Review: The Importance of Pawns by Keira Morgan

Based on historical events and characters in sixteenth-centuryFrance, this timeless tale pits envy, power and intrigue against loyalty and the strength of women’s friendships.

Although the French court dazzles on the surface, beneath its glitter, danger lurks for the three women trapped in its coils as power shifts from one regime to the next. The story begins as Queen Anne lies dying and King Louis’s health declines. Their two daughters, Claude and young Renée, heiresses to the rich duchy of Brittany, become pawns in the game of control.

Countess Louise d’Angoulême is named guardian to both girls. For years she has envied the dying Queen Anne, the girls’ mother. Because of her family’s dire financial problems, she schemes to marry wealthy Claude to her son. This unexpected guardianship presents a golden opportunity, but only if she can remove their protectress Baronne Michelle, who loves the princesses and safeguards their interests.

As political tensions rise, the futures of Princess Renée and Baronne hang in the balance, threatened by Countess Louise’s plots. 

Will timid Claude untangle the treacherous intrigues Countess Louise is weaving? Will Baronne Michelle and Claude outflank the wily countess to protect young Princess Renée? And can Claude find the courage to defend those she loves?

Praise for The Importance of Pawns:
“Love, revenge, deceit, valour, struggle and bravery. These are the keystones of Keira Morgan’s fascinating new novel, The Importance of Pawns. Historical fiction at its best.”


Francis I is one of those kings that fascinates, even though he is not the nicest guy around—much like his fellow king Henry VIII. This story begins early on, even before Francis is crowned. The old and decrepit Louis XII has just lost his wife and desires another since he is childless and doesn’t particularly relish the thought of Francis succeeding him. In comes Marie, sister of Henry VIII—young, charming, and way too much for an ailing husband. We soon see that this court is dominated by the women of the family: Marie to a much lesser extent; Claude, the daughter of Louis and soon-to-be-wife of Francis who is lame and terribly timid; Michelle, governess and friend to Claude; Louise, the mother of Francis who manipulates everyone. There is a tremendous amount of “jockeying for position” between Louise and Michelle with poor Claude caught in the middle: in fact, I would say this is the predominant theme of the story. Alongside this plot, we witness an interesting relationship between Louise and her son Francis, who apparently needs a good spanking:

“The King! That old windbag! May the Lord and all the Saints curse him! And his days on the earth be few be few and painful. May his time in the ninth circle of hell be endless!” Francois belched curses like a fire-breathing dragon, smoke shooting from its nostrils and ears, his face scarlet as a blazing fire. “The old bastard called me to a private audience… the… the… shag-eared… codpiece! Impotent old boar.”

He sounded like a furious five-year-old child in a tantrum. She was hard-pressed to restrain her laughter, but that would only infuriate him more. “Yes, yes, you are in a rage. The king has insulted you and you want to take your sword and run him through,” she soothed. “Now please calm down and tell me what happened.”

I would have been happier to see more of this and less of the squabbling over who was going to take care of Claude’s younger sister Renee. Louise is depicted as totally nefarious; she doesn’t have a benevolent bone in her body. She obviously dotes on her son but even there her motherly love seems to be self-serving. She wants to be the power behind the throne. Once Francis becomes king, his mother basks in his glory while poor, pregnant Claude is nearly forgotten. Her “importance” (from the title, I assume) seems more implied than real. I think she’s bound to assert herself in the next volume.

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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.

Connect with Keira

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2 thoughts on “Review: The Importance of Pawns by Keira Morgan”

  1. Thank you, Mercedes, for your thoughtful review. Louise certainly is a lioness of a mother with an eye to what is best for her. I am so pleased to be a guest on your blog.
    Keira Morgan

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