The Red Lily Crown: A Novel of Medici Florence

Written by Elizabeth Loupas
Review by Monica Spence

April 1574. Daughter of an anti-Medici bookseller and secret alchemist, Chiara Nerini is driven by her family’s hunger and poverty to sell her dead father’s remaining alchemical equipment to Prince Francisco de Medici, the heir to the Florentine ducal throne. Alchemy-obsessed Francisco forces the virginal Chiara into his dark and forbidding world as his soror mystica, his sister in the mysteries of alchemy. Francisco is in search of the elusive alchemical compound to formulate the Philosopher’s Stone, which can confer on the discoverer the thing most desired, including immortality.

English alchemist Ruanno dell’Inghilterra is the third member of the alchemical trinity and Chiara’s mentor and teacher. The attraction they feel, forbidden by the vow of chastity forced upon Chiara by the Prince, is not their only danger. Once Francisco inherits the throne from his dead father, Duke Cosimo I, he rules with an iron fist, destroying strangers, family and friends heedless of the consequences, uncaring about the blood on his hands.

Elizabeth Loupas has written with the authority of an expert on Medician Florence and imbued her story with tension, treachery, and terror. The reader cannot resist the urge to turn the next page to discover if love or hate will be victorious, whether darkness or light will prevail. Though the story stands alone, Loupas provides a list of characters and detailed author’s notes for those unfamiliar with Florentine history and the Medici family. I thoroughly enjoyed The Red Lily Crown and recommend it without reservation to anyone who loves historical fiction.