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The Confessions of Catherine de Medici

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To some a ruthless queen who led France into an era of savage violence, to others a passionate savior of the French monarchy, Catherine de Medici was one of the most powerful and misunderstood women ever to be queen. This brilliantly imagined novel brings to life her extraordinary untold journey in her own voice.

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The Confessions of Catherine de Medici: A Novel

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To some a ruthless queen who led France into an era of savage violence, to others a passionate savior of the French monarchy, Catherine de Medici was one of the most powerful and misunderstood women ever to be queen. This brilliantly imagined novel brings to life her extraordinary untold journey in her own voice.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Catherine de Medici uses her natural and supernatural gifts to protect the French throne in Gortner's (The Last Queen) portrait of a queen willing to sacrifice happiness and reputation to fulfill her family's royal destiny. Orphan Catherine has her first vision at age 10, and three years later is betrothed to Henri d'Orleans, brother of the sickly heir to the French throne. She heads to France with a vial of poison hidden among her possessions, and after negotiating an uneasy truce with her husband's mistress, she matures into a powerful court presence, though power, she learns, comes at a price. Three of her sons become king in succession as the widow Catherine wields ever-increasing influence to keep the ambitious de Guise clan at bay and religious adversaries from murdering each other. Gortner's is not the first fictional reinterpretation of a historical villainess—Catherine's role in the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, for instance, is recounted in a way sympathetic to her—but hers is remarkably thoughtful in its insight into an unapologetically ruthless queen. (May)
Library Journal
History has depicted Catherine de Medici (1519–89), wife of one king and mother of three, as a grotesque monster, poisoning and murdering to gain and maintain control over the French throne. After the death of Henri II, she began the struggle of her life—keeping one son after the other on the throne through the religious wars that threatened to tear France apart. In this meticulously researched novel, Gortner (The Last Queen) gives us a Catherine who is passionate yet sometimes naive. Most of her decisions following her husband's death are made to keep peace in France or safeguard her children. Yet she is still held responsible for the 1572 St. Bartholomew's Day massacre, in which thousands of French Protestants were slaughtered. VERDICT While the Catherine depicted here is in some ways similar to Jeanne Kalodigris's protagonist in The Devil's Queen, Gortner breathes more life into his queen. Historical fiction fans will appreciate the vivid details of Renaissance France. [Library marketing.]—Pamela O'Sullivan, Coll. of Brockport Lib., SUNY
From the Publisher
“Alison Weir and Philippa Gregory fans will devour this.”—Booklist

“Engrossing . . . a dramatic, epic novel of an all-too-human woman whose strength and passion propelled her into the center of grand events.”—Sandra Gulland, author of the Josephine B. trilogy

“Highly recommended . . . a compelling and fascinating view of Catherine’s life and world.”—Historical Novels Review

“Remarkably thoughtful in its insight into an unapologetically ruthless queen.”—Publishers Weekly
“A fresh, well-researched and powerful portrait.”—RT Book Reviews

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781441754561
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
  • Publication date: 8/1/2010
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Pages: 11
  • Product dimensions: 6.80 (w) x 6.20 (h) x 2.00 (d)

Meet the Author

C. W. Gortner, half-Spanish by birth, holds an M.F.A. in writing, with an emphasis on historical studies, from the New College of California and has taught university courses on women of power in the Renaissance. He was raised in Málaga, Spain, and now lives in California.

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Read an Excerpt

The Confessions of Catherine de Medici

A Novel
By C. W. Gortner

Ballantine Books

Copyright © 2010 C. W. Gortner
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780345501868

Chapter One

I was ten years old when i discovered i might be a witch.

I sat sewing with my aunt Clarice, as sunlight spread across the gallery floor. Outside the window I could hear the splashing of the courtyard fountain, the cries of the vendors in the Via Larga and staccato of horse hooves on the cobblestone streets, and I thought for the hundredth time that I couldn’t stay inside another minute.

“Caterina Romelo de’ Medici, can it be you’ve finished already?”

I looked up. My late father’s sister Clarice de’ Medici y Strozzi regarded me from her chair. I wiped my brow with my sleeve. “It’s so hot in here,” I said. “Can’t I go outside?”

