Anne and Louis Forever Bound
The Final Years of Anne of Brittany's Marriage to Louis XII of France
by Rozsa Gaston
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Pub Date 10 May 2021 | Archive Date 15 Sep 2021
The year is 1508. Louis XII, King of France, wants to stamp France’s footprint upon Italy.
Anne of Brittany, Queen of France, and ruler of neighboring realm Brittany, wants to produce a son and heir for Louis and to save the independence of Brittany from France.
Louise of Savoy, the mother of the king’s intended successor, the future Francis I, wants to see her son on the throne of France.
All three have suffered the twisting of their fates by Anne de Beaujeu, the spider king’s daughter, who ruled France from 1483-1491. Two shake off her shadow; one does not.
One sees their dreams come true; two do not. But in this game of thrones, winners lose and losers win the greatest prize of all.
Anne and Louis Forever Bound is the standalone fourth and final novel of the award-winning Anne of Brittany Series (Anne and Louis, Book Two, is the general fiction winner of the Publishers Weekly 2018 BookLife Prize).
“A vibrant and dynamic retelling of Louis XII and Anne of Brittany's life, this novel moves at a quick pace that pulls readers into the story. Gaston's prose is lovely and compulsively readable, driven by and in service of the dynamic plot. Anne’s voice shines through the page. As a protagonist she captivates and balances well with Louis, whose story feels fresh and new.”—Publishers Weekly BookLife Prize
“In this fourth installment of a series revolving around Anne of Brittany, Gaston once again displays an extraordinary knowledge of the period, an erudite mastery evident on every page. She achieves an impressive historical authenticity, translating an intricate story into a captivating drama. Anne is a mesmerizingly complex character—decent yet calculating, fierce yet vulnerable. Gaston’s writing avoids melodrama—but not at the expense of flair and emotional poignancy. An engrossing and rigorously researched work of historical fiction.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Gaston’s best yet. The book delivers delicious and vivid detail of a royal romance with plenty of 16th century Renaissance French and European history, intrigue in the background and strong women characters. Lovers of historical fiction will find it a splendid and enjoyable read.”—Susan Abernethy, The Freelance History Writer
“This last volume of the entwined story of Anne, Queen of France and Duchess of Brittany, and King Louis XII of France begins in 1508. It is a time of troubles for Louis and France. The relationship between Anne and Louis sizzles with drama as their opposite political views place a strain on the deep love they share. Gaston brings their conflict to life with such intensity and keeps up the drama that I couldn't put the book down. Bravo for her fortissimo closing to a dramatic era in French history. Anne, still remembered as the "Good Duchess" of Brittany and Louis, The Father of His People, have been overlooked for far too long in historical fiction written in English. I highly recommend this novel.”—Keira Morgan, author of The Importance of Pawns, All About French Renaissance Women
Average rating from 14 members
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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