Want to know what I really think about Catherine de Médicis? Let me tell you folks when Erin Sweet-Al Mehairi at “Oh for the Hook of a Book” puts you in the hot-seat you spill your guts: everything from to which characters you enjoyed writing most and least to your guilty TV pleasures . . . It doesn’t hurt that Erin is excellent company and offers virtual cheesecake as an inducement 😉 Explore the creation of MÉDICIS DAUGHTER through Erin’s in-depth interview.

catherine

Twenty-two days. If you are a fan of Reign you know exactly what I mean.

There may be only eight days until Christmas, but the gift that devoted watchers of the CW’s Reign are really waiting for—the return of the show after winter break—doesn’t arrive until the evening of January 8, 2016. “What can we do,” I hear a communal cry rising, “besides re-watching the existing episodes, to ease our pain during in the countdown?”

How about reading about the Valois and the Queen of Scots? There’s enough intrigue, forbidden love, and danger among that cast of characters to fill not only hours of TV but shelves of books. Ask Santa to deliver a little 16th century Reign-related love when he climbs in his sleigh a week from today by bringing you one or more of these . . .

FIVE BOOKS DESTINED TO DIVERT REIGN FANS while the show is on hiatus (and I want you all to remember, I scooped Buzzfeed Books on this one):

 1.  Médicis Daughter by Sophie Perinot (hey, it is my blog so I get to lead with my book, but that’s not naughty because the critiques agree the book is oh so nice): This story of Valois family dysfunction, political treachery, forbidden love and bloodiest massacre in French history has been called, “A riveting page-turner skillfully blending illicit liaisons and political chicanery.” (~Kirkus Reviews)

More importantly for Reign fans, Amazon reviews suggest it “would be a great gift for any … fan of the show Reign.”

Médicis Daughter draws readers deep into the world of the Valois in the post-Francis period. With young King Charles IX on the throne and Catherine de Médicis pulling the strings and plotting the plots (some things never change), you KNOW there will be plenty of dark and dirty. Viewed through the eyes of the youngest Valois Princess, Marguerite, the court comes alive: “Atmospherically, the novel swept me off my feet. Perinot’s depiction of the French court was beautifully drawn and I was wholly captivated by both the political and social interaction that unfolded among its players.” (~Flashlight Commentary). When the hearts break and the blood flows you will be right there, unable to look away. “I couldn’t put down. And when I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it.” (~The Readers Hollow)

Catherine for the holidays

2.  The Serpent and the Moon by HRH Princess Michael of Kent: Instead of heading forward, travel backward to the pre-Reign Valois world with this fascinating volume of popular history. This book relates the story of the battle between Catherine de Médicis and Diane de Poitier for the heart of, and influence over King Henri II of France.

There are so many fascinating but at the same time creepy details here for Reign fans to savor. From the moment 14-year-old Catherine arrives in France to discover her husband already in the thrall of a woman who was present at his birth (I told you it was creepy), through the humiliating and disgusting remedies she tried to combat a decade of childlessness, up to Catherine’s vengeful taking of Château Chenonceau from Diane after Henri’s death (and the evidence of the black arts that Diane found when she took possession of the Chateau she was given in exchange) this book will illuminate Catherine to her fans and foes alike.

Need a tempting detail? How about this: Catherine summoned an Italian carpenter to the Place of Saint-Germain where her bedroom was immediately above that of her husband’s mistress. She had two holes made in the floor of her room and then watched Diane and Henri in bed, sobbing later to friends that “her husband had ‘never used her so well.’”

3.  The Confessions of Catherine de Medici by C.W. Gortner: In this novel “the most dramatic events of Catherine’s adult life includ[ing] the 1572 Bartholomew’s Day massacre of Protestant Huguenots, [are] vividly and chillingly depicted” (~Historical Novel.info). Publishers Weekly called Gortner’s novel, “”A remarkably thoughtful interpretation of an unapologetically ruthless queen,” and I must say I quite agree. Catherine devotees among the Reign fandom will eat this one up.

 4.  Blood Between Queens by Barbara Kyle (part of her Thornleigh Saga): Like a thriller element with your history? Have you been enjoying the Mary vs. Elizabeth of England plotline in Reign? Then try this book. My friend Nancy Bilyeau (whose own series about Tudor-era England—beginning with The Crown–I utterly adore) called Kyle’s book, “a fast-paced and exciting historical novel that plunges readers into the deadly rivalry of Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots just as the beautiful three-time-married monarch had fled Scotland for her cousin’s kingdom.” If Nancy says, it “captures the high-stakes politics of the Tudor court, depicting its most famous personages with both accuracy and imagination,” I guarantee you it does.

