Saturday, 5 April 2014

Review of Isabella, Braveheart of France by Colin Falconer

'Isabella, Braveheart of France' is an intriguing title chosen by Colin Falconer, because it immediately made it associate it with the dreadful 'Braveheart' film.  It also made me think this was going to be yet another novel with poor, wronged Isabella, innocently marrying Edward and unaware of the great love of her husband's life, Piers Gaveston.  We do indeed get an Isabella, young and naive, and of course beautiful, who imagines her husband will fall madly in love with her and they will live happily ever after.  However, what we don't get is a weak and vain Edward who enjoys inflicting cruelty upon his child bride.  Instead, Isabella comes to understand no matter how beautiful she is, it will never be enough for her husband to give up his love for Piers - even when Piers is murdered.  Years later, Isabella hears Edward talking aloud to the long dead Piers, and their marriage continues to be haunted by his spirit.

Piers himself is more of a presence in this novel than a character.  Although there are scenes featuring him, we never get a physical description of him, which I found puzzling and frustrating.  We don't even know if he is blonde or dark-haired, the colour of his eyes etc.  We know he's graceful, elegant and actually quite likable - he doesn't behave spitefully towards Isabella at all.  Edward of course does everything he can to protect Piers - to the point where Piers says if he were a woman, Edward would be admired for protecting his ' honour'.  Edward's grief at losing Piers is very movingly written.

The characters/roles of Roger Mortimer and Hugh Despencer are very interesting and not what I was expecting.  I won't give away too much, but Despencer turns out to be Edward's revenge on England for the loss of Piers, and Mortimer's relationship with Isabella is not what I expected - it's far from a great romance and Mortimer at times is brutal towards her in the bedroom, and there are times she longs for Edward's gentle hands.

This novel is well worth a read, and is available in Kindle and paperback format.