She arched her eyebrow. Even before she said anything, I could have recited her words, so often had she drummed them into my head: “You are the Duchess of Urbino, daughter of Lorenzo de’ Medici and his wife, Madeleine de la Tour, who was of noble French blood. How many times must I tell you, you must restrain your impulses in order to prepare for your future?”

I didn’t care about the future. I cared that it was summer and here I was cooped up in the family palazzo forced to study andsew all day, as if I might melt in the sun.

I clapped my embroidery hoop aside. “I’m bored. I want to go home.”

“Florence is your home; it is your birth city,” she replied. “I took you from Rome because you were sick with fever. You’re fortunate you can sit here and argue with me at all.”

“I’m not sick anymore,” I retorted. I hated it when she used my poor health as an excuse. “At least in Rome, Papa Clement let me have my own servants and a pony to ride.”

She regarded me without a hint of the ire that the mention of my papal uncle always roused in her. “That may be but you are here now, in my care, and you will abide by my rules. It’s midafternoon. I’ll not hear of you going outside in this heat.”

“I’ll wear a cap and stay in the shade. Please, Zia Clarice. You can come with me.”

I saw her trying to repress her unwilling smile as she stood. “If your work is satisfactory, we can take a stroll on the loggia before supper.” She came to me, a thin woman in a simple gray gown, her oval face distinguished by her large liquid-black eyes—the Medici eyes, which I had inherited, along with our family’s curly auburn hair and long-fingered hands.

She swiped up my embroidery. Her lips pursed when she heard me giggle. “I suppose you think it’s funny to make the Holy Mother’s face green? Honestly, Caterina; such sacrilege.” She thrust the hoop at me. “Fix it at once. Embroidery is an art, one you must master as well as your other studies. I’ll not have it said that Caterina de’ Medici sews like a peasant.”

I thought it best not to laugh and began picking out the offensive color, while my aunt returned to her seat. She stared off into the distance. I wondered what new trials she planned for me. I did love her but she was forever dwelling on how our family prestige had fallen since the death of my great-grandfather, Lorenzo Il Magnifico; of how Florence had been a center of learning renowned for our Medici patronage, and now we were but illustrious guests in the city we had helped build. It was my responsibility, she said, to restore our family’s glory, as I was the last legitimate descendant of Il Magnifico’s bloodline.

I wondered how she expected me to accomplish such an important task. I’d been orphaned shortly after my birth; I had no sisters or brothers and depended on my papal uncle’s goodwill. When I once mentioned this, my aunt snapped: “Clement VII was born a bastard. He bribed his way to the Holy See, to our great shame. He’s not a true Medici. He has no honor.”

Given his prestige, if he couldn’t restore our family name I didn’t know how she expected me to. Yet she seemed convinced of my destiny, and every month had me dress in my uncomfortable ducal finery and pose for a new portrait, which was then copied into miniatures and dispatched to all the foreign princes who wanted to marry me. I was still too young for wedlock, but she left me no doubt she’d already selected the cathedral, the number of ladies who would attend me—

All of a sudden, my stomach clenched. I dropped my hands to my belly, feeling an unexpected pain. My surroundings distorted, as if the palazzo had plunged underwater. Nausea turned my mouth sour. I came to my feet blindly, hearing my chair crash over. A terrifying darkness overcame me. I felt my mouth open in a soundless scream as the darkness widened like a vast ink stain, swallowing everything around me. I was no longer in the gallery arguing with my aunt; instead, I stood in a desolate place, powerless against a force that seemed to well up from deep inside me . . .

I stand unseen, alone among strangers. They are weeping. I see tears slip down their faces, though I can’t hear their laments. Before me is a curtained bed, draped in black. I know at once something horrible lies upon it, something I should not see. I try to stay back but my feet move me toward it with the slow certainty of a nightmare, compelling me to reach out a spotted, bloated hand I do not recognize as my own, part the curtains, and reveal

“Dio Mio, no!” My cry wrenched from me. I felt my aunt holding me, the frantic caress of her hand on my brow. I had a terrible stomachache and lay sprawled on the floor, my embroidery and tangled yarns strewn beside me.

“Caterina, my child,” my aunt said. “Please, not the fever again . . .”

