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The Spanish Bride: A Novel of Catherine of Aragon [Paperback]

Laurien Gardner
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Paperback, 25 Oct 2005 --  


Product details

  • Paperback: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Jove Books (25 Oct 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0515140279
  • ISBN-13: 978-0515140279
  • Product Dimensions: 16.8 x 10.4 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,719,566 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a very compelling and absorbing read 18 May 2006
By tregatt
Format:Paperback
Seemingly, writing a novel about piggy Henry (my special name for Henry VIII -- yes, I am biased and proud of it) and his six unfortunate wives has become very much the thing of late. So that the question of whether or not there really is a need for any more such novels becomes a legitimate question. I think that if an author possesses an interesting notion on how to handle this oft told tale(s), then she (or indeed he) should go for it. Laurien Gardner seems to possess such a take: by telling the story of each of these ill fated women via the voices of intimate friends. And in the very first installment of this series, "The Spanish Queen," Catherine of Aragon's (Henry VIII's first wife) early years in England, before she became Queen of England, and the last few years of her life -- whilst Henry was trying to end their marriage -- is told via the memories of Catherine's maid of honour, Estrella de Montoya.

The novel opens in 1501, with the arrival in England of a very young Catherine of Aragon, and her household (which, of course, includes an equally young Estrella de Montoya). Catherine is to marry the heir to the English throne, the sickly Prince Arthur. Her mind filled with tales of Arthurian knights and chivalry, Catherine is sure that she and her young maids of honour will meet and marry young English gentlemen that embody the very stories she has devoured. It is a time of great promise and much rejoicing. But all to soon, things come to a crashing halt, when days after their much celebrated wedding, Arthur dies, leaving Catherine a widow with no future. Abandoned and treated quite cruelly by her father-in-law (the tight-fisted and insecure Henry VII), Catherine clings to the promise made that she will marry Arthur's younger brother, Henry, when he is of age.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Fine Historical Read! 26 Dec 2005
Format:Paperback
Ms. Gardner's story "The Spanish Bride" is a well-written story that will sweep the reader back to Tudor times under the rule of Henry VIII. With her vivid way of writing the reader is gifted with a peak at a time past.
Catherine of Aragon comes to England in 1502 with her ladies, which include Estella de Montoya. With big expectations they both take their proper places in the royal households. By 1527 Catherine has married Henry at his request and has failed in her duty as Queen by providing a male heir for the crown. Estella returns from the north after the death of her English husband. She takes her place beside her friend just as Henry puts her aside in order to pursue his own agenda. Through it all Estella stays by her friend even when it becomes dangerous. She deals with her own problems as she finds a growing attraction with Piers Hilsey. With the dramatic backdrop of political and emotional issues Estella and Catherine stay strong and live life by their own terms. Will Estella be able to find her own happiness while standing by her friend?
This is a wonderful read if you are truly a fan of the historic fiction genre. Although at times this story is dark and a bit gloomy, it is well worth the effort to pick up. Ms. Gardner has not re-written history but instead created a story around true historical events and people. This is a rich tapestry of facts and historical detail.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not bad . . . but not great either 14 Jan 2007
By Liam
Format:Paperback
I must admit I was disappointed in this book. I thought the premise of a novel for each of Henry VIII's wives was a wonderful idea. And don't get me wrong - Katherine of Aragon is my favourite of Henry VIII's wives, and I've no fondness for the king himself. And yes, it was a good idea to tell the story through the eyes of one of Katherine's ladies - Estrella - so as to avoid rehashing a story told many times before.

However, the problem is (for me anyway) Estrella is simply not a compelling character. I found her dull as dishwater, and I simply couldn't understand the constant references throughout the novel to her 'fiery' nature - I didn't see a trace of it! I just wasn't interested at all in her little romances with courtiers, I don't think they added anything whatsoever to the book.

Also, I found the scene where Henry informed Katherine he wanted a divorce ridiculous - it all happens so suddenly. He more or less walks in and says 'it's over'. I think Henry himself is portrayed rather unfairly. He was no saint - that's an understatement - but at one point Estrella speculates that Henry 'wouldn't hesitate' to kill his daughter Mary, which I think is something he never, ever would have considered.

