Wow. Pleased (and a tad astounded) to announce that Médicis Daughter made Barnes & Noble Read’s “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
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.
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.
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)
. . .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.
As part of the Shining Light on Our Ladies Tour, please meet my fellow authors Helen Hollick and Alison Morton… and their ladies
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
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….
A number of you have been asking me “what’s next, Sophie?” With great pride and pleasure I announce that THIS is next:
Prepare to take a leap back in time with me to 79 AD, when Pompeii was a lively resort flourishing in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius at the height of the Roman Empire. When Vesuvius erupted in an explosion of flame and ash, the entire town would be destroyed. Some of its citizens escaped the mountain’s wrath, some died as heroes . . . and A Day of Fire will tell their stories. The book is a high-concept piece—a novel in six parts by Stephanie Dray, Ben Kane, Eliza Knight, Kate Quinn, Vicky Alvear-Shecter, and yours truly. We will bring you overlapping stories of patricians and slaves, gladiators and heiresses, villains and heroes who cross and recross paths during Pompeii’s fiery end. But who will escape, and who will be buried for posterity?
My story—The Heiress’s Tale—will lead the collection. So mark your calendars! A Day of Fire releases on November 1, 2014.
While I was baking up a storm and wrapping gifts for friends and family I received a couple of very special year-end presents. The Sister Queens made several ”best of” lists” (in addition to the list at Let Them Read Books mentioned in a previous post).
I am exceedingly flattered that The True Book Addict, has my debut keeping company with books by the likes of C.W. Gortner, Hilary Mantel and my good friend Nancy Bilyeau. Holly’s list at Bippity Boppity Book lets me rub elbows with Ken Follett and Diana Gabaldon (wow). Book Drunkard’s “Top 12″ and Tanzinite’s Castle Full of Books both also have me in very august company. I am thrilled that Kate Quinn, author of a brilliant trilogy set in ancient Rome that I personally devoured, also picked The Sister Queens as one of her 2012 favorites and Space Station Mir named me as one of her “Top Ten New-To-Me Authors for 2012.” Finally, I feel very privileged that The Sister Queens made two of the “personal favorites” 2012 lists at Romantic Historical Lovers—Meagan’s and Jenny’s.
Not so sound like The Count from Sesame Street, but by my reckoning that makes nine favorites lists I am gobsmacked and grateful. Thank you to the book bloggers who did me such honor and thank you to all the readers who embraced my first novel so warmly!
I am very pleased to announce that The Sister Queens is a TOP PICKS of 2012 for historical fiction at Let Them Read Books (and in the august company of CW Gortner and Robin Maxwell no less). See which books made Jenny’s list for historical fiction, historical romance and historical fantasy and enter to WIN a title of your choice as part of the “Historical Holiday Blog Hop”.
On the fence about The Sister Queens? Looking for a little persuasion—a reason to add it to your “To Be Read” pile? Well, I am about to give you fifteen.
You see I keep a list of comments from reviewers—comments that rocked my world. And I noticed the other day that, with the 4 month anniversary of its release just around the corner, my novel has received in excess of three dozen really super reviews from bloggers and book-related publications. That’s not counting the more than one-hundred readers who have taken the time to write reviews for it at either Goodreads or Amazon.
So, at the risk of tooting my own horn most unbecomingly, I’ve decided to share a compendium of my favorite quotes grouped to support fifteen excellent reasons for any reader to take notice of The Sister Queens:
#1: The Sister Queens is amazing—don’t take my word for it (I am a little partial), it has received a staggering amount of good reviews:
“This is the must read novel of the summer for anyone with a passion for historical fiction.” (Fresh Fiction)
“THE SISTER QUEENS is probably my first Perfect 10 in well over a year—but it certainly merits at least that.” (Romance Reviews Today)
“Word on the street (rather, consensus among historical fiction bloggers) is that this is an author to watch whose book is a page-turner, fast-paced, emotional, passionate, well-written and carefully researched.” (School Library Journal)
“Historical fiction lovers rejoice! A new and true talent has arrived on the scene!” (Let Them Read Books)
“The Sister Queens is an amazing debut novel. Telling a story about history in a way that only the best historical fiction does.” (The True Book Addict)
“I’ll be recommending this to everyone I know who loves historical fiction and putting this author on my “buy immediately” list for her future releases” (Bippity Boppity Book)
“The Sister Queens is historic fiction at its absolute finest. I simply cannot wait to see what this author does next. She’s already won herself a spot on my list of favorite authors. In all of its colorful prose, deep and eccentric characters, and historical brilliance, this book can be summed up with one word: phenomenal. Brava!” (The Tulsa Book Review)
“In short, an excellent work of historical fiction . . . . Certainly the best I’ve read this year set in the Middle Ages. Highly recommended.” (Medieval Bookworm)
“This is one of the few historical fiction stories that I’ve read lately that I would consider a page-turner” (Debbie’s Book Bag)
#2: The story has it ALL: Whatever you like in your historical fiction you are going to find it in the pages of The Sister Queens, a novel that spans 40 years and locations including England, France, Provence, Cyprus & the Holy Land.
