My first read for the Portuguese Historical Fiction Challenge was a book about Inês de Castro, by far the most tragic queen of Portugal as she was only crowned after her death. I had no expectations for this particular book but the story of Inês de Castro is one that I have been curious ever since I first started studying her at school. There's something about such a powerful, and tragic, love story that has an irresistible appeal and one can't help but want to find out all possible details about the woman who put father and son fighting against each other and who drove the country to a civil war.
The book starts with the story of Pedro and Inês being told to the spanish writers Luis Velez de Guevara and Lope de Vega (real characters who wrote plays about Inês de Catro). It starts with a young Inês at her parent's home and follows her to the home of D. Constança Manuel and, when this young lady marries Prince D. Pedro to the court of Portugal where her fate is sealed.
Queralt del Hierro provides a fictional account that relies mostly of the feelings the characters developed for one another and the examination of the their motives. Before the passion that binds Pedro and Inês the focus is on the friendship between Inês and Constança, even after the queen realises the depth of feeling between her friend and her husband. I definitely gained a new respect for D. Constança.
The story proceeds through Inès murder at the hand's of D. Afonso's men and the subsequent war, the search for the killers and the crowning of Inês' cadaver. The author also manages to include Teresa Lourenço, D. Pedro's lover after Inês, who became the mother of King John I. I don't think much is known about her and I thought it sad that she ends up being such a tragic figure as Inês in this story.
As a whole I enjoyed it but I think it could have been richer with more details from the period, their daily lives and, eventually what drew Pedro and Ines besides a powerful attraction that made them fall in love almost at first sight. I would have liked to know the people behind the legend and as it is, I think we stayed mostly with what the legend mentions.
I definitely am curious now to read other books about Inês and see how they compare. There's an author's note at the end of this book that lists all the other books devoted to Inês de Castro that I found particularly useful.