Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Confessions of Catherine De Medici Review and GIVEAWAY

C. W. Gortner

I didn't know much about Catherine of De Medici. Okay, I knew nothing about her but she lived in Italy then France at the same time Henry VIII was busy beheading, divorcing and outliving his six wives
So I did the extensive research of looking her up. I used Wikipedia.


The European history buff in me prevailed and I decided this one had a pretty cover so perhaps the story would be acceptable. Oh. My. Gosh. I was incredibly surprised by the storytelling. I could not put the book down. Although the story follows much of Wikipedia's account of Catherine, the author tells a story of the time period and of Catherine, a woman both loved and hated during her life and death.

Catholicism was still the rage in the sixteenth century, although John Calvin, Martin Luther, and others had cast a shadow on the prevailing church's worship practices. Catherine was very small when her Italian city was thrown into a civil war. She suffered terribly during her imprisonment but was eventually rescued by her Uncle Clement, the pope. Shortly thereafter, however, she was sent to France to marry Henry, the son of Francois, the current king of France. It was a political move, as all royal unions tend to be. Unbeknownst to Catherine, she entered a royal court full of adultery (the most glaring being her husband's), petty gossip, and negotiation for power.

The dauphin, the next in line, dies, leaving Henry the next king. Eventually, the old king dies and bequeaths the crown to Henry and Catherine becomes queen. By this time, she has finally given birth to a son and follows up with 8 more children. The king dies leaving Catherine the odious task of becoming a has-been. She watches the social climbers and new powers take over son's sovereignty and then he dies without leaving an heir. The next son is only 11 years old. She appoints herself as regent and rules until his death, again leaving no heir. The next son steps up, using Catherine as his playbook.

Meanwhile, Protestant and Catholic wage wars against one another. It is brutal. Catherine tries to remain non-partisan while maintaining her Roman Catholic roots but eventually makes decisions that may have contributed to the massacre of St. Bartholomew. Huge. Really huge and not at all pretty.

The author writes a story that leaves Catherine as a heroine rather than a persecutor. While he does not beatify her, her reasons are explained the reader is drawn into her world and her sorrow. Why did she laugh as Navarre was forced to renounce his Protestant faith and join the Catholic church? It's in the book. Did she really order the deaths of all Protestants in France on that fateful night? What could have driven a woman to take such desperate measures? Or did she?

The book is well written and has clear and concise descriptions. Catherine endears herself to the reader who feels empathy for the protagonist. By the end of the book, and of Catherine's life, the reader understands more clearly how being royalty in this time period left few choices in marriage and others often pulled the puppet strings. How much manipulation plays a part is brutally brought to light.

The writing and story are excellent. I kept having to turn the page to find out what happens next. It is definitely not boring by any stretch. I also did not find myself getting lost with too many characters. Although complex, the relationship to Catherine and her children is generally quite clear. Gortner's research is meticulously done.

I just so happen to have an extra copy. If you want it, let me know in a comment. I'll choose a winner on June 8th.

U.S. residents only, please.

Please leave your email address.


Bookventures said...

This sounds like its right up my ally. I would love to win a copy of this.

Thanks for the giveaway : )

bookventuresbookclub AT gmail DOT com

CountessLaurie said...

This sounds good. Thanks for the chance to win one!!

l.moore.j (at)

Tina said...

I'd love to win this one.


Linda said...

Like you, I would like to know more about Catherine. I read a previous book by C. W. Gortner so I know this will be well-written and well-researched. Thanks for the giveaway.

Anonymous said...

Another excellent book, the review sounds great and I can't wait to read it.....


Susan Helene Gottfried said...

No need to enter me, babe. I'm dropping in to say thanks for the e-mail. I've got this posted at Win a Book for you.

Joan said...

I will sign up for a book any day of the year and hope for a win. Can you win more than once?

Lauren said...

oo please enter me, I've been dying to read this one. Thanks! :)

lpjalejandro (at) gmail (dot) com

Melissa said...

I've heard great things about Gortner's books and would love to read this one!

shhhimreading at hotmail dot com

Cassie said...

Love the Medici. A comment on my blog will trigger an email to me. Thanks!

Cheryl said...

Thanks for the fabulous review of Christopher's book. While I admit I am slightly biased when it comes to his work (I coordinated his VBT), I can tell you that so many reviewers were requesting this one. I had read his book, The Last Queen, and when his publicist said he was touring with this one, I told her I would read it on a napkin if that was the only way for me to get a copy of it.

I'm glad you enjoyed the book.

All my best,


C.W. Gortner said...

Thank you so much for your wonderful review. I appreciate your hosting me on my tour and best of luck to everyone with the contest. I hope you enjoy Catherine de Medici's tale.

skkorman said...

I would love to read this book—please enter me to win!

Audra said...

Oh, this looks like a delicious book! I've been obsessed with the de Medici's -- I'd love to be entered in the give away. thesibylqueen at

Holly (2 Kids and Tired) said...

I really want to read this one! It sounds terrific. I'd love to win!


Lisa Page Rosenberg said...

I just saw the 10 year old French movie "Queen Margot" with Isabelle Adjani and Vincent Perez. Margot was Catherine de Medici's daughter, I think. In the film, Catherine was mean and had a gigantic forehead, but I would still like to read about her whole deal.

Also - Vincent Perez? Are you kidding me? Why didn't I know him before? He just knocked Johnny Depp out of one of the two places he had in my Top Five Dreamiest Boys list.

Tales of Whimsy said...

Awesome review :)
Beautiful cover :)
(not an entry)

Unknown said...

I would definitely learn some things by reading this. Sounds fascinating.

dianarod23 at gmail dot com

Johnny said...

Hope to win this book. I love historical fiction and non-fiction.

johnnystruckwash at gmail dot com

Elise said...

The book sounds great. Thanks for the thorough review. Enter me.

caliblue7 at gmail dot com

Unknown said...

Thanks for the chance to win this book.

dakotasky55 at gmail dot com

Unknown said...

I've been hearing of The Confessions of Catherine De Medici in the blogsphere. I would love to read it.

nancysoffice at gmail dot com

Foursons said...

Thanks for linking up! I'm thinking I need to move away from the smut novels for a while and use my brain for good things. Although I'm totally trying to win the Nora Roberts book that was linked up too. Can't help myself. So, maybe I can read this one after I indulge in one more smut. :)

Confessions From A Work-At-Home Mom said...

Stopping by from the "Read It Forward" Blog hop-- I am a HUGE fan of historical fiction, and would absolutely love to read this book (and ultimately pass it on to someone else!).

My email is in my profile!


Libby's Library said...

Enjoyed your review...please count me in. Thanks for the giveaway.


Anonymous said...

I'd love to read The Confessions of Catherine de Medici :) *Thanks* for the giveaway!

Cari said...

This book sounds awesome! Thanks for the giveaway!


Anonymous said...

This book sounds incredible! I've written several about Henry VIII and his wives, and I'm incredibly interested in reading about other royal courts during the same era!

semicrunchymama at hotmail dot com

Book Lover said...

The book sounds wonderful

Arch said...

I loved your review and sure makes me want to read this book. Please enter me for this giveaway.



Gwendolyn B. said...

I love the way your ho-hum attitude toward the subject changed to one of such enthusiasm! Sometimes you think a book will be a snooze and it turns out to be pure magic! I'm really interested in this time period and so I am thrilled to have a chance to win a copy of Gortner's latest. Thanks for sharing.

geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com