It gives me great pleasure to review this outstanding book by the talented author C.W. Gortner author of The Last Queen and The Secret Lion.
Catherine is the last heir of the De Medici Dynasty of Italy in the 16th century. Her uncle is the infamous Pope Clement. Her childhood is controlled by her extended family. She is placed in a convent by her families adversaries. She witnesses the sacking of Rome by Charles the Emperor of Spain and sees things no child should ever have to witness.
She like most princesses is used as a political pawn in marriage. She is betrothed to Henri the son of Francois I of France and packed off to Paris where she will marry Henri whose life mission appears to be humiliating his new wife. He barely shows up for the wedding and has no mercy for her on their wedding night where it's slam, bam, thank-you mam and then he leaves to spend his honeymoon night with his mistress Diane le Poithers. In the beginning Catherine appears to be very timid and certainly not the Madame Serpent she is later refereed to as. Her husband is repulsed by the fact that she comes from mercantile heritage and not a true blue blood. In France according to her father-in-law Francois I pedigree is everything. It is finally made clear to Henri by his father that he has obligation to provide an heir for the kingdom, so he and Catherine finally get down to business with Diane le Poither's assistance and provide France with an heir, Francois II who is swept up by Diane and supervised by her in the royal nursery. Catherine and Henry will go on to have several children 4 of them being sons who will all at one time or another rule France. Catherine is bitter about sharing her husband with his mistress, but in time she will develop with Henri a loving relationship.
She will go onto rule France through her sons after her husband's death. She is determined to keep the kingdom in tack and Catholic. The world is turning upside down with religion. Holy wars are in abundance. In particular in France with the Huguenot's a Protestant faction that is ever threatening to over throw the crown. Catherine will seek drastic measures to assure that the crown remains in her family. St. Bartholomew's massacre of the Huguenots will be one horrible event that will earn her the title of Madame Serpent. Much has already been said about her association with the famed physic Notrotdamus so I will not be covering that here.
On page 321 of the book is a great summation of her life I would like to share.
Left alone I sank into my chair. I did not think. I simply put my face in my hands and wept as I hadn't in years. I mourned a thousand losses:for the child I'd been and the family I'd left behind, for the country I barely recalled anymore and country I now fought to save. I wept for my dead children and my living ones, who'd grown up infected by the poisonous hatred of our religious wars. I wept for my friends and my enemies;for all the lost hopes and illusions. But most of all, I wept for myself and the woman I had become.
Mr. Gortner tells a great story. This book is written in first person which is my favorite. I was captivated from the beginning to the end. The author really knows women , and how they express themselves and their feelings. I was amazed, it's not everyday a man can portray women so well.
I can tell you now that I will be reading The Last Queen and The Secret Lion soon. I would like to express my thanks to Mr. Gortner and HFBRT for the opportunity to review this book.
4.5 stars from me.