alison Weir.
Design and typography: A-
Marketing copy: A-
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Keira Morgan's historical novel The Importance of Sons launches on St John the Baptist Day—24 June 2022. Morgan will host a virtual launch party on-line to celebrate the release of her second book in the series Chronicles of the House of Valois. The series tells the story of the eventful life of Anne, Duchess of Brittany and Queen of France, who lived in the turbulent 16th century.
Save the date. Details will follow.