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Anne and Louis Forever Bound

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Anne of Brittany, the reigning duchess Brittany, ruled France with Louis XII; he was the second king of France who married her.  They were well mated and ruled France together but Anne had only two daughters, one of whom married Francis, the collateral heir of Louis.  Theirs was a love and dynastic marriage which produced prosperous times for France.  Anne and Louis Forever Bound by Rozsa Gaston tells their romantic and historic marriage story.  Great read.
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As an avid reader of historical fiction, Anne and Louis Forever Bound is a riveting read. The novel follows the young Anne of Brittany throughout her marriage to the much older King Louis XII of France. Chronicling the all-consuming occupation of Anne as ruler of Brittany, and Louis’ consort, often ‘clashing’ with Louis’ interests as King of France, the novel encompasses the couple’s mutual love, admiration and devotion amidst the overwhelming heartache accompanying Anne’s many, many stillbirths and miscarriages in the quest to secure an heir for France.
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Before I begin this review, I need to apologize for its lateness. I fully intended to have this book finished and reviewed in May, but family health issues and my own employment situation took up so much of my time this summer that I'm yet again late with my writing schedule.

I received a free ARC from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review. I was also personally asked for a review by the author, Rozsa Gaston.

Rozsa Gaston's series following the life of Anne of Brittany reaches its conclusion in Forever Bound, beginning in 1508 and ending in 1514 with Anne's untimely death at 36.

The easiest way to begin is to look at what I liked. There are more narrative scenes and Anne has a much stronger personality than in the previous book and the ones before it. Claude has a whole chapter to herself, which will win me over any day. The eponymous Anne and Louis have a nuanced marriage -- loving and supportive, though often strained by their roles as politicians with contradicting goals. I loved the references to Louis's family, including his grandmother Valentina Visconti (appearing here as a painting Louis talks to for advice) and his father Charles d'Orleans, who I've written about my love for on this blog before. This ties in with the increased emphasis on family bonds, which is explored through Anne's fight for her daughters' inheritances, the loss of Louis's nephew Gaston of Foix, and Louise of Savoy's scheming for her own children.

Anne herself has some excellent moments-- especially with other characters. Her confrontation with Louis over his fight with the pope stands out, especially when she snaps and says she's not going to risk the souls of their subjects (France was facing the possibility of being placed under interdict, which would bar all subjects from taking part in the sacraments), and that Louis only cares about the Chruch when it's on his side. Her interrogation of a suspected spy in the household is also done well and has some great tension, and her finally meeting with her rival Louise of Savoy is also a delight. I also very much do enjoy the inclusion of historical images as illustrations and to give the reader a bit more context for the era and people.

This brings me to some issues I had with Anne and Louis.

My major issue with this book is one I have with most historical fiction, including my own attempts-- it is overwhelmingly exposition, with very little action. Most of the major events are related to us by the narrator, rather than through scenes of a story, and what events are deemed important enough to actually show is uneven. Hete we have scenes of the cook and kitchen maid discussing Anne's matchmaking, but the Battle of Saint-Mathieu and the loss of the Marie-la-Cordelière, one of the great tragedies of the era, as well as the reactions of Anne and Louis, are only briefly mentioned. I got the feeling I was reading a textbook rather than historical fiction and that the book wanted to be both. There is a bibliography at the back, but seceral books cited are completely unrelated, fiction, or both (like Anya Seton's Katherine). I noticed this with the previous books and I still do not understand why this is included. The dialog was decent but stilted-- Anne's habit of addressing Louis as "husband" was especially grating and made me glad when most of their conversations were over.

My second issue is with the portrayal of Louise of Savoy. Louise is Anne's main rival, now that Anne of Bejeau is no longer the major player she was in French politics. I don't object to portraying them as rivals, they obviously were, but I would liked to have seen a more nuanced take on Louise. She's the designated villain in this story, and I would accept that as just being from Anne's perspective except the book is from multiple third-person points of view. Louise was a rival to Anne, yes, and she was dedicated to her son (to the point of overprotective) but I think she had reason to be-- she was widowed at a young age with two small children, in a precarious political situation.

