Marguerite de Valois, daughter of France’s King Henri II and Catherine de Médicis, grows up within the pages of this panoramic coming-of-age novel. It focuses on the religious wars between the Catholics and Huguenots in the late 16th century, and, more personally, Margot’s amorous adventures and marriage prospects. The court of Charles IX—led by his indefatigable mother—is described in detail. Margot strives to be dutiful and watches with mixed feelings as she is promised from one royal hand to another, finally resulting in a surprising and emotionally complicated situation that finishes the story off beautifully.
Politically, this era in French history can be a confusing series of religious skirmishes, yet the author balances it deftly—and, though the central character is staunchly one-sided, both the Protestant and Catholic faiths are given credence through various figureheads of the rival factions. Culminating in the savage St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, this is a detailed view of the events as related by an ill-used royal daughter coming into her own.
The writing style features an easy-flowing narrative, sufficiently capturing the tone of the era and giving a broad understanding of the various personages surrounding the court. Margot’s personality is, as expected, empathetic—though with a heavy dose of spirit and wit. A natural antagonist is surely the dark queen, Catherine de Médicis, but even her scheming seems almost maternally inspired compared to fictional depictions in similarly-themed novels. Though it may be rooted in family dysfunction, the reader may be surprised to discover the true demons afflicting the characters. This story is an enthralling page-turner which lovers of royalty fiction and strong female leads should enjoy thoroughly.