Review: The Importance of Wives by Keira Morgan

May 31 is Release Day!


Recently orphaned Duchess Anne of Brittany is not quite 12, yet her situation could not be more perilous. She is a girl, she has just inherited one of the richest duchies in Europe—and enemies surround her.

It is 1488, and men do not believe that women can rule. The French want to seize her duchy. Across the channel, the English hover, ready to attack. And Anne’s guardians want her power for themselves. They plot to marry her to their chosen candidate, and rule in her stead. It is the traditional fate of heiresses.

But Anne has ideas of her own. She is strong-minded and trained to rule. When she refuses to obey, she finds herself in a civil war, supported by only a few loyalists. Then France invades. Will a girl so young be able to defend her duchy against two adversaries?

Even her most trusted allies advise her to marry. Must she sacrifice her beliefs for her people? Can even a husband save her from the invading French? Must she give up her duchy? Or will she find another way to guard her inheritance?

My Review

As ever, historical women got short shrift when it came to asserting themselves. This difficulty became even more explicit when the woman was under-aged, as we see in this sensitive novel about the twelve year-old heiress to Brittany. Orphaned, along with her younger sister Isabeau, Anne found herself in the center of a maelstrom concerning who she was going to marry, starting with Sire d’Albret who attempted to force the issue. Anne knew that once she was married, she would have to give up all power to her husband—something she was reluctant to do. Her dying father had placed the dukedom in her hands, and she was determined to keep it for him. Besides, she hated d’Albret. Poor Anne was horrified to discover that this would-be husband was no mere opportunist; he was supported in his effort by Anne’s own guardian—his sister—who expected to gain from his investiture. Crushed by Mme de Dinan’s betrayal, who could Anne turn to? Her council tried to ignore her wishes, at best, or compel her to act against her own judgment, at worst. Fortunately, her cousin Dunois took up the challenge:

Anne stayed in her ducal chair, as tense as a treed cat, working to keep her expression serene. Her cousin, Count de Dunois, seized the angry d’Albret by the shoulders and shook him hard.
You are speaking of the Duchess of Brittany within her hearing. You will watch your language, or I personally will remove you from her august presence.”
Get your accursed hands off me, Dunois or I will have you dead!”
The dapper Count stopped shaking his victim but did not release his steely grip. He returned to his normal debonair style, however. “But, Sire, you must see that I cannot until you find it within yourself to recover your well-known self-control.”

A small party of advocates rose to Anne’s support; but the odds were formidable. Against her best efforts, Anne’s determination to stay single ultimately plunged the county into civil war, compounded by the French who chose this opportunity to invade. The King of France wanted Brittany, too. Unable to halt her beloved country’s devastation, the poor duchess was faced with one hateful option after another, knowing that in the end, she would come out the loser. She is a very sympathetic character, and showed amazing fortitude for one so young. Keira has given us a clear understanding of the forces tearing France apart in the late 15th century, and has helped shine a light on this difficult period. Highly recommended.

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Meet Keira Morgan

Keira retired from training and management in the Canadian Public Service to follow a career as an author. She now writes from Mexico where she lives happily with a husband, two cats and two dogs. Her doctoral level studies in Renaissance history underlie her historical fiction. She writes about the turbulent sixteenth-century French Renaissance. Her stories tell of powerful women who challenged tradition to play crucial roles in French affairs. Find out more at KJ Morgan — Writer

She also maintains a non-fiction website, All About French Renaissance Women, [] where she writes about the lives of Frenchwomen during the era. She plans to collect their biographies into a book.

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