5.  The Wild Queen: The Days and Nights of Mary, Queen of Scots by Carolyn Meyer (from the Young Royals series). I am closing out my list with this YA novel recommended by a big-time Reign fan of my acquaintance (she’s also a history devotee who is always stumping her fellow fans with her “royal pop quizzes”). Currently the Amazon #1 Best Seller in Teen & Young Adult Renaissance Historical fiction, this novel follows the recently widowed Mary home to Scotland where she hopes that a new husband will not only help her to secure  her own throne but will allow her to take the crown of England from her cousin, Elizabeth. Too bad, as the back cover reveals, “the love and security she longs for elude her . . . [and she] finds herself embroiled in a murder scandal that could cost her the crown.” Or rather too bad for Mary but NOT for Reign fans because if that doesn’t sound like an episode of the show I don’t know what does!

So there you have it, a bit of Christmas magic for all the Reign fans out there who need something both naughty and nice to get them through until the next new episode. Spread the word . . . spread the Reign-style joy. And Happy Holidays!

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It’s been a great week in reviews for MÉDICIS DAUGHTER!!!

First it made the Goodreads Best Books of the Month: December 2015 and I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Then the love just kept on coming. You might even say Christmas came early for me:

a top ten for 2015, and I have no doubt I’ll be haunted by this one for a long while. ~Unabridged Chick

. . . this is a tale of overcoming obstacles and fighting for your place in the world. There is plenty of romance, drama, and political intrigue to keep even the most reluctant historical fiction reader entertained. ~Reading Lark

If you love historical fiction, or know someone that does, add this one to you Winter reading list- it’s perfect for curling up by the fire with! ~Bless Their Hearts Mom

I couldn’t put down. And when I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it. ~The Readers Hollow

Soaring, fascinating… this book has it all. ~Long and Short Reviews

It’s about time! Time to give the Tudors some competition. Time to show that the history of sixteenth century France is just as, if not more, gripping than that of Henry’s and Elizabeth’s England. In MÉDICIS DAUGHTER (St. Martin’s Press), Sophie Perinot rises to the challenge, offering a glimpse into the spectacular, turbulent years of the waning Valois dynasty. ~Writing the Renaissance

Rich with intrigue, rivalry and passion, Médicis Daughter is not to be missed. ~Flashlight Commentary

So, if you know someone who loves historical fiction, is sucked into dysfunctional family drama, or is fascinated by royal intrigue, Médicis Daughter might just make the perfect holiday gift!

chenonceau in the snow

Dec 012015

It’s launch day my friends! After many months of research and writing and more months still in the production process, Médicis Daughter steps out on stage.  If you haven’t already pre-ordered your copy (and if you have, thanks and please take a picture of your copy “in the wild” and share it with me on social media), you can now find it wherever books are sold.  For easy, on-line, purchase links just click over to the Médicis Daughter page of this website

I look forward to hearing what readers think of my Valois heroine and her family.

LAUNCH DAY 2

Wow. Pleased (and a tad astounded) to announce that Médicis Daughter made Barnes & Noble Read’s BookTree1-550x550“December’s Top Picks in Fiction” list!  Seeing myself listed in the company of household names like Dean Koontz and Marina Fiorato (the best-selling author of The Glassblower of Murano) is extremely gratifying. Feels a little bit like Christmas has come early

“Thank you to Sophie Perinot for introducing me to a whole new section of historical fiction to now become obsessed with (move over Tudors)!”

Thank YOU Colleen at A Literary Vacation, and readers everywhere.  Without a receptive audience what we writers do would be a little like a tree falling in the forest with no one to hear it. THANKSGIVING WISHES

Yes I am SUPER thankful for readers, and particularly readers who take the time to review. Because here’s the thing: word of mouth is still the most powerful tool in the world when it comes to supporting novels.

So Thanks A Literary Vacation for this doozy of a review!  For embracing the characters I lived with for so many long months and letting them become as real to you as they are to me:

I think one of my favorite thing about Margot (and really all of these characters) is that she isn’t perfect, not even close. Sophie Perinot did an astounding job of making each character so well rounded and complex that they felt wholly real to me, not just glitzed up or vilified representations of what someone might want them to be.

And for understanding and perfectly expressing the essence of Médicis Daughter:

With all this going on (and there is a lot of action and intrigue to delight in, perfectly presented by the author) the real heart of the story, to me, is much smaller: that of a beautiful, intelligent girl long held prisoner to her family’s demands, threats and machinations finally learning how to break free, at least in part, from their control to become the woman of honor she longs to be.

I couldn’t have said it better myself!

