The infamous Catherine De Medici has been portrayed as a monstrous character in history. Referred to as “Madame Serpentine”, during her time she was regularly associated with witchcraft, and scandal. Catherine is one historical fictions leading ladies that should be left to the experts because she did live a very complicated life. C.W. Gortner’s overwhelming craft prove that he is just that expert and he likes to tackle the hard cases. One of Gortner’s premier skills as a writer is that he takes his readers on a 360-degree turn of the whole story, seeing and exploring all the possibilities. I am elated and proud of myself for waiting for my first Catherine read and truly I loved this book. Gortner proves there always are two sides to every story.
Catherine orphaned and hated in Florence Italy by the people because her uncle was the Pope and Florence was fighting his rule when Catherine suffered imprisonment until her uncle could save her. Spiriting her off to Rome her uncle Clement opened up worldwide bids her hand in marriage, but really he was baiting a bigger fish, France. Francis I sought Catherine’s hand for his son the young prince Henri. It was not too long before Catherine was on her way to France to be married to France and Henri.
It was a shame to me that Henri was not so enthused about his marriage to Catherine. His stupid mistress Diane de Ponitiers ruled him long before Catherine arrived and would until the day he died. A bitter rivalry between the two ensued with Catherine always coming out on the loosing end. I HATED Diane the older cougar was twice the young prince’s age and she was his childhood nurse. One aspect of Catherine I respected that Gortner applied to her was the gift of sight, leave it to Gortner to leave in the rumor but add a realist’s version of the truth to the story. Maybe she was what at the times people considered a “witch” but now a days we would not call her a witch but a psychic, in other words not the murdering, blood thirst witch type who brewed a caldron. Okay so maybe there was a little black magic but not her doing one of her minions instead. The visions always related to the core of her whole meaning of her life, her family and France. I believe completely in the power of a woman’s intuition but throw a mother’s into it and it becomes a strong force in some women that can do extraordinary things.
After completing this read I feel very compassionate towards Catherine and her case. How could you not respect a woman who defied all the odds that were set in her path? A lady so brave in the face adversity that she knew her husband never was really hot on her, lost him early to an older mistress who paraded around in the court as queen herself wearing even the damn crowned jewels. Jezebel in reincarnation! Diane even went as far as to take control of her young children and manipulated them into hating her because she was not the mistress. How could you not respect the fact that she made it through all that with her sanity still intact? I am not sure if I would have faired so well.
Catherine was venerated the day that Henri suddenly died; her day to shine had come. I was shocked when Henry died at about a fourth of the way into the read then I realized that this is just the beginning of Catherine’s rein. What I expected next I was not sure, all is what I knew was it had to be juicy because there was still three fourths of the book left to read. I also knew that there was a terrible massacre on St. Bartholomew’s day in France and that many innocent people lost their lives. I am still in shock of what events transpired before and after that dreadful day. I believe I am shocked because it was civil war and religious war; the two strike a person too close to home. Catherine did what Catherine had to do to protect her children, backing a lioness with cubs into a corner is a very dangerous game to play. She never backed down and loved her children even if there was a constant cloud of evil discord that followed the family and her. If I had been in her position I would have been ruthless too if it meant my children’s well being. When life throws you lemons you make lemonade and Catherine made lemonade.
5/5 LOVED it, and yes I am so freaking positive not because this is an event but because C.W. Gortner is by far in my selected small pool of favorite authors. I always write my reviews immediately following my reads so that it is fresh in my mind and I stay true to how I really freshly feel after I have finished. This read is unique and a bit dark but it was really a thrilling book to the point when I thought I had it figured out, I was completely wrong, there were so many events I never saw coming. I am shocked by how little knowledge I had on what events were transpiring in France when the lovely Elizabeth was on the throne fighting the Spanish. This book made me love Catherine for her undying love and devotion to her family and country. What today we would call a “ride or die” type of woman who at times took on a super human strength to save her children’s lives and country.
Thank you C.W. for sending me the wonderful Arc I have to say it is very unique for the fact it is the first one I have ever received that is so close to the final copy that the only difference is a seal on the front with the ARC info. It is a beautiful book and I will cherish it forever. Thank you for opening a window to Catherine’s soul.
HFBRT May Event
Saturday, May 8th – Two-book Giveaway at the HFBRT.
Sunday, May 9th – Symbols and Emblems of 16th Century French Monarchs by Arleigh at historical-fiction.com, Review by Marie at The Burton Review, Author video at HFBRT.
In today's schedule: