Written in the early 60’s, Daughters of Spain is the last in Plaidy’s trilogy about Queen Isabella of Castile and covers roughly the last ten years of her life. During this period, Isabella’s focus is on her children as she watches them get married, have children and become pawns in Europe’s great chess game. She must also grieve as a couple of her children die young – including her only son. Then there are her worries about Juana, the high-spirited, wild child that history would later dub as mad/crazy and uneasiness over sending her youngest, Catalina, off to England. Worries that turn out to not be totally unfounded.
As if problems with her children are not enough, political and religious upheavals also require her attention and she continually struggles with the consequences of her husband’s ego and resentment of her power. It’s not easy being queen and seeing the conflicts between the ruler, the wife and the mother makes you wonder if Elizabeth I had the right idea after all.
Dominating the religious scene is the Archbishop of Toledo , Ximenes, who reluctantly accepts the position but quickly begins pushing his own agenda of reforms and for dealing with the Muslims. Ximenes is ruthless in getting what he wants and he’s not above guilting his queen into going along with him by convincing her that her children’s misfortunes are a result of God being displeased with her inaction.
This is a standard Plaidy – a good introduction to the history and players of the period without a lot of detail weighing it down but it can be a little dry at times. The narrative keeps its distance by telling us how the characters feel rather than allowing the reader to feel it with them. The result is that by the end, there still isn’t a good sense of what kind of person Isabella might have really been. Not my favorite Plaidy, but not the worst either and I did enjoy reading about an unfamiliar time and place as well as Isabella’s lesser known children (Isabella, Juan and Maria).
In case the FTC asks: bought on ebay