Wondering if you should bother to open my AUTHOR NEWSLETTER when it pops up in your mailbox? Or whether you should SUBSCRIBE?
Look at this Mini-View lineup! In just in the first three issues of my author 2017 newsletter readers will hear from:
NYT bestsellers: Allison Pataki and Sarah McCoy; USA Today bestseller Jennifer Robson, as well as authors Anna Belfrage; Leslie Carroll; Eliza Knight; Meghan Masterson; Stephanie Thornton; and Ellen Marie Wiseman.
And that’s just for starters. HEAR SOME OF THE TOP TALENT IN HISTORICAL FICTION talk about topics like: dangerous historical women, writing about society’s outsiders, surprising things historical women did, the men who populate history and how they would cast their book as a TV mini-series!
Season 3 of the CW’s Reign is a wrap, and fans are in mourning—and not just over the death of . . . no wait, no spoilers in case some of you have DVRed the Season Finale but not watched it yet. No what’s really got fans crying are the ugly rumors that Summer 2017 is the earliest Reign will return. What will we all do for our 16th century French/Scottish fix in the intervening months?
Never fear, mes amies! An evening with the feisty-yet-tragic Mary Queen of Scots, or the cunning Catherine de Médicis is only a bookstore (or library) visit away.
I’ve combed through my personal shelves and reached out to some book blogger friends to compile this list of TEN BOOKS TO ENTERTAIN AND ENRAPTURE REIGN FANS while the show is on hiatus (and I want you all to remember I scooped Buzzfeed Books on this one). These books will take you to the intrigue-filled French and Scottish courts, and satiate your cravings for things royal:
#1 Médicis Daughter by Sophie Perinot: It is my blog, so I get to lead with my book but that’s not naughty because the critics agree the book is oh so nice—
“Brilliant. This is what I call a ‘WOW’ book.” “I have re-read this book not once but TWICE, it’s that good!!!”~Book Lovers’ Paradise
This novel of Valois family dysfunction, political treachery, forbidden love and bloodiest massacre in French history has been called, “A riveting page-turner skillfully blending illicit liaisons and political chicanery.” (~Kirkus Reviews). It was selected as one of Goodreads “Best Books of the Month: December 2015” (the month it released), and also as a B&NReads, December’s Top Pick in Fiction.
More importantly for Reign fans, Amazon reviews suggest Médicis Daughter “would be a great gift for any … fan of the show Reign.”
Médicis Daughter takes readers into the post-Francis Valois landscape (which is precisely where Season 3 left us hanging). With King Charles IX on the throne and Catherine de Médicis pulling the strings and plotting the plots (some things never change), you KNOW there will be plenty of dark and dirty. Viewed through the eyes of the youngest Valois Princess, Marguerite, the court comes alive. As Erin at Flashlight Commentary (see her book recommendation at #7 below) says: “Atmospherically, the novel swept me off my feet. Perinot’s depiction of the French court was beautifully drawn and I was wholly captivated by both the political and social interaction that unfolded among its players.” [Erin’s full review is here].
♥Recommended for Reign fans who enjoy the lush, dark side of the Valois court—the poisonings, the sexual decadence, the back-room deals—and also those who rooted for Princess Claude to outmaneuver her domineering mother.♥
#2 The Serpent and the Moon by HRH Princess Michael of Kent: Instead of heading forward, travel backward to the pre-Reign Valois world with this fascinating volume of popular history. This book relates the true story of the battle between Catherine de Médicis and Diane de Poitier for the heart of, and influence over King Henri II of France.
There are so many fascinating-but-at-the-same-time-creepy details here for Reign fans to enjoy. From the moment 14-year-old Catherine arrives as a bride to discover her handsome young husband already in the thrall of a woman who was present at his birth (I told you it was creepy), through the humiliating and disgusting remedies by which she attempted to combat a decade of childlessness, up to Catherine’s vengeful taking of Château Chenonceau from Diane after Henri’s death (and the evidence of the black arts that Diane found when she took possession of the Chateau she was given in exchange) this book will illuminate Catherine to her fans and foes alike.
Need a tempting detail? How about this: Catherine summoned an Italian carpenter to the Place of Saint-Germain where her bedroom was immediately above that of her husband’s mistress. She had two holes made in the floor of her room and then watched Diane and Henri in bed, sobbing later to friends that “her husband had ‘never used her so well.’”
