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on 2 December 2016
This is first book in a trilogy about the first three wives of Henry VIII. This book is about a fictional maid of honour to Catherine of Aragon called Estrella. The story weaves from past to present and begins with Cathetine coming to England to marry Prince Arthur. The reader also gets Estrella's story and her observations around Catherine.

Unlike some historical fiction this version was very light and didn't bog me down. As much as I like Philippa Gregory and Alison Weir their books can be a bit heavy and can become a little too much at times. This book was very different, nice and light and a quick read.

What I didn't enjoy so much was Estrella's story. For me I wanted to read more about Catherine as sometimes I can overlook her as I like to read about Anne Boleyn more. A lot of Catherines life was missed out and could have been added if not for Estrella's story which didn't interest me at all. Infact I skipped some pages to read just about Catherine.

I do have the next two books in the series and find I'm not looking forward to reading them if they are the same format as this one. I would recommend this book to any historical fiction fan if they want something a bit light.
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on 18 May 2006
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.
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on 26 December 2005
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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on 14 January 2007
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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