Madame Serpent : (Medici Trilogy) Paperback
by Jean Plaidy
Part of the Medici Trilogy series
Sullen-eyed and broken-hearted, fourteen-year-old Catherine de'Medici arrives in Marseilles to marry Henry of Orleans, second son of the King of France.
On the promise of a dowry fit for a king, Catherine has left her true love in Italy, forced into trading her future for a stake in the French crown.
Amid the glittering fetes and banquets of the most immoral court in sixteenth-century Europe, the reluctant bride becomes a passionate but unwanted wife.
Humiliated and unloved, Catherine spies on Henry and his lover, the infamous Diane de Poitiers. And, tortured by what she sees, Catherine becomes dangerously occupied by a ruthless ambition destined to make her the most despised woman in France: the dream that one day the French crown will be worn be a Medici heir ...
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 416 pages
- Publisher: Cornerstone
- Publication Date: 06/07/2006
- Category: Historical fiction
- ISBN: 9780099493174
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Review by AdonisGuilfoyle
Jean Plaidy's real talent is bringing history to life - her fictionalized accounts of kings and queens, and other historical figures, cannot be beaten for condensing and humanising the otherwise dry list of dynasties and dates offered by non-fiction tomes. Plaidy's prose is plain and concise, occasionally romanticised but always readable. Like most authors of historical fiction, her stories are often skewed towards one perspective - here it is in defence and admiration of Catherine de Medici - but she covers all the important events of the biographies behind her books.Catherine de Medici, who was the power behind the throne of France for many years and has gained an (in)famous reputation as a poisoner and witch, is here shown as a young girl, neglected wife, powerless queen and possessive mother. History may not have played out exactly as written in this first of three novels about Catherine, but the poor woman certainly had cause for revenge after the death of her henpecked husband! Henry was dominated by his older mistress, the 'beautiful', 'intelligent', 'wonderful', 'golden' Diane, but it is hard to understand what either woman saw in him - bar the power and prestige of being the King's puppeteer, of course. Still, Catherine spends more or less the whole book lusting after her indifferent spouse and wishing his manipulative mistress dead (she is forever itching to either slap the smug expression off Diane's face, or prepare her a special drink and have done, but instead bides her time). Plaidy chooses to focus on Catherine's marital frustrations rather than her personal and political achievements - the 'Italian woman' (a lot like Marie Antoinette was later to become known as the 'Austrian woman') brought much of what is now known as French cuisine and etiquette to the country, and also proved her worth as Regent during Henry's temporary absence, but this is passed over in a couple of paragraphs. The result is that Catherine comes across as a sympathetic but weak character, a match for Diane's cleverness but impotent to act against the King's wishes.Her day does come, though, and it's worth waiting for, whether read in fiction or in a history book! (What a way to go out, Henry!)