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Posted January 2, 2013
Book Two in the Catherine de Medici Trilogy
Author Jean Plaidy has been a long time favourite author of mine. The Italian Woman is the second novel in a trilogy about Catherine de’Medici and her nemesis, Queen Jeanne of Navarre. The first book in the series is titled Madame Serpent. I recommend reading that book first to get a good feel for the stories and characters in the second novel.
Both Catherine and Jeane are strong-willed, outspoken, intelligent, and dynamic. Since childhood, the paths of these stalwart women continually cross, forcing them to encounter each other in political and social occasions. While Catherine was unpopular, Jeanne was well liked despite her tendency to be unyielding and stubborn. This brings plenty of conflict into the story – Catholic vs Protestant, marital successes vs marital failures, deviousness vs straightforwardness, and much more. Despite their differences, they were similar in their love for their children, their ambitions, and their passion for France. Their rivalry intensifies with each page until their enmity becomes unmanageable.
Now a widow, Catherine begins to take vengeance on her husband’s mistress, Diane de Poitiers, after years of humiliation. Although her eldest son is now king, she desires to see Henry, her favourite child and will do all that she can to put him there. As dowager queen and regent for her son, she can wield power over Jeanne. Jeanne, princess of France, is Catherine’s late husband’s cousin. Jeanne is a staunch Huguenot Protestant while Catherine is devoutly Catholic. In the political arena, this places them at odds with Protestant England and Catholic Spain, bringing great tension and historical detail into the story.
Jean Plaidy is one of the great historical fiction authors of our time. Her books have been favourites and bestsellers for decades. She has a knack for taking complex stories and tell them in an easy, exciting way. Catherine de Medici is depicted as a no-nonsense, hard-headed, conniving woman who must survive in a court fraught with intrigue, danger, and deadly political ambitions. Sometimes, the author fell into the trap of “telling” too much instead of bringing the story to life through action, but wonderful descriptions, historical details that enrich, and compelling characters bring to life this fascinating time in history and the two women who struggled to survive within its confines.
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Posted February 1, 2013
Enjoyable and informative book
I enjoyed this book very much and look forward to the next one in this series. As a fictional/historical book, it rates right up there at the top.
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Posted June 29, 2014
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