Isabella: Braveheart of France. Colin Falconer. Cool Gus Publishing. September 2013. 220 pp. pbk. ISBN #: 9781621250913.
Isabella, Princess of France, is ordered by her father, King Philip IV, to obey and serve her husband no matter what the circumstances. For she represents France and any opposition would only provoke the insidious hostilities between England and France that have existed for centuries. Isabella is being married to King Edward II so that he can acquire Gascony as an English territory, for no other reason; add to that Isabella is only twelve years old when she marries Edward. But that is the least of her problems. For she yearns desperately for Edward to love her and all he does is ignore her, at least initially. Then with time, Edward discovers this young girl is far from a child in her political thinking and advice; in fact, she is astutely wise, observant and careful. Edward begins to value her as a counselor, yet it will be a long time before he considers her in a physical way. The obstacle is Edward’s great love, Piers Gaveston, and what a passion they share!
The nobles of England are totally disgusted by the King’s behavior and believe he gets all his advice from Gaveston. The drama intensifies as English coffers decline and civil war seems looming as well as other wars. The result is absolutely astounding with a new form of government rising, one that should be a system of checks and balances between the King and his nobles but in fact is otherwise. The outcome for Gaveston is devastating, despite Isabella’s advice that could best be summed up as “patience and caution.”
Edward then chooses another advisor who is as ruthless as one could possibly be, all for the sake of building up the economy for England – and himself – and lashing out at those who had hurt Edward so deeply with their treachery. He is the Despenser, who is also capable of destroying the loving relationship that Edward and Isabella had formed for a very short time, one which bore fruit in a royal Prince. Again, civil war is threatened over the cruelties that Despenser hands out and Isabella barely escapes becoming his next victim. Where she goes and how she manages to out-maneuver Edward and the Despenser is riveting reading. What Edward has really been doing is even more stunning, and the resolution of this intensifying conflict leaves the reader gaping and yet also laughing at the irony of it all.
Isabella: Braveheart of France is a gripping read because Colin Falconer is a master at creating an intriguing story filled with enough adventure, verbal sparring, ghastly punishments, secret plotting, and so much more that keep the reader furiously flipping the pages. The history is accurate with subtle interpretations in fictional form to add just the right touch to a period of English history too often overlooked! This is phenomenal historical fiction that is highly recommended. Once you read Colin Falconer, you’ll want to read everything he has ever written as well as what he will craft in the future!