Book Review: The Forsaken Queen by Susan Appleyard #RBRT #historical fiction #historical romance

Susan Appleyard is the award-winning author of six books of historical fiction. Her latest, The Forsaken Queen, is about Queen Isabella of England, wife of the feckless Edward II.

Isabella’s reputation is not sterling – she has been called the ‘She-wolf of France’ – in part because of her contravention of custom and her extravagant lifestyle, plus her determination not to be the victim of corrupt men.

England's Queen Isabella, She-Wolf of France

Isabella was the youngest surviving child of Phillip IV of France and Joan I of Navarre. She was married in 1308 at the age of 12 to Edward, a handsome young king. At that time England was experiencing a period of growing conflict between the king and powerful baronial factions. Despite that, her early married years were happy and productive – she and Edward had four children, one of whom would rule as Edward III of England and another as Queen Joan of Scotland. When Edward came under the spell of a charismatic young man, Piers Gaveston, with whom he was rumored to have a romantic relationship, the Queen continued to support Edward, forming a working relationship with Piers and using her relationship with the French monarchy to bolster her own authority and power. During this time, Isabella was known for her beauty, diplomatic skills, and intelligence.

Gaveston was killed by the barons in 1312, only to be replaced by a new favorite of Edward’s, Hugh Despenser the Younger. Edward was a weak king and, ruled by Hugh Despenser, tried to take revenge on the barons, resulting in internecine warfare and repressive acts. Isabella hated Hugh Despenser and considered him to be the cause of her disintegrating marriage. Hugh turned Edward against her and persecuted her, keeping Isabella as a virtual prisoner – until she took destiny into her own hands.

Historically, Isabella is not an endearing character; she has been compared to Cercei in Game of Thrones! Nevertheless, the author makes her worthy of the reader’s sympathy, creating a three-dimensional character who is all too human, with understandable foibles and the need for love and support. She is a fierce mother not only to her children but to her adopted country, England, becoming the first person to depose a sitting king and serving as regent and advisor to her son until he was old enough to become an effective leader.

I do love a good historical novel, especially one with a strong woman character and Appleyard does not disappoint. She brings the age to life with great attention to detail. Her characters live and breathe passion, romance, ambition, greed, evil, and duplicity. There is also a sizzling romance which develops into a life long love. This book is not a dense read, as some historical novels I have read have been, but it entertains, teaches history, and makes you feel a connection to Isabella. If you like historical novels, this is a must read. It reminded me of the novels of Phillipa Gregory, who is a favorite of mine.

About the author

Susan Appleyard was born in England, which is where she learned to love English history. She now lives in Canada in the summer. In winter she and her husband flee the cold for their second home in Mexico. Susan divides her time between writing and her hobby, oil painting. Writing will always be her first love. She was fortunate enough to have had two books published traditionally and is very excited about publishing ebooks.

She is the author of six other historical novels including This Son of York, Queen of Trial and Sorrow,  The First Plantagenet, and The Remorseless Queen.

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