I am grateful to Amazon Vine for an advanced copy of this novel. Please click on the above link for the synopsis of this novel provided by Goodreads.
I really enjoyed this novel. Having recently read the non-fiction book “The Rival Queens” by Nancy Goldstone I was able to enjoy this novel even more as all the key players were fresh in my mind and I was truly able to appreciate the author’s decisions behind certain character portrayals. Nothing stood out as being overly embellished for the reader. The author did a good job of adhering to the historical record as much as possible without sacrificing her story. It was a very well-written novel.
However when reading it one must remember that it is historical fiction and not unfiltered historical fact. The author has chosen to solidify certain speculations that historians have whilst choosing to disregard others. This is another reason I am glad to have recently read “The Rival Queens” about Marguerite of Valois and her mother Catherine de ‘Medici. It means I was able to clearly see what was speculation and gain a better understanding of WHY certain things had been rumored (such as the relationship between Marguerite and her brother Henri). Of course the author is forthcoming about such things in her author’s note too, which I always appreciate.
The main body of the story focuses upon Marguerite before her marriage to Henri of Navarre. The St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre occurs towards the end of the novel and therefore the marriage of Marguerite and Henri was not explored in this novel (I was a little disappointed by this in truth). We are introduced to Marguerite as a girl, just joining her mother’s court, and we get to see how Marguerite is treated by her family. We gain insight into the nature of her brother Henri of Anjou and her brother the king, Charles IX, not to mention her mother Catherine de ‘Medici.
I think the author did a wonderful job in her portrayal of Catherine. Writing from Marguerite’s perspective it could have been very easy for the author to demonize Catherine, but she didn’t. Not to say that she isn’t portrayed as completely self-serving and somewhat cruel, because she is, however she isn’t made to look like a she-devil (as she often thought to be; “La Madame Serpent”).
Marguerite herself is portrayed as a girl trying to find her way in a court full of lies and secrecy. Truly this is a coming of age story about Marguerite and I couldn’t help but feel sympathy for her. She is searching for something or someone that will give her validation; she is desperate to feel needed. Her family takes advantage of this and use her to suit their own needs, in ways even more extreme than you would expect (because let’s be honest, all princesses are born to serve their family’s needs). The Duc de Guise becomes Marguerite’s rock and for the first time she feels wanted for who she is and not for what she can do for someone. This relationship makes up a large part of the novel and it goes a long way to shaping Marguerite into the woman she becomes.
Overall I really enjoyed this novel and I felt a connection to Marguerite that was missing from my non-fiction reading (this is why I love historical fiction). I just wish that more of Marguerite’s life was explored and I had hoped for a sequel, but the author’s note gave a summarized version of later events so unfortunately this won’t be forthcoming.