The Castle of the Dukes of Brittany in Nantes, France, at sunset.
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Book Review: “The Importance of Wives” by Keira Morgan


Keira Morgan’s The Importance of Wives delivers a powerful story about Anne of Brittany, a fifteenth-century noblewoman and duchess who later became Queen of France. Immensely detailed and engaging, the novel explores the complex nature of French medieval politics and those who chose to stand against French annexation.


It’s September 1488. The last male scion of the House of Montfort, Francis II, has passed away. Francis ruled as sovereign over the independent Duchy of Brittany, a promontory in what is now northwestern France. He left behind two young daughters as heirs, Anne and Isabeau. Where could have proceeded a peaceful succession (however unlikely), a dynastic struggle instead ensues.

Anne, a mere girl of eleven, has inherited a rich and vibrant duchy, one eyed for annexation by neighboring France. Anne’s guardians plot to marry her to Alain d’Albret, an ambitious nobleman, to solidify their control over Brittany. Strong-willed and determined Anne, however, defies their orders, sparking a civil war. And then France invades.

Illustrated manuscript depiction of Anne of Brittany, the protagonist of the Importance of Wives, kneeling in prayer. Wearing gold, she's surrounded by patron saints.
Miniature depiction of Anne of Brittany, from the Grandes Heures d’Anne de Bretagne, Jean Bourdichon, 1503-1508 | Bibliothèque nationale de France, Ms lat. 9474

The duchess knows she must marry. Such is the fate of noble heiresses, after all. But the difficulty lies in finding a husband who will protect her interests and defend her duchy’s independence. Can Anne succeed? And will she come to an accord with France? The answers to these questions lie at the heart of The Importance of Wives, a novel in the Chronicles of the House of Valois series.


The Importance of Wives centers on the intelligent and tenacious Anne of Brittany, the Duchess of Brittany and later Queen of France. Many know how this story already plays out: Anne becomes the twice-ruling Queen of France and the French acquire Brittany. And yet, it’s hard to ascribe motives and feelings towards all that happened during the Franco-Breton conflict as we just don’t have a plethora of personal sources.

Despite this, Keira Morgan admirably dives headfirst into this historic grey area to imagine Anne’s story in an authentic way. Morgan’s duchess is a strong-willed, occasionally intransigent, young girl determined to navigate the various political factions at play. Sometimes, however, the author struggles to balance Anne’s youth with her maturity, ascribing nuanced decisions and political acuity to someone without such expansive experience (notwithstanding her councilors).

Even so, Morgan admirably portrays the political complexities and personalities of Franco-Breton relations between 1488 and 1491. She also provides a glossary of terms and characters to help acclimate readers. For someone relatively unfamiliar with this subject, as I am, this was immensely helpful.

Overall, The Importance of Wives is a well-written, beautifully-constructed novel about a remarkably tenacious and intelligent medieval woman trying to safeguard her birthright amidst a system designed to undermine and remove her authority and agency.

(One last minor historical note – it’s noted that Jean of Chalon, Prince of Orange is Anne’s uncle. This is incorrect. The prince is Anne’s cousin; her uncle was William of Arlay, brother-in-law to Anne’s father Francis. This may be corrected in the published version of the novel.)

The Importance of Wives comes out on May 31, 2024 and is available for pre-order! Thank you to the author, the publisher, and Book Sirens for a free advance review copy! I wrote this honest review voluntarily.

Book Summary

The book cover of The Importance of Wives. It features a nobleman and a noblewoman.

Title: The Importance of Wives
Author: Keira Morgan
Publisher: Publishing FRF Éditions
Publication Year: May 2024
Page Count: 381pp (Kindle eBook)

Featured image: Sunset view of the Castle of the Dukes of Brittany in Nantes, France, at sunset (Canva/RossHelen)

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