♥This is a book for Reign fans who miss the old Henri-Catherine-Diane love/power triangle days. And for those who don’t want to read about “what’s next” in Mary’s story for fear of spoiling the plots in Season 4.♥
#3 Courtesan by Diane Haeger: Another excellent choice for Reign fans who want to harken back to the days of Catherine versus Diane, this historical novel was recommended by Esther of Drink Read Love (want to get savvy reviews coupled with wine pairings? This is a blog for you). Esther calls Courtesan a “tapestry” weaving “the story of the passionate—if somewhat scandalous—romance between Diane de Poitiers and King Henri II of France” while managing to portray “the complexities of the situations which she [Diane], Catherine de Medici, and Prince-turned-King Henri find themselves pushed into.” You can read Esther’s full review of Courtesan—which begins with Henri III’s father Francis I still on the throne—here.
♥Recommended for fans of Reign wanting to go back a generation and see Henri, Catherine and Diane when they were as young (and crazy in love) as Frary were when Reign started.♥
#4 The Raven’s Heart, by Jesse Blackadder: This recommendation is courtesy of Erin at Oh, For the Hook of a Book (awesome book blog with well-considered reviews and lots of special features) who says of the novel, “It was such a phenomenal read. . . a book that will haunt my soul for a longtime.” And it is seconded by Meg of Bookish Affair (brilliant book blog, follow it if you read historical fiction or historical non-fiction avidly) who “thought the author did a great job of bringing Mary to life.”
Set immediately after the widowed Queen Mary’s returns to Scotland, The Raven’s Heart covers her tumultuous struggle to wrest back control of her throne. While the novel’s main character is actually a young woman sent to Court to befriend the Queen and try to win back her family lands, Erin at Oh, For . . . says the author “painted a . . . personal picture of Mary, Queen of Scots. . . a woman in a man’s world who needed to be extra strong to gain respect . . . .” Erin further felt that Blackadder effectively portrayed the gentle side of Mary, making it easy for readers to see how “she managed to make everyone around her love her” and to inspire loyalty.
♥Loyal fans of Mary on Reign pick this one up.♥
#5 The Confessions of Catherine de Medici by C.W. Gortner: This book includes “the most dramatic events of Catherine’s adult life including the 1572 Bartholomew’s Day massacre of Protestant Huguenots, vividly and chillingly depicted” (~Historical Novel.info). My book-blogger friend Meg at A Bookish Affair notes that, “Gortner is able to humanize the Queen as a person who had seen a lot of trauma in her life” and concludes that Confessions is “perfect for any history lover who wants to see Catherine de Medici in a new light.” Publishers Weekly called Gortner’s novel, “”A remarkably thoughtful interpretation of an unapologetically ruthless queen,” and I must say I quite agree.
You can read Meg’s full review here.
♥Unapologetic Catherine admirers, this book is for you!♥
#6 Blood Between Queens by Barbara Kyle (part of her Thornleigh Saga): Do you enjoy a thriller element with your history? Have you been engrossed by the Mary vs. Elizabeth of England plotline in Reign? Then try this book. My friend Nancy Bilyeau (whose own series about Tudor-era England—beginning with The Crown–I adore) called Kyle’s book, “a fast-paced and exciting historical novel that plunges readers into the deadly rivalry of Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots just as the beautiful three-time-married monarch had fled Scotland for her cousin’s kingdom.” If Nancy says it “captures the high-stakes politics of the Tudor court, depicting its most famous personages with both accuracy and imagination,” I guarantee you it does.
♥Recommended for Reign fans who can’t get enough of the Mary vs. Elizabeth battle.♥
#7 A Time For The Death Of A King by Ann Dukthas: Another book-blogger recommendation, this one special for this occasion from Erin of Flashlight Commentary, whose blog I read regularly for her articulate reviews. Dukhas’ YA novel is “one of those books I [Erin] intend to give my kids” (that’s a compelling recommendation). A true mystery investigation that sets out to settle the question of whether Mary Queen of Scots was a murderess, complicit in the death of her second husband, Lord Darnley, “readers will not be disappointed by the swift and lean narrative and the solutions to the historical puzzle Dukthas draws.” [Booklist] Erin loved the time-traveling detective at the center of this mystery, Nicholas Segalla, and“admire[d] how the author’s manipulation of the material deepened the mystery surrounding Darnley’s death while introducing young readers to the powerful legacy of Mary, Queen of Scots.”