As the strange sensation of having left my own body began to fade, I forced myself to sit up. “I don’t think it’s the fever,” I said. “I saw something: a man, lying dead on a bed. He was so real, Zia . . . it scared me.”

She stared at me. Then she whispered, “Una visione,” as if it was something she’d long feared. She gave me a fragile smile, reaching out to help me to my feet. “Come, that’s enough for today. Let us go take that walk, si? Tomorrow we’ll visit the Maestro. He’ll know what to do.”


Excerpted from The Confessions of Catherine de Medici by C. W. Gortner Copyright © 2010 by C. W. Gortner. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Interviews & Essays


Who was Catherine de Medici?
Anyone with an interest in famous women of history will have heard of Catherine de Medici: she's that evil queen who allegedly poisoned her enemies and orchestrated a massacre. Or so the legend says. Of Italian birth, Catherine was the last scion of her legitimate Medici blood; she dominated France in the latter half of the 16th century, a contemporary of Elizabeth I and mother-in-law to Mary, Queen of Scots. Left a widow with small children and confronted by one of the most savage conflicts of the time, she fought to save France and her bloodline from destruction.

Why did you decide to write about her?
Initially, I was attracted to Catherine because of her legend. I figured that when someone has garnered such a reputation there has to be more to the story. I wanted to know who Catherine de Medici truly was, to search beyond the lurid accusations and hyperbole for the person she may have been. As I researched her, I found that my instincts were correct-as with most dark legends, there was far more to her than popular history tells us. I thought about how interesting it would be if Catherine herself could tell the story of her life. If she had the chance to explain herself, what would she say? All stories have two sides; and Catherine's is no exception.

How long did it take you to write, and what special research was involved?
It took about two years to write THE CONFESSIONS OF CATHERINE DE MEDICI. The research itself began several years before that; I actually first began researching Catherine de Medici whilestill in college, as she was part of my Master's thesis. For the novel itself, I took several trips to France, including one in which I visited the beautiful Loire Valley châteaux where Catherine resided and followed in her footsteps on the long progress she undertook to visit her eldest daughter on the border with Spain (though of course I did my trip by rail and car!). A friend of mine in Paris guided me on marvelous evening walks through the City, showing me specific sites associated with Catherine, including a lone tower that she evidently built as an observatory. I also read her letters, many accounts of her and her court, and the memoirs written by several of her contemporaries, including the fanciful memoirs of her daughter, Marguerite, known to history as Queen Margot.

What did Catherine's letters reveal?
Catherine's surviving letters constitute one of those rare treasure troves for the novelist. Letters offer an invaluable glimpse into the person's thoughts and personality and I found some of Catherine's letters to be particularly poignant. Her unimpeachable love for her children, her despair over the chaos wrought by war, her pragmatism and discomfort with overt fanaticism, as well as her compassion for animals-unusual for her time-all point to a woman who was very different from the archetypal Medici queen with her arsenal of poisons. Her letters helped me to envision the flesh-and-blood woman behind the legend and understand the challenges she faced both as a person and a queen.

What is one of the greatest misconceptions about Catherine de Medici?
Without doubt, it has to be the accusation that she nurtured a "passion for power." Catherine was not raised to be a queen, true, and she did in fact rule as regent for her sons until they came of age; but it is unfair to accuse her of a ruthless drive to retain her power at any cost. Catherine faced a unique set of circumstances that would have challenged even the most skilled of rulers: she had under-age children to protect and a kingdom being torn apart, literally, by the nobility. The clashes between Protestants and Catholics during the Reformation became especially intense in France; it was Catherine's great misfortune to be caught up in them. Her alleged passion for power was in truth an attempt to retain control over the destiny of her adopted realm and safeguard the throne-both of which may have suffered far more had she not been there. I find it quite sad that to this day Catherine remains tainted by actions that in essence she did not take of her own volition. She made several serious errors in judgment, without a doubt, but she was motivated most often by the urgent need to salvage a crisis, rather than some cold-blooded urge to eliminate those who stood in her way.

