Mary, Queen of France ~ Jean Plaidy

Yet another fantastic novel from Jean Plaidy! Mary, Queen of France tells the story of Mary Tudor, Henry VIII’s younger and favourite sister. Mary is described as being beautiful and stubborn, basically the female version of her brother Henry. Like any royal princess of this time, Mary has absolutely no say in who she will marry. First Mary is betrothed to Charles of Castile (future Charles I/V of Spain and Holy Roman Empire) but as relationships between Henry and his father-in-law and Charles’ grandfather Ferdinand of Aragon and Emperor Maximilian turn sour, the betrothal is broken, much to Mary’s happiness. However her happiness is short lived as she is soon betrothed to the aging king of France, Louis XII, a man some 40 years her senior. Mary is outraged at the idea of leaving her country, her brother and the man she truly loves.


I thoroughly enjoyed Plaidy’s novel about one of the lesser known members of the Tudor family. Like “The Thistle and the Thorne” Plaidy focuses the story on the female Tudors and paints a beautiful picture of the trials and tribulations of the life of a princess during that era. I really enjoyed how Plaidy included the background stories of all characters involved – Charles Brandon; Louis XII; Francois, le Dauphin and of course, the Tudor family. I feel that these background stories gave the story more depth and greater character development. They definitely added to the story and did not take anything away from the story of Mary’s life.

I can honestly say that I am thrilled that Plaidy’s novels are being republished and I cannot wait to collect them all!


The Lost Crown ~ Sarah Miller

The Lost Crown tells the story of Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia Romanov, the daughters of the last Tsar of Russia, Nicholas II, during the Russian Revolution. Each girl has a distinct voice and personality which shines through in the novel; from quite and dignified Olga, to rational and motherly Tatiana, to loving and optimistic Maria to wild child Anastasia; thus providing a deep and personal view into the downfall of Imperial Russia.

With the outbreak of World War I, the girls lives changed dramatically; from fancy dresses and balls to tending to wounded soldiers. Tatiana and Olga become nurses and alongside their mother they work in the local hospital treating injured soldiers from the front lines while Anastasia and Maria provide the soldiers with entertainment. As the war progresses and Russia being unsuccessful, the soldiers in the hospital begin to resent the girls and especially their German-born mother. The blame for Russia’s demise is placed squarely on the Tsar’s shoulders and in order to prevent Russia from falling into Revolution, Tsar Nicholas II abdicates. Unfortunately this solves nothing and the people continue to revolt and Russia falls into Revolution and the people who once loved the Tsar now despise him and his family. First the Tsar and his family are placed under house arrest in the Imperial Palace in Petrograd (formerly St. Petersburg), then they are moved to a mansion in rural Tobolsk and finally to a house in Ekaterinburg in the Ural Mountains, where the family’s story comes to its tragic and violent end.


I really enjoyed this story. I have loved Russian history for a long time and I admit that I have always wondered if one of the girls escaped and survived the assassination. Normally I am not a fan of authors who use multiple characters’ point of view to tell the story but in this case I believe that Sarah Miller did an excellent job of it. Each girl had her own unique voice and personality which really came out in the writing and added to the story without interrupting the flow. I also really appreciated the addition of the list of Russian-English words and the list of characters at the beginning of the novel. This novel was beautifully researched and written in great detail. The only criticism I have about this novel is that it was slow reading at times and there really was not any romance, only hints of it here and there. Overall I would recommend this novel to anyone who loves Russian history, especially those who like me, are fascinated with the Romanov family.  

Becoming Marie Antoinette ~ Juilet Grey

Becoming Marie Antoinette is the first book in a new trilogy about the notorious French Queen, Marie Antoinette.  In this first novel, author Juliet Grey takes us on a journey from Schönbrunn castle in Vienna, Austria to Versailles in France, as we watch little Maria Antonia, archduchess of Austria transform into Marie Antionette, madame la Dauphine and eventually Queen of France. In Austria, Antonia (as she is called) is raised alongside her many brothers and sisters as the youngest daughter of Empress Maria Theresa of Austria. Her idyllic life consisted of sunny picnics with her sisters and playing with her dolls and dog Mops. She knows that one day she will be sacrificed to her family’s political ambitions, after all the Hapsburg family motto is “Others wage wars; you, happy Austria, marry” however she does not expect that the day will come so soon. 

At age 10 Antonia is betrothed to Louis Auguste, Dauphin of France and grandson of Louis XV. Before Antonia is allowed to marry the Dauphin, she must undergo a complete transformation, from her teeth to her hair to her knowledge of history and French, before she is deemed to be a suitable wife for the next King of France. Once the transformation is complete, Antonia leaves her beloved homeland for the French court at Versailles where she becomes Marie Antoinette. Life at Versailles isn’t at all what she had imagined; instead of a glittering court she finds a rundown palace and she soon finds that life as the Dauphine and a wife is quite boring and lonely. Her husband won’t touch her, she doesn’t know who she can trust and the king is in poor health, Marie Antoinette’s survival at the court of Versailles hangs in the balance.


I thoroughly enjoyed the debut novel from Juliet Grey. Marie Antoinette is one of my favourite historical figures and I find her life extremely interesting. Every time I pick up a novel about this infamous French Queen, I always find myself wishing for a happy ending, although I know that this will not be the case. I absolutely loved the way that this novel was written; there was enough background information given for the reader to fully understand what was going on in the daily lives of the characters, which were developed with care and detail as well.

I loved how Marie Antoinette was portrayed in a sympathetic manner, from a naive, frivolous little girl who develops into a mature and intelligent (yet still naive) young woman throughout the novel. There is evidently character growth throughout the novel as Maria Antonia becomes Marie Antoinette. I really appreciated that Grey focused as much on her early life as an Austrian Archduchess as she did on her being the Dauphine as this is uncommon in the world of historical fiction based on Marie Antoinette. The details included were amazing and they made the story vivid and life like.   

The only criticism I had about the novel was that although it was impeccably researched, it has a lot of repetition of events from other historical fiction novels based on the life of Marie Antoinette, for example her relationship with her strict mother, her strong distain for French etiquette and her husbands inability to consummate their marriage for many years. With that being said, I think that the way that Grey wrote these events made them unique and enjoyable to read.

Overall I really, really enjoyed this novel and I cannot wait for the second and third books to come out.
Book 2: “Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow” due out in Summer 2012
Book 3 due out in 2013