Nov 242015
Brilliant. This is what I call a “WOW” book.
What better way to celebrate the madness of “one week to publication” than with a WOW review?! 1 week to go
 
Book Lovers’ Paradise declares that Médicis Daughter:
…doesn’t read like a history book, but like a fantastic tale.
And Donna has officially read the book more times than my mother. Thanks Donna! — “I have re-read this book not once but TWICE, it’s that good!!!”
 

This week it was a review-a-day for Médicis Daughter, and all of them good!

Peeking Between the Pages highly recommended the novel, declaring:

Well researched and rich in historical detail Medicis Daughter is sure to please any historical fiction fan and it’s one of my favorites of the year.

1And Darlene paid me a great compliment in saying that my “talent at weaving history with a captivating story is what makes her novels so entirely readable.”

Over at The Mad Reviewer (where Médicis Daughter earned 5 of 5 stars), Carrie said:

Perinot’s descriptive writing style … brings the court and the characters to life.  She can be beautifully descriptive but also knows when to pare down her writing for the sake of pacing.

A theme picked up by Just One More Chapter:

Sophie Perinot writes with rich details, her descriptions made it so easy to visualize what was taking place – I was totally absorbed in her story.

Both The Maiden’s Court (where Heather gave the book 4.5 of 5 stars) and The Eclectic Reader (Teddy) appreciated the coming-of-age aspects of the tale. Saying:

There is a real sense of Marguerite’s growth as the novel progresses, fueled by the machinations and ill-treatment by her family, naivety fast becomes awareness and intelligence and a strong moral compass hold her in good stead challenging her family in doing what she believes is right. (Teddy)

And

. . .we see a coming of age story from a young, innocent girl into a woman of the Valois court who makes decisions for herself, goes toe-to-toe with her powerful mother, and ultimately who becomes a strong woman (Heather)

Well thank you ladies all! I am blushing!  For those of you who are not sick of me saying it already, Médicis Daughter: A Novel of Marguerite de Valois releases in 11 days.  It is currently available for pre-order at Amazon, B&N, Indiebound and (for the international set) Book Depository (though it appears they will be shipping out later).  If you order today then you will have it in your hands more quickly!

Light is a frequent literary device. It can be an emblem of hope, a way to see what has been hidden, even a method of symbolically driving back demons.  This month a collection of historical novelists, including myself, have decided to use light in all those ways, by creating a weekly blog event (#LightOnOurLadies) to illuminate the historical women at the center of our writings. The main character in my next novel, Médicis Daughter, is profoundly in need of such illumination. 

History has not been kind to 16th century French Princess Marguerite de Valois. In fact, she has been quite viciously misremembered as a wanton and a woman without substance. Before I explain how I think that happened, please allow me to shine a little light on the real Marguerite.

Born at the Château of Saint-Germain overlooking the Seine, as her father had been before her, Marguerite (or Margot as she was affectionately called) was the eighth child of King Henri II of France and Queen Catherine de Médicis.  Described by the poet Ronsard as tall and graceful, with fine pale skin, sparkling black eyes, and chestnut hair, Margot stood out even at a Court renowned for its beauties. But she had more than looks going for her—far more. A true granddaughter of François I, Margot was highly intelligent. She loved books, and often got so swept away by them that she forgot to eat or sleep (sound familiar to anyone reading this?). As a mature woman, Margot was a serious and influential force in the literary life of France. A student of more than literature, Margot was a solid classics scholar. She spoke multiple languages fluently, and also had a genuine talent for public speaking. This she was frequently asked to do, often representing one royal brother or another. Finally Margot had a keen grasp of the fine points of statecraft. Arguably her political acumen exceeded that of her brothers, making her the most similar of all her siblings to her strong-willed, politically expert mother, Catherine de Médicis.

Why then, if Margot was as competent as she was pretty is she so little remembered? And when recalled, why is Margot depicted not as she was, but as lascivious and nearly amoral?

To put it simply, Marguerite de Valois was a victim of poor timing. She was born at the end of her dynasty.

When a royal house expires, its last years are generally recounted by people who have political and personal agendas that make it tempting to denigrate their predecessors. Such was the fate of Valois in the late 16th Century. Slander and denigration of royal family began during their lifetimes, largely fed by the tensions and rivalries of a vicious series of wars (the French Wars of Religion) that stretched from the early 1560s beyond the end of the Valois reign. No member of the Valois was exempt from the attacks of gossips, or from the writings of anonymous political pamphleteers.  Anti-Valois propagandists seeking to degrade Marguerite chose that easiest and most ancient path for destroying a woman: assertions of rabid sexual desire and wanton conduct.

