Anne and Louis Forever Bound
The conflicts and values of medieval France are background for a royal love story in Anne and Louis Forever Bound. The fourth volume of Rozsa Gaston’s series about Anne of Brittany, this book stands alone, with flashbacks to Anne’s earlier glories and griefs. From age eleven to fourteen, Anne ruled Brittany. Now married to King Louis of France, her second regal husband, she still focuses on keeping Brittany as a separate duchy. King Louis, who prefers pursuing wars with Italy, reflects on their conflict: “Both [of us] were invested in defeating each other’s dearest dream.” Though her marriages were political, Anne shows a remarkably independent spirit for a titled woman born in the 15th century. She was constantly pregnant during many of her early years and had lost all those children, except a daughter by Louis, before the novel opens. Along with her desperate need to birth a male heir, Anne gets involved in Louis’ wars in Italy, his relationships with French advisors, and conflicts with Machiavelli and the Pope. Anne’s political acuity drives the story, along with her rivalry with Louise de Savoy, a strong woman herself. Near the end, Anne’s husband admires her hauteur and ardent heart, essences of the remarkable character of Anne of Brittany.
Gaston knowledgeably depicts the era through the voices of Anne, King Louis, Louise of Savoy, and occasionally others. Photos of art depicting the characters enrich the book. Though some early reviews praise her style, at times it slows the reader. The writing gets wordy and repetitive or displays clichés and anachronisms, e.g. ‘a large ask’, and ‘lifestyle,’ and conversations sound stilted. However, one who doesn’t mind occasional stylistic quirks will find much to savor about Anne’s often heroic life and the rich tapestry of this novel.