The Devil's Queen
St. Martin's, Jul 11 2009, $24.95
In 1533 her powerful Florence family arranges the marriage between Catherine de Medici and heir to the French throne Henry who will become King Henry II as a political convenience; both are fourteen at the time. However, Catherine vows to make the best of her unwanted marriage by supporting her spouse and his kingdom so her heir inherits the throne. Over the years reality proves not as nice as her dream as she finds her husband is more interested in his consort, the manipulative Diane de Poitiers
Though superstitious Catherine is a de Medici so is used to acting against enemies like the mistress, whom she arranges a marriage with a prince. She consults with the astrologer Ruggieri who persuades her to commit horrors including a major role in the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre so that her children well inherit what she believes is rightfully hers and theirs as her husband simply ignores her since she gave him the heir and the spare.
Moving from the fifteenth century Italy (see I, MONA LISA and THE BORGIA BRIDE) to sixteenth century mostly France, historical fiction writer Jeanne Kalogridis provides a strong biographical novel of the aptly titled Catherine de Medici. The lead is an intriguing character painted by most historians as a devil, but Ms. Kalogridis provdes an interesting counter-theory that claims instead Catherine was not the evil one, but lost the PR war by choosing to do what she was trained to perform as her duty as a wife and mother to the monarchy. Although well written, readers will still come away with the belief that Catherine was THE DEVIL’S QUEEN though accepting she was doing what was expected of her (doing one’s job is no excuse for crimes against humanity).