How do you strike a balance between depicting the reality of the times with modern day sensibilities?
The balance is always a fine one to tread. It can become even more tenuous when you are confronting issues of religion, race, sexuality, and gender. That said, I always consider the needs of my reader to be engaged by my story. While historical accuracy remains a primary obligation-in that the writer should not deliberately alter or distort known facts or have characters behave in an overtly modernized way-I do sanitize certain aspects of the reality of life in the 16th century. We tend to romanticize the past; we forget the lack of adequate hygiene, running water, antibiotics, etc. While I strive to retain the flavor of the past in my work and avoid the tendency to convert a brutal, quixotic era into a "costume drama", it is necessary to remember that we can only take so much of the less savory aspects of 16th-century life on novelized form. At the end of the day, I write fiction. My books are novels; their principal function is to entertain.

Do you think issues Catherine faced in her era still resonate today?
Many of the freedoms we take for granted today were unknown to people in the 16th century. Religious divisiveness in particular was a brutal part of daily life during Catherine's time; Catholics and Protestants were willing to martyr themselves for their cause, destroying countless others in the process. This is something that many of us, much like Catherine, may find difficult to comprehend. Yet that type of extreme righteousness remains very much a part of our modern landscape, as evidenced by acts of terrorism and genocide in several parts of the world. While we are in many ways a more enlightened society, we still carry vestiges of the past with us, and leaders throughout the world grapple with some of the same issues that Catherine did, in terms of placating anger and restoring harmony among people whose lives have been affected by war.

What is one of the secrets that Catherine "confesses" in this novel?
For one, the truth about her relationship with the Protestant leader, Coligny. I find it intriguing that so few of Catherine's biographers have looked more closely at this most enigmatic of friendships. Coligny was at court when Catherine first arrived from Italy as a teenage bride; he was the nephew of the Constable of France, a very important man, and therefore she and Coligny must have met long before they assumed their political roles. They were close to each other in age; they shared a history, as Coligny later served her husband, King Henri II; they probably witnessed to a certain extent each other's trials and triumphs, before circumstances arose for them to join forces. Coligny and Catherine could not have been more different, both in upbringing and outlook, yet they shared for a time a united response to the conflict threatening France and a mutual desire to seek accord. In this novel, Catherine tells us what brought them together, and what led to that definitive, tragic moment between them.

What do you hope readers take away from your work?
I seek to reveal secret histories, and in some small way restore humanity to people whose legends have overshadowed them. I also hope readers will come away from my work with the experience that they've been on an emotional journey. I want them to feel the way these people lived, their hardships and joys, and differences and similarities with us. Though a Renaissance queen faced issues we don't, love, hatred, power, intolerance, passion, and the quest for personal liberty remain universal themes.

What is your latest project?
I am currently working on a historical novel about Isabella of Castile, tracing her life from her uncertain youth to her triumphant accession as queen of Castile and the first twelve years of her controversial reign. I covered the latter years of Isabella's life in my previous novel The Last Queen, which is about her daughter, Juana; while researching that book, I realized I had a solid grounding in the facts of Isabella's life but had not truly considered who she was as a person. She's been lauded as a saint by some and a fanatic by others; she set in motion the horrors of the Inquisition yet she also financed Columbus's vision of a new world and united Spain after centuries of internal strife. Isabella is truly the first queen of the Renaissance; yet few people know the incredible true story of her tumultuous rise to the throne, her love affair with her husband, or of the events that led to the most climatic of years: 1492. Isabella was fallible, and, like so many controversial figures in history, misunderstood. I hope to bring to life her incredible vision and strength, as well as illuminate her intentions.
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Customer Reviews

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( 39 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 40 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 22, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    An interesting take on one of France's most notorious Queens~!

    The Confessions of Catherine de Medici is an historical fictional account of one of France's most notorious Queens.

    Catherine is a very loyal child, she understands her role in the political aspirations of her Medici family name. Even at a young age, she realizes that her destiny is one of greatness. Having the gift of 'sight', she becomes a very superstitious person, who sees signs and portents and dabbles in magical arts.

    Her uncle, Pope Clement, has betrothed her to the King of France's second son, Henri d'Orleans. She has no love for this man, but her duty requires her to stand strong in faith and with much determination, she makes the best of her situation. Ingraining herself into France's culture, she emerges as a champion of the countries soil. Amidst strife, and massacres like the one of St. Bartholomew, she must find her way.

