The Queen’s Vow: A Novel of Isabella of Castile by C.W. Gortner



Romantic-Biographical Fiction

Heat level 2 – moderate

Renaissance era


BLURB:  No one believed I was destined for greatness.

So begins Isabella’s story, in this evocative, vividly imagined novel about one of history’s most famous and controversial queens—the warrior who united a fractured country, the champion of the faith whose reign gave rise to the Inquisition, and the visionary who sent Columbus to discover a New World. Acclaimed author C. W. Gortner envisages the turbulent early years of a woman whose mythic rise to power would go on to transform a monarchy, a nation, and the world.

Young Isabella is barely a teenager when she and her brother are taken from their mother’s home to live under the watchful eye of their half-brother, King Enrique, and his sultry, conniving queen. There, Isabella is thrust into danger when she becomes an unwitting pawn in a plot to dethrone Enrique. Suspected of treason and held captive, she treads a perilous path, torn between loyalties, until at age seventeen she suddenly finds herself heiress of Castile, the largest kingdom in Spain. Plunged into a deadly conflict to secure her crown, she is determined to wed the one man she loves yet who is forbidden to her—Fernando, prince of Aragon.

As they unite their two realms under “one crown, one country, one faith,” Isabella and Fernando face an impoverished Spain beset by enemies. With the future of her throne at stake, Isabella resists the zealous demands of the inquisitor Torquemada even as she is seduced by the dreams of an enigmatic navigator named Columbus. But when the Moors of the southern domain of Granada declare war, a violent, treacherous battle against an ancient adversary erupts, one that will test all of Isabella’s resolve, her courage, and her tenacious belief in her destiny.

From the glorious palaces of Segovia to the battlefields of Granada and the intrigue-laden gardens of Seville, The Queen’s Vow sweeps us into the tumultuous forging of a nation and the complex, fascinating heart of the woman who overcame all odds to become Isabella of Castile.


I could not put this book down! As he did with Juana of Castile in The Last Queen, Gortner has once again taken a historical queen and made her as interesting and exciting as any modern day heroine.  It’s interesting to me how little I knew of Isabella of Spain; one who was so instrumental in allowing Columbus to open the way for the future settlement of what would become America.  Of course, that is what we were taught when I was in elementary school so many years ago.  The implications of what came after Columbus’s discovery is entirely another story.  And yes, this is a fictional depiction of a historical figure, but there is no denying the historical accuracy here.  Gortner does his research well.

Isabella rose to power in a tumultuous time in Spain.  To say that she was a steadfast and determined woman is saying little.  The conventions of the time did not allow a princess to choose their own husband and yet she did.  Spurred by her own will and her strong Catholic faith, Isabella was a force to be reckoned with.  Her marriage to a prince of Aragon was a love match, yes, but also a strategic move for the uniting of Spain.  Together they brought about the change of many conventions in Spain.

However, her reign was not without its blemishes.  The Inquisition and the expulsion of the Jews are two events that have brought much negativity to history’s portrayal of Isabella.  However, Gortner has succeeded in depicting a possible reason for her decisions by giving us a multifaceted woman who believed in compassion and yet was driven by a faith that had no tolerance for other religions.  To truly judge a person’s actions, we would need to know more about the real person and yet we must rely on the history books.  Gortner has done a good job of giving us a very human woman who truly felt her actions were for the good of her kingdom.

I have now been inspired to read more about the history of Spain and its ruling class.  Once again, historical fiction has done its very important job; that of leading us to further learning about history.  Something only a well written book can do.  This is that book.

Note:  There is an excellent author’s note at the end of the book with further resources for reading about Isabella and her times.  Also, a special note about a cause dear to my heart.  The plight of Spanish greyhounds.  Be sure to check it out.


First, and foremost, I’m the mom of two wonderful boys.  An avid reader, since early childhood, and book collector, my home library numbers at over 3000 books, with fiction at 2000+.  I’m a used book/library sale junkie! A major history buff, I have a great passion for historical fiction. I’m also a major fan of the horror and fantasy genres, but you will often find me reading just about anything.  As a writer, I am working on my first novel, set in 14th century Italy and most likely landing under the heading of historical paranormal fiction (if there is such a thing).  My main blog (I have 10 total) is a book review site focusing primarily on historical fiction, my passion.  And, of course, no serious book lover and writer could be without cats and so I have my faithful black cat, Alice, and her new sister, Arya, by my side.


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  1. I’m smack in the middle of listening to the audiobook of THE QUEEN’S VOW and I’m blown away. While the only sex I’ve encountered so far is Isabella and Fernando’s wedding night, what it lacks in racy-ness, it more than makes up for in intimacy (which for me is an extremely important aspect of romance). I felt like I was a fly on the wall in their bedroom. If you want one of the steamiest sex scenes in well-written historical fiction, read Gortner’s THE LAST QUEEN. C.W. is my hands-down favorite HF authors.

  2. Thank you, ladies! Yes, Gortner is a contender in the historical fiction realm. Many already know that The Last Queen is one of my favorite books. I will truly look forward to reading anything Christopher writes!

  3. Hi Michelle! GREAT review:) I’m almost done reading this and like you cannot put it down. This is a fabulous author who knows who to tell a tale and keep it accurate. I’m now fascinated by Spanish history too!

  4. I missed our last discussion cuz my Internet down for two days! But will catch up on Saturday. I think everyone is excited about this one. Busy week…and with smy short story marathon…ouf!

    • Hey, don’t feel bad. I’ve read the book and I still have missed the last two. I’m just incredibly busy this week. Work decided to swamp me, plus read-a-thon hosting duties. Doesn’t leave much time for reading or discussion!

  5. I’ve had a couple of books by this author on my TBR pile for a while – this and the Catherine de Medici one. I really must get around to them sooner rather than later!

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