The Confessions of Catherine de Medici by C.W. Gortner
This commentary is second in line for books tossed at me, because they were thought to take place in Italy. Yes, Catherine de Medici spent her childhood in Italy, but let there be no mistake: she is oh so French.
The interesting part of reading this book is that I had no preconceived notion of Catherine de Medici's character. This history minimalist had no idea that history has vilified the former queen of France; Gortner tells a very different story. As a young bride to Henri II, Catherine was acutely aware of the politics of female survival in a royal court: produce an heir to the throne and protect the bloodline at whatever personal cost. While members of the court sought to eradicate opposition along religious lines (Catholic or Huguenot), Catherine spent most of her life attempting to enforce an unheard-of level of ecumenism for the 16th century: we are all French. As her life progresses from one deliberate chapter to the next, her cryptic visions lead her to Nostradamus, the seer of all time.
What could have really defeated this novel would have been a complex detailing of the geneology of European monarchs. Instead, the political connections and implications thereof are embedded in this thriller of a plot. I wanted to follow this warrior queen from beginning to end. Booklist wrote, "Alison Weir and Philippa Gregory fans will devour this." If so, these are two authors I will be investigating in the near future.