    After several years of unsuccessfully producing an heir, Catherine becomes afraid for her future, however, King Francois I, has a special place in his heart for her, in another time, they may have been man and wife. He assures Catherine that she will produce him many fine grandchildren and Catherine is determined to fix her place in the royal family.

    Prince Henri believes he has married beneath himself and for many years, successfully ignores his marriage duties. His long time mistress, Diane de Poirtiers, keeps him away from court, and no matter what Catherine does to entice her husband, she fails. Ordered by his father to perform his marital duties, he dispassionately rapes her. However, no heir was produced and the two struggle to remain faithful to their duties. When Diane realizes her only hope to remain mistress is to encourage Henri of impregnating Catherine, the two begin to successfully produce the heirs that France so desperately yearn for.

    Catherine turns to magics to help her produce an heir and keep her husband coming to her bed, tired of court discussing her barreness. Whether they were successful or not, after eight years of non-production, Catherine goes on to birth six children. They are her life's passion and in her mother's undying love, she fails to see the jealousy and hidden innuendos amongst her own children. Diane continues to add strife to Catherine's life by having a hand in the raising of her children, sometimes adding fuel to the fire, discouraging Catherine's children from fully loving their mother.

    Catherine de Medici is a woman of many mysteries and C. W. Gortner has given her a different portrayal, of the woman beneath the rumours. Beginning from when she is a child, we read her thoughts and positions as she grows into womanhood and as she ages with time we learn of another possibility behind what made Catherine motivate herself to do the things she did.

    I truly enjoyed the book, the flow was excellent, the characters believable in their mannerisms and dialogues. I thought the passages descriptive and easily found myself envisioning the surroundings being described. I enjoyed C. W. Gortner's portrayal of Catherine, so much in history has her painted as an evil witch who poisoned those at her fancy, who controlled and manipulated everyone to her will, even when her judgements were lacking. Seeing her being portrayed as neither victim nor heroine but as a woman who has accepted what life has offered her and making the best of what is being presented to her.

    I was equally impressed with the graphic nature of some scenes, the author d

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 15, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Art History & Historical Novel Buffs Will Devour This Novel!

    "Confessions of Catherine de Medici" is a novel that art historians and historical fiction lovers will simply devour once they get their hands on it. I know, because I am of that ilk! This book is as close to reading someone else's diary as one could get were it not for the extraordinary descriptive details that highlight the story.

    Written by the hand of a wizard, the novel is riddled with unbelievably gorgeous descriptions of architecture, artworks, tapestries, gardens and garments. That alone could make me an avid fan, but to top that off, Mr. Gortner is a writer of such an all inclusive style that I hung on his every word. To him, history is not dull, and he conveys that in every sentence of this powerful, absorbing book.

    Catherine de Medici has long been a figure I've been interested in knowing more about. I was an Art History major in college, including concentrations in Fine Arts and Museum Studies. The Medicis absolutely captured my fantasies because of their collections of art, their wealth, their bent toward evil doings and their intrigues. They were handsome, gorgeous and insane, while they built a Florence that became the jewel of Italy. Fascinating stuff! So, Catherine de Medici, the last of the Medici and only surviving grandchild of Lorenzo the Magnificent had to be exceptional and endowed with dazzling gifts of mind and spirit.

    Mr. Gortner makes all of his characters come alive. His easy manner of introducing and evolving the emotional make up of the primary characters makes them feel like they have walked into your life, literally. I fell in love with the young Catherine and her devastating childhoood, suffered with her young bridal years, agonized over her love life, and fought with her for her children and country. What a heroine she was, and how vulnerable Gortner made her, as well as making her a lioness befitting her royal heritage.

    Mr. Gortner's research and writing of his historical novel seems meant to reach a wide audience, although directed mostly to women. His concerns address the historical significance of Catherine de Medici as a major woman of the 16th c. It also seems to me that he writes in order to highlight the strengths that a spirit can rise to and overcome under duress in life. Women are most often the ones who carry burdens of balancing difficult tasks, caring for home, children, poverty and wartime backlash...Mr. Gortner's book offers Catherine de Medici as a historic figure who represents real life heroics women have achieved throughout time.

    When all the dots have been placed and the commas laid in properly, "Confessions of Catherine de Medici" is simply a wonderful story to read. It will remind you of those books about Anne Bolyen and her sister we've all loved in the recent past, only Mr. Gortner writes much better.

    5 stars for an author who will take you back to 16th century France.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 18, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A Bit of Alright

    I will start out by saying that I wasn't overly thrilled with Gortner as a writer. I know there are some who add that name to a list of great authors, but I wasn't overly enthused. It was .... Simple reading. I was never fully engulfed in what was happening, never fully 'there' with the characters.

    But that could just be me ...

    I do wish their had been more politic intrigue in the book. You know, the really nasty, tangled, web of intrigue that seems to haunt history.

    I did enjoy reading about Catherine de Medici, though. I first became interested in her story when I saw a History Channel special about her and her family. The 'voice' of the character Catherine in the book does seem to match nicely with what I have discovered myself. A strong woman, fiercely loyal.

    I also enjoyed the path the book took through her life. Carrying the reader through her slightly spoiled childhood and then hurling both character and reader into a foriegn land with de Medici getting her first taste of true court intrigue and fear. Then, of course, into her later life where she ... Takes the reigns for herself.

    I'd recommend this book for book clubs, just because there are several points in Medici's life that are clearly covered and thus easy discussion points. Also, there are plenty of points where one could ask, "And how would you have acted in this situation? What would you have done?"

    While I thought this book was alright, I probably won't be rushing back to the store to round up anything else by this author.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 26, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    Just read my first by C. W. Gortner and it won't be the last. Ca

    Just read my first by C. W. Gortner and it won't be the last. Catherine de Medici comes off as a real woman on the page. She is what a writing teacher of mine used to call a marble-cake character. You see the good and you see the bad, but you see the hows and whys of her thinking and actions. The secondary characters are also given depth and are beautifully drawn.
    The author's afterword is especially enlightening regarding the historical Catherine, but do remember, it's to be read afterward!
    Highly recommended!

    James Conroyd Martin
    Author of Push Not the River
    & Against a Crimson Sky

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 20, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    3 1/2 stars

    Let me start with CW Gortner is one of my favorite authors and "The Last Queen" is one of my favorite books, so I couldn't wait to get my hands on "Confessions." Yes, my expectations were high. For starters, with this being Catherine's story, I expected Diane de Poitiers to be made out as a bad person, understandably, but their was so my much rich history there between Henri, Diane and Catherine, I felt he didn't do that relationship justice. After reading Diane Haeger's "The Courtesan" (another favorite book) I was let down. That part of Catherine's life, molded a lot of her personality. The Massacre of St. Bartholomew had me engrossed. I love historical fiction, but I expect the authors to leave the facts and weave the parts we do not know. I feel, from my studies, he changed history here throughout alot of the book. Due to spolier alerts I won't mention what parts.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 10, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    an enjoyable work of biographical fiction

    In 1589, seventy year old Catherine de Medici looks back on her life as a king maker with sins to confess just like she insists everyone else. When she was ten years old she thought she was a witch as she has her first vision. When she was thirteen, the orphaned Catherine becomes engaged in an arranged marriage to Henri d'Orleans, brother of the ailing heir to the French crown. Although frightened about leaving her safe home in Florence, she journeys to France allegedly to meet her fiancé. Catherine quickly strikes a deal with Henri's mistress Diane de Poitiers though she loathes the woman who occupies her spouse's bed more than she does and applies the poison she brought with her discreetly.

    Although loathed by her subjects as an outsider, Catherine becomes the power behind the throne when her husband becomes king. After Henri's death, the widow insures three of her sons in succession sit on the throne. She continues to use her paranormal skills to abet her political acumen and her knowledge of poisons to keep her family on the throne.

    Although the audience will have to leave their perceptions of the poison queen at the front cover, The Confessions of Catherine de Medici is an enjoyable work of biographical fiction. Catherine argues that she is no different than everyone else who casts stones at her. Instead she insists she is just a protective mother of her offspring and her country. Although it is difficult to feel empathy to such a ruthless individual especially with her use of poison and her part in the 1572 St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre of the Huguenots, C.W. Gortner provides a unique perspective as he enables historical fiction readers to understand the viewpoint of Catherine de Medici.

    Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 12, 2013

    I enjoyed learning about Catherine Medici, and I am inspired to

    I enjoyed learning about Catherine Medici, and I am inspired to read some factual books about her. I was not thrilled with this novel. There seem to be something missing. I never felt a connection to Catherine. I felt I never really got to know the other characters as well. 

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 22, 2013


    I love historical fiction books this one left me flat. Catherine was written to be so full of herself. She was written as if it was current times. Too much religious and political bias.
    The historical value was too disjointed. It truly was a fiction.

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  • Posted March 23, 2012

    Highly Recommended - you must check it out!

    Gortner does incredible research on the most minute facts before he even begins to put this historical novel on paper. He takes the facts and from the first sentence sends one into both the life and facts intertwined in such a way as to make one think they are reading a book that one will not be able to sleep at night. He also makes the the thoughts of this highly misunderstood woman to the table with facts without ever realizing this is history at all! Catherine de Medici can now be understood as the person she was. Be careful though, you won't be able to put this one down. What a winner!!!!

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  • Posted March 12, 2012

    I am an avid historical fiction reader and I have read two previ

    I am an avid historical fiction reader and I have read two previous books by Gortner- The Last Queen and The Tudor Secret. The Confessions of Catherine de Medici is written in a first person narrative and she is telling you her life in her perspective. Between the trials she encountered as a young child to competing with King Henri's mistress to the religous factions between the Catholic faith and the Huguenots, this book was hard to put down. You begin to understand the actions Catherine needed to do to secure herself and her children on the french throne. It was written in a simple manner and I give Gortner props for condensing the story so it's easy to follow, moves quickly and keeps you interested. A must read for fiction fans

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  • Posted February 28, 2012

    great read

    nice take on Catherine de Medici- the author did a great job of humanizing this controversial woman.

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  • Posted January 16, 2011

    Forever A Gortner Fan!

    It seems that each novel of this particular type (Queens, Kings, Tudors...) that I read, I fall a little more in love with History. Never really one for loving History or English classes in school, I am now a HUGE fan! C. W. Gortner is a new to me author and one that will be a favorite for a long time to come. His writing style is amazing, bringing History to life before the reader.

    This Historical hovel of the Queen of France, Catherine De Medici, is absolutely above and beyond phenomenal. The secrets, the royalties, the heartache, the truth......all of it became me as I sat reading this novel, turning page after page, waiting for the confession. Gortner blended fact and fiction together so outstandingly that I had a truly hard time differentiating between the two. Being pulled completely into the story is a fabulous, unforgettable experience.

    Gortner's research of the evil, scandalous Queen of France, brought new meaning to me about the 16th century. His descriptive detail about the actions and the life of Catherine made it seem as if he, Gortner himself, was actually there, beside this truly misunderstood and much hated woman. For an author to write that great, that his reader feels as if he was telling of his own actual witnessing, is beyond words.

    It's novels like this that have the most meaning. To give it anything less than 5 stars, would be degrading. I am looking forward to going back and getting his first novel, The Last Queen, as well as keeping up with all his future works. If you are a fan of History, then this book is perfect for you. If you love books about Queens, this is the one you want to read. And, if you've never a book like this before, then please start here with Gortner's beautiful work!

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  • Posted June 19, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    The true heirs of wealth and nobility are often seduction, betrayal and a never-ending struggle for power

    Reading the work of a truly talented author is a well-savored delight for a book lover. When it comes to the art of writing, C.W. Gortner's name can be added to the list of master craftsmen. He duly creates a riveting drama that is seamlessly blended into a litany of historical facts - that in the hands of someone less capable - could have become a tangled web. Instead The Confessions of Catherine de Medici draws the reader into the French court of the sixteenth century as if the protagonist herself was beckoning with her bejeweled hand.

    The story unfolds as Catherine takes a look back at her life offering her confessions in the form of a tell-all memoir. Her now infamous surname - de Medici - is both a blessing and a curse. Having risen from the merchant class, the superfluous excess of Italy's wealthiest family makes her the target of the disapproving clergy and a capricious citizenry. Yet the name still bespeaks an implied wealth, and the second son of France, Henri, is offered in betrothal for her supposed riches. Only the joke is on the royal family when Catherine's alleged dowry fails to materialize.

    Catherine arrives at court in much the same way that Sofia Coppola envisions the introduction of Marie Antoinette - she is stripped of everything pertaining to her native Italy and is instructed that she is now a daughter of France. As a teenager alone in a foreign land, her naiveté is apparent. Her debut into the world of power and intrigue is as soft as a whisper. Luckily, Henri's father feels protective of the young girl, even if his son prefers the amorous company of his former governess. It is through the undue influence of this older rival that Catherine and Henri come together to produce an heir in the most unnatural of circumstances.

    When Henri assumes the throne after the death of his father and elder brother, he comes to realize the inherent strength in Catherine's character. From her very core, she emanates the elemental qualities essential in a leader. The two may have been brought together in a marriage of wealth and power, but as their relationship matures they are able to view each other as partners, friends and even passionate lovers.

    With Henri's unexpected death - foretold by the reputed seer Nostradamus - the kingdom is left in her hands. Her job is to safeguard it for her sons. The first is Francois, a child prince who is raised with the tremendous pressure of bearing the responsibility of being a leader in training. He marries Mary, Queen of Scots, his childhood playmate who he views more as a sister. The two never consummate their union and Francois, who always suffered from poor health, succumbs under the strain. He dies without siring an heir. The second is Charles who becomes so consumed with guilt for the blood spilled in the power struggle between French Protestants and French Catholics that he commits suicide. The third is Henri, the golden child who Catherine believes to be the king France so desperately needs. Alas, when it is revealed that Henri prefers the company of men to women, Catherine fears that he too will die without an heir. Will all of her planning come to naught?

    Catherine was viewed by her contemporaries as the wicked queen mother. England's Queen Elizabeth is recorded as saying that Catherine was the only person she ever feared. Yet Gortner presents a softer picture of a mama bear protecting her cubs rather than a ruthless puppet master pulling the strings.

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  • Posted June 17, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    An amazing book about this true life historical figure!

    This book is fabulous! The writing is exquisite. It really feels like Catherine is telling her life story and what an incredible experience to see the events from her perspective. I was completely engrossed in this book from the minute I started until the very end. Even when I knew what was going to happen, I was still on the edge of my seat. And when I reached the end, I was sad to say good-bye to Catherine! This is a wonderfully written novel about this true life historical character. The author did so much research and really helps to see what it was like to walk in Catherine De Medici's shoes.

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  • Posted June 7, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    What a Fascinating Woman!

    Catherine is fascinating. I found myself Googling her to find out more once I finished because I just hadn't quite gotten my fill yet. These are her "confessions," so we are given full access to her thoughts. I loved watching her grow from a slightly spoiled girl, to a frightened girl, to a young wife, to a woman in her prime and at the height of her glory. Gortner took the approach that some of the bad things that happened during her reign were due to others' actions rather than any complicity on her part. That made it easier to understand her motivations, but it also made her seem like a bad ruler. She had no control over her court, she ignored threats when she should have taken preemptive action, and she didn't think through all the implications of what she did.

    Politics play a fairly large part in the book, and I didn't always follow why things were happening. I don't think that I'm someone who would ever be good at intrigue. At most I might think one step ahead of where I am. So when Catherine was making deals, or she all of a sudden had to support one faction over another, or she chose whether to assassinate someone or not, I did not always follow. That could just be me though.

    A little feminist preaching here. At the time when Catherine had power (1560-1589), there were so many other powerful women. Elizabeth I, Mary Stuart, Jeanne III of Navarre, and maybe even others. So why were women as a whole still treated as brood mares? I just don't get it.

    Catherine's daughter Margot was incredibly interesting. Oh, I wanted to slap her, but I would love to read more about her.

    This family could give the Tudors a run for their money. Holy cow. Maybe one ruler didn't have six wives and change the face of Christendom, but the personal drama? They had it. I was trying to tell my husband all about who was sleeping with who, who killed who, how many rulers France went through in this time, who they fought with, who they made peace with, and I just kept going on and on and on. I'm glad I didn't live then, but it is fascinating to read about those times.

    If you're looking for some of that intrigue and drama the Tudors were famous for, but you're maybe a little tired of the Tudors themselves, give this one a try. I think you'll like it.

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