“The Sister Queens has it all… court life, balls, rivalry, politics, love and lust; with the added element of it seeming so real to the reader as though watching a film.” (Peeking Between the Pages)
“This is an excellent slice of an extremely interesting period of time. We get the politics and social aspects of not one but two countries (always a bonus!) as well as in the latter part of the book, Louis’ crusade to the Holy Land.” (The Broke and the Bookish)
#3 Rumor has it I can actually write:
“Sophie Perinot’s writing style is simple and honest and all the more eloquent for it.” (Let Them Read Books)
“I hope that Ms. Perinot is considering further books on unsung women in history as she does have a magical way with words. A way that brings long dead characters to very real life.” (Broken Teepee)
“I couldn’t believe that this is Sophie’s first book. It reads like it’s written by someone with years of writing experience and dozens of novels under their belt.” (Book Drunkard)
“. . . this is a novel that I quickly lost myself in. It was written beautifully and Perinot does an amazing job of bringing these two characters to life.” (The Owl Bookmark)
“Perinot’s writing is almost flawless, and she brings to rich life characters who lived more than 600 years ago, no small feat.” (Briar Patch Books)
“Perinot is a great writer and I’m anxious to see what other books she comes out with in the future” (A Bookish Affair)
#4 So I am getting compared to some pretty well-known historical novelists (and I am both flattered and grateful):
“I was reminded of one of my favorite historical fiction authors, Sharon Kay Penman. (Although Ms. Perinot’s style is deliciously more sexy ” (Let Them Read Books)
“. . . Perinot’s writing style reminds me of my revered Jean Plaidy—that is high braise indeed from this reader. (historical-fiction.com)
#5 Historical fiction aficionados, fear not—reviewers find the novel rings true to its era and is well researched:
“Intriguing, thought-provoking, atmospheric and lushly detailed, this is a novel that rings true about the era . . . .” (The Romantic Times)
“It was a wonderful book and I cannot recommend it enough because of its realistic characters and the historical setting that it was obvious Perinot took years researching to create.” (The Owl Bookmark Blog)
“This book shows impeccable research and the ability to put those details to good use. To bring out the most important things and know what to leave out.” (Debbie’s Book Bag)
“In the writing of this book, I could tell that there was extensive research …into the lives of these two women and their families and they were portrayed as very real women who adored their children and would do anything to keep them safe and protect their heritage.” (A Celtic Lady’s Reviews)
“Marguerite and Eleanor are fully-fleshed out characters’ they are products of their time and place, which Perinot establishes in fine form.” (The Historical Novel Reviews)
“In transporting me back to the 13th century, Perinot allows modern sensibilities to fall away, and lets the truth of the time drive her sisters’ attitudes and ambitions. She doesn’t condescend to them by forcing an anachronistic desire to be the ‘equal’ of any king, these aren’t post-2000 Disney princesses. She inserts no speeches hinting at nascent feminism. Perinot finds her connection in a way that is human — not political — treating the protagonists with respect for who they were.” (The Slosh Pile)
#6 The Sister Queens is NOT just for die-hard Historical Fiction fans:
“this book belongs on the shelf of anyone who loves the genre, and even those who are not regular readers of historical novels.” (The True Book Addict)
“Perinot hits the historical notes, but also speaks to modern women’s sensibilities” (The Romantic Times)
“If you are a reader of historical fiction or a fan of Medieval romance, I highly recommend The Sister Queens. If you are neither but enjoy stories about the many relationships that define a woman, you may find more to like here than you expect.” (Romance Dish)
#7 That’s because the themes at the novel’s heart remain relevant today:
“While leading the life of a royal wife in the 13th century certainly has little bearing on life today, the relationships each sister shared with her husband, children, and extended family is certainly relevant to today’s reader.” (Books, Belles, and Beaux)
“Yes, Sophie Perinot’s debut THE SISTER QUEENS takes us through medieval battles, the crusades, and some juicy court politics, but it is truly a story about two women and their quest for fulfillment.” (I Heart Words)
“This is a true coming-of-age story, a tale of sisterhood, relationships and of timeless womanhood. You will laugh and cry with them, want to scream at times and cheer at others.” (The Tulsa Book Review)
#8 In particular, this is the PERFECT story for anyone who is and has a sister:
“Perinot shows her passion and love for these sisters and not only pays tribute to the historical time period, but the bond of sisterhood as well. Anyone with a sister will feel something when they read this novel.” (The Pittsburgh Historical Fiction Examiner)
“The history is amazing, but the bond of sisterhood is perfect.” (The Musings of a Book Junkie)
“Perinot makes you care about these characters. She nailed the bond that only sister’s can have. The love, the jealousy, and also the deep friendship.” (To Read or Not to Read)
“The story, its very heart and soul, stayed with me for many days after. I think it resonates with me because of my relationship with my own dear sister. . . .” (Romance Reviews Today)
“I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of historical fiction and especially to those of you out there who have a sister – I saw so much of my sister’s and my relationship in these pages (I saw myself being Marguerite and my sister as Eleanor) and I was able to reflect upon our own relationship. (Onyx Book Chateau)