Slanderous talk about Margot began early among her family’s enemies, but she owes most of the lasting defamation of her character to a single printed work, Le divorce Satyrique. This malicious pamphlet was composed in her lifetime.  It mocked and insulted Margot as it set out grounds for a proposed annulment of her marriage to Henri de Bourbon. Margot’s cousin/husband was no longer merely King of the Navarre, but King Henri IV of France—and a king in need of an heir. We all know that a King in need of an heir will do what it takes to be rid of a queen who cannot give him one.  So, grounds for an annulment were created and printed.  That such a piece of propaganda should have been taken up as fact and treated as history for so long may seem astounding to us today, but early chroniclers of the French court were often not particularly concerned with objectivity. Nor were early historians. As Robert Ja Sealy remarks in The Myth of the Reine Margot, “the documentary sources for our knowledge. . . were written during the wars of religion and, all too frequently are colored by political expediency . . .”  Objectivity as a goal rather than a veneer is a rather recent requirement for history and historians. Even some of the histories written in the 19th and early 20th centuries make no pretense at objectivity in recounting the period of the Wars of Religion. Rather, their authors unabashedly announce in their prefaces which side they are on. Margot, considered not a particularly important historical player, remained largely unexamined.  The myths about her grew and thrived in darkness.

In Médicis Daughter I’ve focused a strong and clear light on the historical Marguerite, creating a coming-of-age story that does her better justice than she received from Valois disparagers, or from those later historians who saw no reason to look more closely.  Médicis Daughter releases six weeks from today. To learn more about the book, visit the novel’s page at Amazon, or on Facebook.

 

And now,

As part of the Shining Light on Our Ladies Tour,  please meet my fellow authors Helen Hollick and Alison Morton… and their ladies

 Alison Morton is a woman after my own heart.

Raised by a feminist mother and an ex-military father, it never occurred to Alison Morton that women couldn’t serve their country in the armed forces. After six years, she left as a captain, having done all sorts of interesting and exciting things she can’t talk about, even now…

Fascinated by the complex, power and value-driven Roman civilisation since childhood, she wondered what a modern Roman society would be like if run by strong women…

Alison lives in France and writes award-winning Roman-themed alternate history thrillers with tough Praetorian heroines – INCEPTIO, PERFIDITAS, SUCCESSIO and now

…  AURELIA:  Late in 1960s, Aurelia is sent to Berlin to investigate silver smuggling, former Praetorian Aurelia Mitela barely escapes a near-lethal trap.  Her old enemy is at the heart of all her troubles and she pursues him back home to Roma Nova but he has struck at her most vulnerable point her young daughter. Please visit Alison (and Aurelia) to read more – and a chance to win a paperback copy of Aurelia

Helen Hollick is a fierce advocate for Indie Authors.

She lives on a thirteen-acre farm in Devon, England. Born in London, Helen wrote pony stories as a teenager, moved to science-fiction and fantasy, and then discovered historical fiction. Published for over twenty years with her Arthurian Trilogy, and the 1066 era, she became a ‘USA Today’ bestseller with Forever Queen. She also writes the Sea Witch Voyages, pirate-based fantasy adventures. As a supporter of Indie Authors she is Managing Editor for the Historical Novel Society Indie Reviews, and inaugurated the HNS Indie Award.

On her blog today Helen introduces some ladies from the Court of King Arthur, except this ‘court’ is set in 5th century Britain and her Gwenhwyfar, Morgause and Morgaine are very different from the ladies of the Medieval tales!

ENJOYING THE SHINING LIGHT ON OUR LADIES TOUR?  Then please join us again NEXT TUESDAY when we set sail with Captain Jesamiah Acorne’s ladies aboard Sea Witch, meet a lady surgeon disguised as a man aboard another ship, and are introduced to lady  blackmailed into marrying a knight….

 

 

Yesterday was Marguerite de Valois’ birthday.

Born in 1553 the protagonist of Médicis Daughter, as you will discover in my novel, was much more than history gives her credit for.   I always think of her on her birthday and wonder “what if” (what if Salic law hadn’t prevented her from ruling in France when her last brother–Henri III–died? What if she’d be able to give her husband Henri IV a son?).  I hope that in my novel I have given her a gift: a story that is worthy of her and undermines the pernicious rumors—started by political pamphleteers in her own time—that she was a wanton, a hedonist and not much more.  So maybe my book is a birthday gift, belated but nonetheless . . .

Well yesterday I got a present: A box, perched atop my mailbox, containing the bound galleys of Médicis Daughter.  They weren’t expected.  They could have come any day.  But they arrived on Marguerite’s birthday.  A sign? I sure hope so!