♥This book is for the mystery readers among Reign fans, and for those who are ready for the next, Scottish, chapter of Mary’s life.♥
#8 Mary Queen of Scotland and The Isles by Margaret George: I love me some Margaret George (in fact, I am eagerly awaiting her next novel due in 2017)! And I am not alone. Margaret is an iconic figure in historical fiction circles (deservedly so), and more than two decades ago she wove this marvelous fictionalized account of Mary Queen of Scots life basically from womb to tomb. Meg of A Bookish Affair calls George’s novel, “an epic story with thrilling detail!” Kirkus Reviews had this to say of the book, “George has created a lively, gallant Mary of intelligence, charm, and terrible judgment . . . . a readable, inordinately moving tribute to a remarkable queen.” Sounds like OUR Mary, doesn’t it Reign-royals?!
#9 The Little Book of Mary Queen of Scots by Mickey Mayhew: This petite (less than 200 pages) volume of popular history is comprised largely of contemporary anecdotes about Mary, and excerpts from letters and rare primary sources. But does discuss our culture’s fascination with the Scottish Queen, including Reign. Historical novelist Philippa Gregory called it, “A bright and breezy account of the complex life of Mary Stuart.”
♥This book is for those who want a non-fiction look at Mary’s life and who don’t have the time to invest in a long read.♥
#10 The Wild Queen: The Days and Nights of Mary, Queen of Scots by Carolyn Meyer (from the Young Royals series). I am closing out my list with this YA novel that comes to me TWICE recommended—first by a big-time Reign fan of my acquaintance (she’s also a history devotee who is always stumping her fellow fans with her “royal pop quizzes”) and second by Erin at Flashlight Commentary. Currently the Amazon #10 Best Seller in Teen & Young Adult Renaissance Historical fiction, this novel follows the recently widowed Mary home to Scotland where she hopes that a new husband will not only help her to secure not only her own throne but allow her to take the crown of England from her cousin, Elizabeth. Too bad, as the back cover reveals, “the love and security she longs for elude her . . . [and she] finds herself embroiled in a murder scandal that could cost her the crown.” Or rather too bad for Mary but NOT for Reign fans because if that doesn’t sound like an episode of the show I don’t know what does!
♥Recommended for Reign watchers wanting “what happens next” for Mary on Scottish soil right now—not in summer of 2017♥
Well that’s it Reign fans and reader-friends . . . ten different ways to get your fix while waiting for the CW to run the next episode. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the recommendations, and to learning which are your favorites. And in the meantime remember, the Valois are just plain sexier than the Tudors 😉
Necessity may be the mother of invention, but invention is the midwife of good historical fiction.
Invention and creativity are good things. But in historical fiction we (writers) sometimes lose sight of that, and get bogged down in the minutiae of our period and the thousand little details in our characters’ lives. I was recently reminded, with force, that readers come to authors of historical fiction for something more than a collection of facts.
I had the opportunity to hear Susan Vreeland, a master of the genre, speak at a recent Historical Novel Society Conference. I thought Susan was going to do a presentation on her latest book. But, when we were gathered before her in our neat little rows, she decided to tackle a larger issue – the role of invention in historical fiction.
“Don’t be tyrannized by fact.” That’s how Susan opened her presentation. And she is right of course. Historical fiction is not academic history. Does accuracy matter in historical novels? You bet your farthingale it does but, “fictional art can show truth that goes deeper than a collection of fact; it can show us what it felt like to be a particular person at a particular time” (again, Susan V). Besides, “as soon as something happens people start lying about it” (Cecelia Holland) so “truth” in history can legitimately be debated.
Susan pointed out that selection (and correspondingly, elimination) of facts is part of the process of writing compelling historical fiction. Good authors know instinctively – whether they write historical fiction or another genre – that telling just the right bits is what gives a great story its focus. Authors of historical novels must choose only those events from history that relate to the specific premise/themes of their particular novel. It doesn’t matter how interesting an event is (or how pivotal it is in the life of a historical character), if that event doesn’t forward the plot of the book an author is writing, then it needs to be left out. There were dozens of interesting events in the lives of my main characters, Marguerite and Eleanor of Provence, during the twenty-year period covered by The Sister Queens that did not make it into my novel because they were not germane to the “sisters” theme of my book. Continue reading Invention is the Midwife of Good Historical Fiction