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Review: Red Lily Crown by Elizabeth Loupas

The Red Lily Crown: A Novel of Medici Florence (Paperback) - Common - by Elizabeth Loupas

Red Lily Crown is a unique, well-researched story of 16th century Medici court, where one could be in high favor one day and disappear the next. As history has proven, even having the Medici blood flowing through your veins would not necessarily keep it from being spilled. Loupas uses fictional main character Chiara to tell the story of the turbulent days of Francesco Medici's reign.

He is a man who made people wonder how God chose the birth order in royal families, as he is cruel, selfish, and completely ill-suited to rule. His obsession with Bianca Cappello and alchemy conjoin to create a vicious, cruel temperament and the belief that nothing and nobody could ever harm him. This is the Grand Duke Francesco who takes young Chiara into his household in order to have her serve as his alchemy assistant. It is not as though she could refuse.

The bright side of this dangerous liaison is that it brings Ruan into her life. He is an Englishman with as troubled of a past as Chiara's, though it takes them years to completely reveal themselves to one another. He was my favorite character in the story and the one who seemed to be the most admirable, which seems a funny thing to say about a man who had more than once played the part of an assassin.

I enjoyed Chiara's character and story though it took a while to get off the ground and her character was not always what I wished it would be. She evolves from a bold, impetuous girl into an intelligent and independent woman, but she is at times more selfish and single-minded than she needs to be. This aspect of her personality leads to death and destruction before she learns her lesson.

The reader views the elegance and sensuality of those at court through Chiara's strange role as a close attendant of Francesco and his family without being a noblewoman, first as a wide-eyed innocent and later as a participant in the deepest intrigues. The scenes are vividly portrayed and history expertly retold, yet somehow I could not completely feel swept away in the story.

Chiara hears voices due to a childhood accident. While this was at times a clever way to expose her thoughts, it was also a tool for repetition and giving away too much information. She at times appears caring, yet at others seems ready to give up anyone or anything for a goal that is nothing more than the same dream that led to her father's downfall. 

Oh, Dad blew up using this recipe? I guess I should use it, too. Um, ok.

(show spoiler)

I just couldn't connect with her.

Despite some lack of feeling captivated, Red Lily Crown is a well-written, ambitious introduction to 16th century Florence and the people who formed it.

I received this book from a Goodreads Giveaway (eventually!). Opinions expressed are my own.