Thursday, July 28, 2011

Review and Giveaway: Reign of Madness

Reign of Madness by Lynn Cullen

Publication Date: August 2011
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: Hardcover, 448pp
ISBN-13: 9780399157097
ISBN: 0399157093

(Received for an honest review from TLC Tours)

Lynn Cullen on the WEB: website, facebook, twitter


From the author of The Creation of Eve, a novel of royal intrigue and marital betrayal set during the Golden Age of Spain.

One of the most famous figures in Spanish history is Juana of Castile, who would come to be know as Juana the Mad. A fiercely intelligent princess who inherited Queen Isabel's throne, she married a man so beautiful he was called Philippe the Handsome. But what began as a seeming fairy tale ended quite differently. After Queen Juana's husband died, she was branded insane and locked away in a palace, unseen by her people, for the next forty-six years. What happened between her fairy-tale beginning and the locked tower room? Sweeping, page-turning, and wholly entertaining, Reign of Madness is historical fiction at its richly satisfying best.


Historical fiction writer Lynn Cullen attempts to shed some light on a royal mystery. Was Queen Juana of Spain really mad? In her latest book, Reign of Madness, Cullen uses the framework of history to create a compelling story of one young woman's courage in the face of betrayal and insidious political intrigue. Cullen's descriptive prowess and her ability to craft complex and multi-layered characters, sets this one apart from the pack.

Juana of Castile, the daughter of Isabel and Ferdinand of Spain never expected to wear the crown, she was far from succession, but history intervened and Juana paid a heavy price. As a young princess she was expected to marry a man hand picked to solidify an alliance with the Hapsburg's. Her new husband Philippe the Handsome made Jauna think that perhaps she could find love with him as well as a political future, but that was not to be. Their relationship quickly began to deteriorate when it became clear that Queen Isabel's throne would fall to Juana. Philippe began to consolidate her power and turn even her own family against her, convincing them and the Spanish people that Juana was insane and quite mad. After Philippe's death Queen Juana is held prisoner in her own home, betrayed by those closest to her and held captive for nearly half a century. But the question still remains... What she truly mad or just a casualty of a political climate set against her?

Lynn Cullen has a knack for instructing the reader as well as entertaining them. In her latest book, Reign of Madness, Cullen brings to the forefront one of histories mysteries, the true state of Queen Juana of Spain's mind. Was she really completely mad and unable to lead her people or was she really an intelligent and caring young woman who ended up on the wrong side of a political battle? Cullen goes a long way toward proving that Juana was indeed quite sane and able to make decisions, raise children and lead a productive life. What happened to her in those intervening years when she was kept from the public eye and unable to even interact with her family? Cullen gives readers a historically accurate setting, with complex characters whose motivations were are anything but benign. Readers will love her sharp wit and clear and concise details.

Juana was only a young girl when she marries Philippe but she still harbors hope that their relationship will be like her mother and fathers, full of love and understanding. And though it started out well, Philippe's interest began to wain and it is obvious that he has other women and well as Juana. Juana appears to be an intelligent young girl but she is under and extreme amount of pressure from everyone around her and it is possible that she could have cracked under that extreme possessiveness. Cullen portrays Juana at the very center of a political struggle between her husband and her father. It is interesting that Cullen leans toward the fact that Juana was not insane but merely kept from her people because the men in her life were greedy for power. I liked the fact that Cullen showed Juana as a proud woman, who would not surrender to her situation even though she knew it would not do any good.

It's one of those stories that if you are a proponent of history you know the outcome, but it doesn't take away from the story itself. Cullen makes this one interesting enough that readers want to continue reading the pages and hoping for something miraculous to happen to change the outcome. That takes an amazing amount of talent to pull off and Cullen does it with style. Her setting is impeccably researched and she is able to describe the political climate and culture of the time as well as she does the hearts of her characters. She transports readers back to a time when Christopher Columbus has just returned from his famous voyage and Spain is poised to become a huge political player in the world. She conveys to the reader the sense of powerlessness Juana felt in the face of men who were in a position to make or break her very existence. I thought Cullen made Juana's story compelling and full of surprises. Readers will love the way Cullen weaves history and fiction and gives them a great tale of love and betrayal.

I recommend this one to all of my historical fiction fans. It's full of action and political intrigue. It answers questions historians have asked for ages about Juana's real state of mind. Cullen uses fiction to bring to life a little known character and give her a story that people can understand and relate to. This is Cullen's second historical novel and I look forward to reading more from her in the near future. It is a rather lengthy read, though definitely worth the time. If you are interested in Spanish history this one will be a good fit for you and if you're not, you might be after you read this one!

Reign of Madness will be available from your favorite bookseller August 5th.

I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag.

Lynn Cullen
is the author of The Creation of Eve, named among the best fiction books of 2010 by The Atlanta Journal- Constitution and as an April 2010 Indie Next selection. She is also the author of numerous award-winning books for children, including the young adult novel I Am Rembrandt's Daughter, which was a 2007 Barnes & Noble "Discover Great New Writers" selection, and an ALA Best Book of 2008. An avid traveler and historian, Cullen lives in Atlanta.


The publisher has been kind enough to offer one copy of Reign of Madness to one lucky winner from Debbie's book bag!

~ You must be a Google Friend Connect follower to participate.
~ US and Canadian addresses only (Publisher Request).
~ The deadline to enter this giveaway is Midnight EST Aug. 11th.

1. Please leave a comment on THIS post in appreciation to the author.
2. Please fill out the FORM.


lag123 said...

I love historical fiction. I would love to read this!

lag110 at mchsi dot com

Tore said...

I can't wait to read your book. It sounds very good. I love historical fiction. Thanks for the giveaway.

Julie said...

I haven't read much of Spanish history, but I love historical fiction in general, so I'm looking forward to giving this book a try! Thanks for a great interview and an awesome giveaway:)
jwitt33 at live dot com

Julie said...

I entered via the form but forgot to put my links, so I entered again, but noted in the address form that I had forgotten my links to Twitter and FB. I hope this is okay and doesn't get me disqualified for having 2 entries.
jwitt33 at live dot com

Lynn Cullen said...

Super in-depth review, Debbie! I like that you said that the reader doesn't have to know Spanish history to enjoy the book. As hard as I worked to get the historical and setting details right, my main focus was on the characters. I wanted to understand why Juana allowed herself to be locked up for 46 years. And if Philippe the Handsome was actually so irresistable that she would go mad over him!

Thank you for the lovely review. You have a great blog!

justpeachy36 said...


No problem! I've got your back, no need to worry about disqualification!

justpeachy36 said...


It was my pleasure. I didn't know a lot about Spanish history before reading this book, and now I'm definitely interested in learning more.

Thanks for stopping by!

heathertlc said...

Juana fascinates me. Like you say, even knowing the end of the story I still want to read more about her.

Thanks for being on the tour.

mamabunny13 said...

I love historical fiction!
mamabunny13 at gmail dot com

Carol N Wong said...

I love historical fiction and this book would help me fill in a big hole in my knowledge! The story sounds very exciting. Thank you for writing this book.


Susan S. said...

Historical fiction is very enjoyable! Sounds like an interesting story.

SusieBookworm (Susanna) said...

I've heard so many good things about this book, and I love historical fiction that has unusual settings and characters, that I've been dying to snag a copy. Thank you for the review and giveaway.

susanna DOT pyatt AT student DOT rcsnc DOT org

Gwendolyn B. said...

I'm really eager to learn about Juana - her's sounds like a fascinating story. Your review makes it irresistable! Thanks for the chance to win a copy!

ann said...

sounds very good
I enjoy historical fictions

amhengst at verizon dot net

KMichelleC87 said...

please enter me in this giveaway. i'd like a chance to read this one

i'm a gfc follower


thank you

Patsy said...

This book sounds pretty good.

Colleen Turner said...

I think Juanna is such a fascinating woman and at times got quite a bad wrap regarding her mental issues. I dont know too much about Spanish history but she and Katherine of Aragon have always been intriguing to me. Thanks for the giveaway!

Jennifer L. said...

I love historical fiction and I'm really interested in Spain's history. This sounds great.
jentam777 at gmail dot com

Shannon said...

I haven't even read the book yet and I'm already feeling bad for Queen Juana. It sounds like something I would love to read and learn about. =)
tiredwkids at live dot com

Daphne said...

I really want to read this one! Thanks for the giveaway.


The Happy Booker said...

Wonderful interview! I definitely need to get my hands on a copy of this! Juana of Castille and her sister queen Katherine of Aragon had the worst luck in their royal husbands. I can't wait to read this!

Donna @ The Happy Booker
ahappybooker at gmail dot com

Carol M said...

This sounds like a really good historical! I'd love to read it.
mittens0831 at aol dot com

409cope said...

I would love to read this book as it sounds fun and exciting.cardshark42(at)hotmail(dot)com

Lisa Richards/alterlisa said...

I love historical fiction but don't think I've read one that takes place in Spain. This is going on my wishlist right now.
Thanks for the giveaway!


alterlisa AT yahoo DOT com

June M. said...

This sounds like a really interesting book. I think it's great that the author has taken a part of history that is unclear and using this info and writing her own thoughts about what happened. I really want to read this now.

Katie said...

this looks like a interesting story! and Im really liking the cover.

Michelle @ The True Book Addict said...

Historical favorite. Juana of Castile, one of my favorite and probably one of the most fascinating historical figures. Can't wait to read this book!

Thanks for the giveaway!

melora said...

I have been on a bit of a historical fiction kick, but so far, most are centered on Great Britain in some time or another, so this will be refreshing to go read about another country. I have heard of Juana before and I would love to read more about her.