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Catherine de Medici. I picked this up not knowing exactly who she was, knowing only that if she was “de Medici,” there would be lots of the drama that make the best historical fiction. Her parents died when she was young; she was held hostage in a convent in Florence when the Medicis were overthrown; and her uncle, Pope Clement VII, married her off to the second son of King Francis I of France when she was only fourteen years old. Her life in the French court was not easy.
Catherine is fascinating. I found myself Googling her to find out more once I finished because I just hadn’t quite gotten my fill yet. These are her “confessions,” so we are given full access to her thoughts. I loved watching her grow from a slightly spoiled girl, to a frightened girl, to a young wife, to a woman in her prime and at the height of her glory. Gortner took the approach that some of the bad things that happened during her reign were due to others’ actions rather than any complicity on her part. That made it easier to understand her motivations, but it also made her seem like a bad ruler. She had no control over her court, she ignored threats when she should have taken preemptive action, and she didn’t think through all the implications of what she did.
Politics play a fairly large part in the book, and I didn’t always follow why things were happening. I don’t think that I’m someone who would ever be good at intrigue. At most I might think one step ahead of where I am. So when Catherine was making deals, or she all of a sudden had to support one faction over another, or she chose whether to assassinate someone or not, I did not always follow. That could just be me though.
A little feminist preaching here. At the time when Catherine had power (1560-1589), there were so many other powerful women. Elizabeth I; Mary, Queen of Scots; Jeanne III of Navarre; and maybe even others. So why were women as a whole still treated as brood mares? I just don’t get it.
Catherine’s daughter Margot was incredibly interesting. Oh, I wanted to slap her, but I would love to read more about her.
This family could give the Tudors a run for their money. Holy cow. Maybe one ruler didn’t have six wives and change the face of Christendom, but the personal drama? They had it. I was trying to tell my husband all about who was sleeping with who, who killed who, how many rulers France went through in this time, who they fought with, who they made peace with, and I just kept going on and on and on. I’m glad I didn’t live then, but it is fascinating to read about those times.
If you’re looking for some of that intrigue and drama the Tudors are famous for, but you’re maybe a little tired of the Tudors themselves, give this one a try. I think you’ll like it. I’ll be reading Gortner’s first book, The Last Queen, and keeping an eye out for any books he publishes in the future.
Thanks to the publicist for sending me a copy for review.