Madame Serpent: Catherine de Medici, #1 — Jean Plaidy

So.  Madame Serpent.

Catherine de Medici, according to this novel, was, like pretty much every other girl from a prominent family in this period¹:  she was raised to be a bargaining chip.  So she was trained, at a very young age, in the art of the poker face.

According to Jean Plaidy, that calm exterior hid a heart and mind that were willing to love, passionately passionate, and desperately unhappy.

The verdict: Fascinating lady, fascinating people, fascinating times.  The actual action sequences — and by action sequences, I mean the parts WHERE STUFF ACTUALLY HAPPENED, not, like, explosions and such — were really entertaining.

HOWEVER.

I suspect that, before the death of her husband, not a whole lot was really known about Catherine’s machinations — because, other than the aforementioned action, this book was about 250 pages of Catherine thinking OH, WOE, I CARRY SO MUCH LOVE FOR MY HUSBAND, WHO DOESN’T LOVE ME BECAUSE HE LOVES THAT BITCH DIANE DE POITIERS.  I WILL POISON HER.  NO, NO I WON’T.  NOT OUT OF THE GOODNESS OF MY HEART, BUT BECAUSE EVERYONE WILL KNOW I WAS BEHIND IT EVEN THOUGH EVERYONE THINKS I AM STUPID.  NOW I WILL WATCH THEM HAVE THEIR SEXY TIME THROUGH THIS HOLE I HAVE DRILLED INTO MY BEDROOM FLOOR.

Seriously.  250 pages.  While it had to’ve been hell to live through, it didn’t make for very entertaining reading.

I do, however, have high hopes for the next two books in the trilogy — because, from what I understand, that’s when Catherine really starts throwing her weight around.

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While reading Jean Plaidy’s Madame Serpent

…I discovered a torture device that was new to me¹.

The guy — who was being interrogated about the sudden death of the Dauphin — gets his legs and feet crushed by The Boot².

UGH.

THEN, as if that wasn’t enough, he gets drawn and quartered.  (Apparently, even though Count Montecuccoli confessed (because confessions under torture are oh-so-trustworthy), François III may have actually died of tuberculosis.)

And Catherine hasn’t even STARTED poisoning people yet.

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¹Not that I’m hugely well-versed in torture devices.  But I have seen a lot of horror movies, so… you know.  I’ve picked things up.  And there was that very first episode of Wire in the Blood.  SQUICK.  Love that show, but WOW.  I totally understand why some people were unable to keep watching.  (Though they’re missing out.  Robson Green, mmmmmm.)

²While I was reading up on that, I discovered the existence of the show Surviving History, which sadly only lasted one season.  It sounds like a pretty awesome premise, though maybe not for the super-squeamish.

A Reliable Wife, by Robert Goolrick

A Reliable Wife.As promised, here I am, writing about A Reliable Wife.

I don’t know why I’ve been procrastinating.  Maybe because the crazypantness of the plotting gets me all worried about Releasing The Spoilers.  But I’ll be careful.

Wisconsin, 1907.  Ralph Truitt stands alone on a railway platform, waiting for a woman he’s never met — the woman he plans to marry.  His advertisement for A Reliable Wife (See what I did there?  Ho ho ho, my cleverness knows no bounds!) brought in mailbags of responses, but only Catherine Land’s “I am a simple, honest woman…” that spoke to him.

When she steps off of the train, though, he knows that she is something other than what she claimed in her letters — because the photograph she sent him was a picture of someone else.

Don’t fool yourself.  This is no Sleepless in Seattle.  There is romance, yes.  But it is a very dark, often-unpleasant sort of romance.  Surrounding the romance is deception, guilt, terror, lust, despair, obsession, vengeance, violence and a planned murder.  But don’t let the darkness scare you off, either, because there’s also hope and renewal, reclamation, recreating and rebirth¹.

The Verdict, in Brief:  Do the words Sexy Literary Historical Potboiler fill you with joy?  Then read it.

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