I gave the book 2 stars, not 1, because it's not entirely without it's redeeming features; a sympathetic story, reasonable characters, but it lost a lot of points not only for what I mentioned above, but also for some historical inaccuracies, particularly regarding dates. I wouldn't reccommend it, unless you want to buy absolutely every novel ever written on the subject.
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Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  20 reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Fine Historical Read! 23 Dec 2005
By Kristi Ahlers - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Ms. Gardner's story "The Spanish Bride" is a well-written story that will sweep the reader back to Tudor times under the rule of Henry VIII. With her vivid way of writing the reader is gifted with a peak at a time past.

Catherine of Aragon comes to England in 1502 with her ladies, which include Estella de Montoya. With big expectations they both take their proper places in the royal households. By 1527 Catherine has married Henry at his request and has failed in her duty as Queen by providing a male heir for the crown. Estella returns from the north after the death of her English husband. She takes her place beside her friend just as Henry puts her aside in order to pursue his own agenda. Through it all Estella stays by her friend even when it becomes dangerous. She deals with her own problems as she finds a growing attraction with Piers Hilsey. With the dramatic backdrop of political and emotional issues Estella and Catherine stay strong and live life by their own terms. Will Estella be able to find her own happiness while standing by her friend?

This is a wonderful read if you are truly a fan of the historic fiction genre. Although at times this story is dark and a bit gloomy, it is well worth the effort to pick up. Ms. Gardner has not re-written history but instead created a story around true historical events and people. This is a rich tapestry of facts and historical detail.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a very compelling and absorbing read 16 Nov 2005
By tregatt - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Seemingly, writing a novel about piggy Henry (my special name for Henry VIII -- yes, I am biased and proud of it) and his six unfortunate wives has become very much the thing of late. So that the question of whether or not there really is a need for any more such novels becomes a legitimate question. I think that if an author possesses an interesting notion on how to handle this oft told tale(s), then she (or indeed he) should go for it. Laurien Gardner seems to possess such a take: by telling the story of each of these ill fated women via the voices of intimate friends. And in the very first installment of this series, "The Spanish Queen," Catherine of Aragon's (Henry VIII's first wife) early years in England, before she became Queen of England, and the last few years of her life -- whilst Henry was trying to end their marriage -- is told via the memories of Catherine's maid of honour, Estrella de Montoya.

The novel opens in 1501, with the arrival in England of a very young Catherine of Aragon, and her household (which, of course, includes an equally young Estrella de Montoya). Catherine is to marry the heir to the English throne, the sickly Prince Arthur. Her mind filled with tales of Arthurian knights and chivalry, Catherine is sure that she and her young maids of honour will meet and marry young English gentlemen that embody the very stories she has devoured. It is a time of great promise and much rejoicing. But all to soon, things come to a crashing halt, when days after their much celebrated wedding, Arthur dies, leaving Catherine a widow with no future. Abandoned and treated quite cruelly by her father-in-law (the tight-fisted and insecure Henry VII), Catherine clings to the promise made that she will marry Arthur's younger brother, Henry, when he is of age. In the meantime, she and her loyal maids must contend with the fact that they are growing older and that the splendid matches that were promised have come to nothing. As the years pass and their prospects shrink, the ladies must decide whether or not they should return to Spain unmarried or whether they should gamble with the vagaries of fortune and remain in England...

I've always had a soft spot for Catherine of Aragon (and for Henry's fourth wife, Anne of Cleves), so that "The Spanish Bride" was quite the enjoyable read for me. Especially since, instead of rehashing old ground, Laurein Gardner wisely sticks to two periods in Catherine's life -- her early years before she became queen, and the last few years when things became quite precarious for her. Focusing on Catherine's faith in God and fate, we see how, in the early years, this faith allows

