Thursday, March 03, 2016

Medicis Daughter

Sophie Perinot

Medicis Daughter

By Sophie Perinot
Thomas Dunne Books, December 2015

About the Book

Winter, 1564. Beautiful young Princess Margot is summoned to the court of France, where nothing is what it seems and a wrong word can lead to ruin. Known across Europe as Madame la Serpente, Margot’s intimidating mother, Queen Catherine de Médicis, is a powerful force in a country devastated by religious war. Among the crafty nobility of the royal court, Margot learns the intriguing and unspoken rules she must live by to please her poisonous family.

Eager to be an obedient daughter, Margot accepts her role as a marriage pawn, even as she is charmed by the powerful, charismatic Duc de Guise. Though Margot’s heart belongs to Guise, her hand will be offered to Henri of Navarre, a Huguenot leader and a notorious heretic looking to seal a tenuous truce. But the promised peace is a mirage: Her mother’s schemes are endless, and her brothers plot vengeance in the streets of Paris. When Margot’s wedding devolves into the bloodshed of the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, she will be forced to choose between her family and her soul.

Médicis Daughter is historical fiction at its finest, weaving a unique coming-of-age story and a forbidden love with one of the most dramatic and violent events in French history.

My Review

Marguerite of Valois, daughter of Catherine de Médicis and King Henri II of France, is a beautiful princess, but one with a particularly domineering mother. Catherine’s authority is so absolute that she commands complete control over all her children, even the reigning King Charles IX. When Margot falls for the dashing Duc de Guise, she is forcibly reminded of her mother’s iron will and ruthless scheming. Catherine uses Margot as a pawn in the European marriage market, offering her to many monarchs including Spain and Portugal before her sights settle closer to home.

Her mother and brother finally decide it’s best for Margot to marry her cousin, Henri de Bourbon, the King of Navarre, in order to heal wounds between the Catholic and Protestant factions of court. Margot, a devout Catholic, finds the match repulsive, but with her family aligned against her, she has little choice. Margot is not a Valois and de Médicis for nothing, however, and she and her Protestant husband come to a creative arrangement—she will advise him on how to best navigate the treacherous waters of the Valois court and he will not claim his husbandly rights, thereby allowing Margot to love where she pleases.

They become friends and allies of sorts rather than spouses, but all this is at risk as open warfare breaks out between Protestants and Catholics on the streets of Paris. On St. Bartholomew’s Day, King Charles and his mother order the assassinations of the very Protestants who have peaceably come to the city to celebrate Margot and Henri de Bourbon’s marriage. Margaret must decide where justice and her loyalties reside—with her new Protestant husband and those now dead in the streets, or with the family that has mistreated her all her life.

Margot is a colorful character—passionate, observant, intelligent, and strong willed. She endures much in her early years— manipulation by her mother, abuse by her favorite brother, forced separation from her first love, and the sting of malicious gossip. This exploitation shapes her life. This is a vibrant look into the political machinations of the Valois court and a woman who uses the mistreatment of her youth to ultimately reclaim her own identity.

Rebecca Henderson Palmer