Author examines life of Queen Isabella of Spain

Queen Isabella of Spain is well-known for her encouragement of Christopher Columbus’ expeditions to the New World, as well as for uniting her fractured country, transforming Spain into a world player in Europe. But there has been little written about her beginnings, her childhood and her young adult years.

Until now.

In his historical novel “The Queen’s Vow: A Novel of Isabella of Castile,” author C.W. Gortner delves into the illusive Spanish queen’s background, creating a fascinating story of intrigue and power struggles with a generous helping of romance.

Young Isabella's initial exposure to royal politics comes just before the demise of her father, King Juan II of Castile, a man who has grieved himself to death after the murder of his confidante/lover. At least that is what Isabella's furious mother believes.

Standing by her father's deathbed, 4-year-old Isabella is startled to see the look of greed on her half brother Enrique's face, a look that would reflect the kind of king he would become. Banishing Isabella, her brother Alfonso and her mother, the Dowager Queen, to a remote and crumbling castle, Enrique forgets about his father’s family until he finds he needs the children for reasons of his own.

King Enrique seems incapable of fathering an heir, although his wife manages to conceive a beautiful but possibly illegitimate daughter, much to the delight of the court and public gossipers. Enrique has summoned his half brother and sister to take their place as his heirs to the throne, all the while pitting them against each other in a vicious political game that would only lead to grief.

However, Queen Juana insists her daughter is the heir to the throne and does everything in her power to guarantee that neither Alfonso nor Isabella will ever rule Castile. Queen Juana's treachery makes for tense and riveting reading, supplemented by the increasing notorious influence of the king's own lover.

Isabella's world dramatically alters after she meets Prince Ferdinand of Aragon; they connect immediately with an unexpected tenderness and passion. Their brief meeting marks the beginning of an eventual marriage of mind and heart that will have its highs and lows but more notably will be marked by the manner in which they treat each other, with respect and equality hardly seen in that particular country or time.

Their union continues with the rise of military conflicts and the Church's insistence that an Inquisition be conducted to root out Jewish heretics (and more as Isabella suspects) that is earning Spain divine disfavor. These are just a few of the contentious problems the couple must deal with as they begin to raise a family and prepare the united country of Spain for prosperity in years to come.

“The Queen's Vow” is brilliantly and meticulously researched, with author Gortner spending several years in Spain to gather his facts and information to form as complete a look at this fascinating queen as possible. Through his creative and spellbinding storytelling, Gortner’s readers come to know Isabella intimately in mind, heart and body as she lives through a tumultuous time, her intense longing to be the determiner of her own unique destiny.