There's a lot you could do to compare her with Anne of Brittany, and nearing the end, Anne does realize that she also would do anything for her son had he lived, and she's already doing whatever she can for her daughters. A major issue that I found Anne and Louis XII dealing with was that they wanted what was best for their countries and those goals put them at odds, especially over their children, even though they want what's best for Claude and Renée. Louise is the same, we just don't get to sympathize with her.

Anne and Louis is a good read for people interested in the era and the people, especially those who want a general overview given in a narrative format. Thanks again to NetGalley for the ARC and thanks to Rozsa for being interested in my feedback!
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I greatly enjoyed this book! I haven't read about Anne and Louis before. So it was fresh and I learned alot that makes me want to dive in and learn more! Highly recommend this book!!
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I always loved reading historical fiction that’s why I requested Anne and Louis Forever Bound. From the very first page got my attention and liking as the author listed the characters appearing in the book making it easier to dig in to the historical background.

The story itself was really interesting and intense read with the opposite views of Anne and Louis and their developing relationship. The book takes place in the XVIth century Renaissance France perfectly showing the era. I like how the women characters are strong and independent, that’s why I believe this can be a good read not just for historical lovers but to those who likes female lead characters in books too.

Easy and fast paced read to everyone, who is interested in historical fictions, wants to learn something new or just wants some good read for their free time.
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I really enjoyed this book! It was a quick and easy read. The writer does a fabulous job in weaving in the lives of those who are the major players, and bringing these characters a breath of fresh air. Perfect for those who love historical fiction - this is a great weekend read!
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Anne and Louis Forever Bound
By Rozsa Gaston
This remarkable author looks at historical figures as human. She shows the political stories that are caused by human choices. The individual that is the historical figure has a personal story that is colored by history.
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I received Anne and Louis: Forever Bound as part of a NetGalley giveaway.

The final in a four-book series about Louis XII of France and his wife Anne of Brittany, Forever Bound finds the couple in middle age, still yearning for a male heir and in disagreement over Louis' claims to Milan and his loyalty (or lack thereof) to the pope, but still deeply in love. Meanwhile, in absence of the king's son, Louise of Savoy is determined to see her son Francis succeed Louis on the French throne, and will stop at nothing to see her ambitions fulfilled. In the waning years of Louis' reign, the trio will see their respective fortunes rise and fall at the dawn of a new era.

I hadn't read the previous books in this series, but Gaston does a good job of catching readers up with the storyline. I feel like so much of the historical fiction I read is centered on England with France as the traditional enemy, so reading about a royal couple I don't know much about was an interesting and fun experience. Also, reading about their very real love for one another--rare in this time--was nice. There were a couple asides I didn't love--Louise's dabbling in "black magic" and Anne's matchmaking for low-level servants--which rang false, but on the whole I enjoyed learning about this bit of royal history with which I wasn't terribly familiar.
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This book is a very readable account of the later years of Anne of Brittany and King Louis XII of France. While the book can be read as a standalone, some cursory knowledge of the couple and/or the time period is extremely beneficial to following all of the character dynamics. Anne is characterized as the more conscientious of the two. While Louis seemed to be antagonistic in international and religious affairs, Anne was more level headed. Anne ensured the continuity of her family's rule of the Duchy of Brittany by her capable diplomacy while serving as both Duchess of Brittany and Queen of France. She was ever aware of her need to produce a male heir of France. Although she was unable to do so, her and Louis' daughter Claude became the Queen consort of France upon Louis' death. The author Gaston shows a couple in love that are each aware of their individual responsibilities to each other, themselves, and to their people.
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Thank you to Net Galley, Rozsa Gaston and the publisher for granting me a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.  What a terrific book - easy to read and you will learn much about their relationship.  I couldn't put the book down.  If you are a fan of any kind of monarchy history - this is a must read!
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