Reviews and bookish conversation with author Samantha Wilcoxson.
If I am lost, you will find me in medieval England.
You can also find me - and my books - on my blog.
As a reader who enjoys exploring the lives of historical figures who were not always in the limelight, I enjoyed this novel featuring Marguerite de Valois. With a mother like Catherine de Medici it would have been difficult for Marguerite, or Margot as her friends call her, to take center stage. Then there's the fact that she had three brothers who were King of France and the King of Navarre for her husband.
This novel takes a close look at the girl who would become a queen twice over through a brave first person narration that gives voice to the Valois princess. I know that some of you are sighing already at the author's choice to tell Margot's story this way, but hang in there. Once you enter Margot's inner thoughts, you will lose yourself in the drama, politics, and power struggles that she grew up with.
Initially, Margot is a young girl desperate to please her larger than life mother. Nothing gives her more joy than to learn that she will be whisked from the nursery to join the Queen's household. Never does Margot concern herself with what her brother, King Charles, might think of her. Everyone knows who truly rules in France.
Perinot develops a complex personality for Margot, causing the reader to waver between admiration and scorn. I wanted to embrace the young woman who never received the affection that she should have from her mother, but she made me cringe when she flirted with her own brother or traded her friend's virtue for her own. She is no Mary Sue, so be prepared for a complicated relationship with this character.
Marguerite's entire family is boldly brought to life in all of their creepy, selfish, overbearing glory. Mercurial Charles, spoiled Henri, and Catherine, who just may be the devil incarnate, form a barrier around Margot that keeps her from happiness, freedom, an truly living until she falls in love.
Those who enjoy romances will appreciate the relationship between Henri de Guise and Marguerite. It is wonderful to see someone in her life finally give her unconditional love . . . until she's not sure that there are truly no strings attached. I could never quite decide if I liked or trusted Margot's duke.
The one person I really liked was the one person Margot did not: her cousin, the third Henri. The King of Navarre seems to be the only person not waiting to place a dagger in someone's back. Watching him endure the St Bartholomew's Day Massacre was heart wrenching. One cannot help but be angry with the murderers who do so in the name of being the better Christians.
Margot has to make some difficult choices when her family and her lover take the side opposite her husband. She is truly becoming her own woman as the novel ends, which I hope is an indication that there will be more to her story.
Thank you to NetGalley for providing an ARC of this novel in return for a review. Opinions expressed are my own.