her to cling to the belief that all will turn out as she hopes, in the face of the obvious indifference of her father (Ferdinand of Spain), the petty cruleties of Henry VII and duplicities that members of her entrouage practise. We also see how this faith keeps her going, even as it is tested (in the later years, by her spoilt and idiotic husband and his bullying cronies. Framing and complimenting all this, are the experiences of Estrella de Montoya's, as she faces a life of probable spinsterhood, poverty and loneliness -- a life quite devoid of the romance that she had expected it to possess. If "The Spanish Bride" comes across as a bit of a gloomy book, I would still encourage potential readers to pick it up -- it is a very well written and very compelling read. I thought that the author did a wonderful job in making both the women in this novel, Catherine and Estrella, real and accessible. In "The Spanish Bride," Catherine comes across as something a whole lot more than the pious, shriveled wife that many historians and certain novelists portray her to be. And I liked that immensely. A quick and absorbing read, full of ambiance and atmosphere, I'd recommend "The Spanish Bride" to anyone looking for a good historical novel to read.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing 12 Aug 2008
By Patty the Book Lover - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I didn't even bother to finish this book and skipped some of the chapters. Basically, it jumps back and forth in history from before Catherine married Henry VIII and their divorce. There was nothing about WHEN they were actually married. Furthermore, the book should have been titled "The Spanish Maid of Honor: A Novel of Estrella de Montoya." It was more about Estrella than Catherine. The book seemed to be written from Estrella's point of view but not written in the first person. I haven't read the other books in this series and I don't plan to. Bummer.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and heartbreaking... 22 Mar 2006
By CoffeeGurl - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Catherine of Aragon moves to England in the year 1502 with Estrella Montoya, one of her ladies. She moves in with royalty and marries Prince Arthur, one of Henry VII's sons. Catherine is a romantic, dreams of the castles and happy endings she's read in books. But things don't turn out that way for her. After Prince Arthur dies, she thinks her life is over, and her father-in-law doesn't make things easier for her. Catherine feels she may have a chance to marry Henry VIII, and when she does, the heartbreaking marriage makes her wish she had returned to Spain instead, especially after she is unable to produce an heir. And this is all seen through the eyes of Estrella, her most faithful lady-in-waiting. There are various twists throughout the novel.

This is such a heartbreaking story. My heart goes out to Catherine and I hate Henry VIII after reading this novel. What those poor wives of his must've gone through with him! Catherine's story is the most moving and she is more compelling to me than Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII's second wife. I also like Estrella. She is so loyal, so loving to her queen that she risks Henry's wrath just to be there for her. We also get a back story of Estrella and a love story of her very own. She does put aside her own interests to look after Catherine and I enjoyed that part of the story very much. The one thing I don't like is that the constant story setting changes get a bit confusing and annoying at times (you'll see what I mean once you read the book), and that is why I take away one star. But all in all, this is a wonderful fictional account of Catherine of Aragon that doesn't take much detours from the actual events and is still told in a way that interests the reader without sounding like a biography. I heard that Laurie Gardner is a pseudonym and that the novels under the aforementioned name are written by various ghostwriters. No matter what the case may be, The Spanish Bride is one of the most enthralling biographical-historical novels I have read in quite a while. I highly recommend this along with Katherine by Anya Seton.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Interesting Take 7 Mar 2006
By Tamela Mccann - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is the story of Princess Catherine of Aragon, first wife of Henry the 8th of England as told by one of her Spanish maids, Estrella. The story bounces back and forth between the tense time of waiting for Catherine's marriage to Henry and the equally tense time during the dissolution of the same marriage. Gardiner does a very good job of showing Catherine's plight in a believable manner and stays true to the historical character herself. She hasn't embellished the tale because it doesn't need it; Catherine's life was a series of highs and lows that were often more astonishing than any work of fiction. The character Estrella shows us the strain of waiting in poverty for Henry to finally marry Catherine and Estrella's own longings are realistically portrayed for the times.

A minor quibble includes the timelines of the book not flowing seamlessly as they move back and forth; it almost becomes jarring at times to see how things turn out and then be returned to the beginning. However, it is a unique way to present the story of Catherine by showing the tragedies bookending her life. One more minor quibble is the "romance" of Estrella with a member of the royal household which doesn't ring true even though Estrella was under duress from the continued plight of her princess. Still, overall this book is a good representation of the first wife of Henry and is an easy, accessible tale. I was impressed by the author's research of history and her ability to weave a good story around those facts. Recommended.
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