“This both takes sibling rivalry to a whole new level and shows the bonds that exist between sisters despite being separated by miles and country boundaries.” (Debbie’s Book Bag)
“It’s in part the relationships between the sisters, though, that makes this an excellent book. Yes, they have their children and their husbands, but they also always have one another, and it’s the sort of heartwarming female relationship that doesn’t always dominate mainstream fiction in quite the way it should.” (Medieval Bookworm)
“Perhaps the most endearing aspect of the book is the way in which author Sophie Perinot tenderly reveals the lives of sister queens Marguerite and Eleanor through their relationship with each other.” (Idyll Conversation)
#9 I know it’s a long book, but you won’t be able to put it down:
“Ms. Perinot’s characterization of the two women is fascinating and I found it quite hard to put the book down; in fact, I read it in one sitting. I love writing that grabs you and won’t let you go like that.” (Broken Teepee)
“It’s very rare that it takes me only two days to read an historical fiction book (they’re notoriously 400 to 500+ pages), but that’s what I did.” (Romance Reviews Today)
“Although the novel is a little over five hundred pages, I wanted more!” (Peeking Between the Pages)
“At 500 pages, I felt I still could have read more. It wasn’t enough! (Oh for the Hook of a Book)
“The pages of this read absolutely flew by at a pace much faster than my recent reads this year. This is a testimony to just how well written these characters were and how invested in their lives I became. You are simply sucked into all of the ups and downs that these women face.” (The Maiden’s Court)
“This was a wonderful read and one of my favorites so far this year. Move over Tudors, I think I have a new historical royal family obsession” (Ageless Pages Reviews)
#11 The Sister Queens will introduce you to two sisters of power and beauty who have been largely and inexplicably lost to time. It may teach you a thing or two about 13th century history and will surely make your curious to find out more:
“Good historical fiction will incite the reader to investigate the historical figures coming alive in its pages. The Sister Queens is one such book” (The True Book Addict)
“How could these two amazing characters have been lost to history? Thank you, Ms. Perinot, for breathing life into these amazing women and sharing their beautifully crafted tale with the world.” (The Tulsa Book Review)
#12 And it will have you looking at historical characters you thought you knew from new angles:
“I also like how Sophie Perinot gives readers a different perspective of Henry and Louis. She doesn’t just focus on what they did for their countries during their reigns, but looks deeper, focusing on the relationships they have with their wives and children. She shows that even if they might have been one of the most favored kings, they were not necessarily the best husband or father.” (Always with a Book)
#13 There are no cardboard characters here:
“Her two sisters, as well as their two kings, the wicked mother-in-law ~ White Queen Blanche of Castille, and the sisters’ children are so magnificently drawn. I could absolutely see them alive and feel their hearts’ emotions and motivations.” (A Bookish Libraria)
“She gives her queens the freedom to be real women, with all of their hopes and dreams and triumphs and disappointments, yet she keeps them within the constraints of their time.” (Let Them Read Books)
“Another thing that really puts this novel above some others is that the author fleshes out all of her characters.” (Peeking Between the Pages)
“Not only does The Sister Queens tell an entertaining and well-researched story, it also boasts of characters who are multifaceted and interesting.” (Broken Teepee)
“This is the type of book I am constantly looking for in the historical fiction genre, and rarely seem to stumble across; it’s very engaging from the outset, it’s lively to read with actualized characters in stead of cardboard historical cutouts . . . .” (Ageless Pages Reviews)
“Her characters felt real, especially those problematic kings, and I appreciated the way she tried to keep everyone human (save for, perhaps, Marguerite’s vile mother-in-law).” (Unabridged Chick)
#14 The Sister Queens is like a movie in your head (popcorn optional):
“one to mark down for the greatest of novels list. . .reads visually as a theatrical movie” (Oh, for the Hook of a Book)
#15 I still have book club spots available and I would be happy to join your group via Skype to discuss The Sister Queens:
“Whether or not you read The Sister Queens as your book club selection (which I believe would make a fascinating choice!), you should definitely read the reader’s guide with discussion questions.” (Bags, Books & Bon Jovi)
Those are my fifteen reasons (whew). If you were recommending The Sister Queens to a friend (and I sure hope you are) what would you tell her? I’d love to know and to tempt you to share I am hosting a giveaway. Share a reason you’d urge someone to add The Sister Queens to her/his TBR pile (or you’d like to add it to yours) in the comments below and you will be entered to win a signed copy
Oh look . . . a fourteenth thing to be grateful for before the week is out! In celebration of BookExpo America, a number of book bloggers who couldn’t make it to New York are holding an “Armchair BEA.” Part of those on-line festivities includes compiling “Best of 2012” lists and I’ve just found out that The Sister Queens made two! Thank you Michelle at The True Book Addict and Kristin at Always With a Book!