In The Queen’s Vow by CW Gortner, Isabella of Castile was never meant to become queen. As a female royal, it was her duty to be married off as soon as possible and only for the benefit of her family or country. Fate intervenes, and she is thrust into the limelight as her half brother’s only heir. Isabella then defies her brother and custom by marrying her love, Fernando of Aragon, creating one of the ultimate power couples in history.
Let’s face it. Spanish history is not sexy. No one has done a series on cable TV about it. For the most part, when dealing with history, it’s always about King Phillip and his dealings with the Tudors or it’s an eye glazing account of the Spanish Inquisition. Gortner breathes life into this chapter of Spanish history. Any subject he touches becomes tangible and real to the reader. You feel as if you personally know these historical figures and you feel all of their emotions as the story plays out.
I honestly didn’t know much about Isabella. I had done some reading on my own about the Spanish Inquisition, her expulsion of the Jewish population in 1492, as well as her support of Christopher Columbus. Most authors I have read (either fiction or non), have made Isabella out to be cold and aloof, especially when her daughter Katherine is mentioned.
In The Might Have Been by Joseph M. Schuster, Edward Everett Yates is having a horrible year. His wife has left him, he’s still stuck managing a single A ball club in No Where, Iowa, and he’s pretty sure he’s going to be fired at the end of the season. At 60, Edward isn’t sure what he’ll do and finds himself looking back on what could have been.
I must be a glutton for punishment reading a baseball book in December. Pitchers and catchers don’t report for two more months. Schuster’s descriptions of the game are so spot on accurate, I felt like I was at a game. I could smell the scent of food wafting on a warm summer breeze, hear the concession guy hollar, “Peanuts! Ice Cold Beer”, and vividly see the brilliant green of the outfield as the players shifted to accommodate the batter.
Schuster’s love for the game pours through the pages. His main character, Edward, could be found at any minor league club. The experienced player turned manager, who for one brief glorious moment got called to “The Show”. Edward’s time at the Majors was so brief that if you blinked, you would miss it. A career ending injury, forces him to seek employment outside of baseball. Only Edward has baseball running through his veins and he returns, eventually becoming the manager that his players look back on fondly.