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Isabella Unashamed: An Alternative History by Helen R. Davis and Carolina Casas: A Book Review

Isabella Unashamed: An Alternative History
Author: Helen R. Davis and Carolina Casas
Genre: Alternative Historical Fiction
Publisher: Editorial Calíope
Release Date: September 7, 2017
Pages: 144
Source: This book was given to me by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Isabella of Castile is known as Europe’s first great queen. Renowned for her marriage to Ferdinand of Aragon and birthing of modern day Spain, Isabella is also known as the queen who launched the Inquisition, completed the Reconquista and expelled the Jews from her nation. Not long after her triumph in 1492, her dynasty came apart and unraveled, and it was whispered by many that the Trastamara line was cursed.

     But, What if Isabella had been wiser and not expelled the Jews, some of the very people who ironically helped put her on the throne of Castile? What if Isabella had had more foresight and had her successor be Catalina, who, although the youngest, was the most like her and the wisest of her children? How would the power balance of 15th and 16th century Europe shifted if Catalina had been the powerful queen regnant of Spain and not one of the ‘merry wives’ of Windsor?

     A joint effort, Isabella Unashamed is written by two authors from very different cultural backgrounds who have nonetheless joined together to create a haunting portrait of Spain’s most famous queen, as well as a glimpse of what might have been had Isabella been wiser.

     My Review: Isabella of Castile is known to be Europe’s first Renaissance queen. However, she is also famous for starting the Spanish Inquisition. In this alternate history of Queen Isabella, she never launches the Inquisition and lets the Jews remain in peaceful Spain. This alternate history novel also ads another twist to the tale. Instead of letting Isabella’s mad daughter, Juana, become the heir apparent, Isabella has chosen her youngest daughter, Catalina (Catherine of Aragon), who is known in history as one of the ill fated wives of Henry VIII, to be the next queen of Spain.

   I thought that Isabella is portrayed very accurately as history portrays her. She is very religious and often prays for God’s guidance to do the right thing. Queen Isabella is also a very stubborn and, at times, unforgiving woman. She is portrayed as a good ruler with sound judgement. However, at the heart of the calculating ruler, she is still a mother. She wants her children to lead happy and prosperous lives. I could empathize with her when she experiences many tragedies that she worked hard to prevent. Thus, Isabella seemed very real and human.

  Overall, I thought this was a well-done alternate history on Queen Isabella. What I loved best about this book was the relationship between Isabella and Ferdinand. Both of them relied and depended on each other. They seemed like they were genuine soulmates. I thought it a bit far-fetched that Queen Isabella and Ferdinand would neglect the line of succession and choose Catalina based on her abilities. However, as a Tudor fanatic, I loved that it gave Catalina a more happy ending. While I was satisfied with the ending, I hope that the authors will write a sequel that focuses on Catalina’s rule. The only thing I did not like about Isabella Unashamed was that it suffered too much from telling instead of showing. Other than that, Isabella Unashamed is a treat for fans of Catherine of Aragon! I greatly recommend this book for fans of The Queen’s Vow, Reign of Madness, and The Constant Princess.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


  1. I really appreciate this review!

    We are working on a sequel to Isabella Unashamed as we speak. It involves Juana and Catalina at war and Henry jilting Eleanor of Austria among other things!

  2. Great review, Lauralee! Thanks so much for hosting Helen & Carolina's Blog Tour!

    HF Virtual Book Tours


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