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 😉
Want to know what I really think about Catherine de Médicis? Let me tell you folks when Erin Sweet-Al Mehairi at “Oh for the Hook of a Book” puts you in the hot-seat you spill your guts: everything from to which characters you enjoyed writing most and least to your guilty TV pleasures . . . It doesn’t hurt that Erin is excellent company and offers virtual cheesecake as an inducement 😉 Explore the creation of MÉDICIS DAUGHTER through Erin’s in-depth interview.
As part of the celebration marking the release of “A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii” blogger Erin Sweet-Al Mehairi is running a 6 part interview series asking each of the authors who contributed to the novel the same two questions. Today is my day in the hot seat. Stop over at Oh for the Hook of a Book and find out what I believe I brought to the table (or the volcano gods as it were) in working on this ground-breaking collaborative novel.
On the fence about The Sister Queens? Looking for a little persuasion—a reason to add it to your “To Be Read” pile? Well, I am about to give you fifteen.
You see I keep a list of comments from reviewers—comments that rocked my world. And I noticed the other day that, with the 4 month anniversary of its release just around the corner, my novel has received in excess of three dozen really super reviews from bloggers and book-related publications. That’s not counting the more than one-hundred readers who have taken the time to write reviews for it at either Goodreads or Amazon.
So, at the risk of tooting my own horn most unbecomingly, I’ve decided to share a compendium of my favorite quotes grouped to support fifteen excellent reasons for any reader to take notice of The Sister Queens:
#1: The Sister Queens is amazing—don’t take my word for it (I am a little partial), it has received a staggering amount of good reviews:
“This is the must read novel of the summer for anyone with a passion for historical fiction.” (Fresh Fiction)
“THE SISTER QUEENS is probably my first Perfect 10 in well over a year—but it certainly merits at least that.” (Romance Reviews Today)
“Word on the street (rather, consensus among historical fiction bloggers) is that this is an author to watch whose book is a page-turner, fast-paced, emotional, passionate, well-written and carefully researched.” (School Library Journal)
“Historical fiction lovers rejoice! A new and true talent has arrived on the scene!” (Let Them Read Books)
“The Sister Queens is an amazing debut novel. Telling a story about history in a way that only the best historical fiction does.” (The True Book Addict)
“I’ll be recommending this to everyone I know who loves historical fiction and putting this author on my “buy immediately” list for her future releases” (Bippity Boppity Book)
“The Sister Queens is historic fiction at its absolute finest. I simply cannot wait to see what this author does next. She’s already won herself a spot on my list of favorite authors. In all of its colorful prose, deep and eccentric characters, and historical brilliance, this book can be summed up with one word: phenomenal. Brava!” (The Tulsa Book Review)
“In short, an excellent work of historical fiction . . . . Certainly the best I’ve read this year set in the Middle Ages. Highly recommended.” (Medieval Bookworm)
“This is one of the few historical fiction stories that I’ve read lately that I would consider a page-turner” (Debbie’s Book Bag)
#2: The story has it ALL: Whatever you like in your historical fiction you are going to find it in the pages of The Sister Queens, a novel that spans 40 years and locations including England, France, Provence, Cyprus & the Holy Land.
“The Sister Queens has it all… court life, balls, rivalry, politics, love and lust; with the added element of it seeming so real to the reader as though watching a film.” (Peeking Between the Pages)
“This is an excellent slice of an extremely interesting period of time. We get the politics and social aspects of not one but two countries (always a bonus!) as well as in the latter part of the book, Louis’ crusade to the Holy Land.” (The Broke and the Bookish)
#3 Rumor has it I can actually write:
“Sophie Perinot’s writing style is simple and honest and all the more eloquent for it.” (Let Them Read Books)
“I hope that Ms. Perinot is considering further books on unsung women in history as she does have a magical way with words. A way that brings long dead characters to very real life.” (Broken Teepee)
“I couldn’t believe that this is Sophie’s first book. It reads like it’s written by someone with years of writing experience and dozens of novels under their belt.” (Book Drunkard)
“. . . this is a novel that I quickly lost myself in. It was written beautifully and Perinot does an amazing job of bringing these two characters to life.” (The Owl Bookmark)
“Perinot’s writing is almost flawless, and she brings to rich life characters who lived more than 600 years ago, no small feat.” (Briar Patch Books)
“Perinot is a great writer and I’m anxious to see what other books she comes out with in the future” (A Bookish Affair)
#4 So I am getting compared to some pretty well-known historical novelists (and I am both flattered and grateful):
“I was reminded of one of my favorite historical fiction authors, Sharon Kay Penman. (Although Ms. Perinot’s style is deliciously more sexy :)” (Let Them Read Books)
“. . . Perinot’s writing style reminds me of my revered Jean Plaidy—that is high braise indeed from this reader. (historical-fiction.com) Continue reading Forget Fifty Shades of a Certain Dark Color—How About Fifteen Reasons to Read The Sister Queens
Today I am chatting with the marvelous Erin at Oh for the Hook of a Book. She had some very unique questions for me, including whether the Christian undertones in my novel were intentional.
Erin also reviews The Sister Queens, saying it is: