An English Reine Margot

Freda Lightfoot's Hostage Queen is another re-telling of the life of Marguerite of Valois, focusing primarily on the period around her marriage to Henry of Navarre including the events of the Saint Bartholomew's Eve massacre, as previously told in Dumas' La Reine Margot.

Let's be honest, this is not the greatest re-telling of the tale. The dialogue is often uncomfortably of the Hollywood does History style, and the love scenes could easily be among the nominees for the annual Bad sex in literature awards. The novel could also have done with a decent proofreader, not just Mr. MSOffice - constant use of populous rather than populace made some passages read as though they were in a guide to seventeenth century family planning. As you can probably tell this wouldn't be ranked among my top historical novels ever - so why did I read to the end?

Well, the writing may not have been wonderful, but the backdrop to the novel is an astounding era in history peopled with some of the most extraordinary characters you could hope to meet. A beautiful intelligent queen, a cross-dressing king, and the mother of all mothers from Hell. Filled with lust, jealousy, revenge, and murder - it's an amazing tale, that is captivating just for the truth behind the story. This is not the best re-telling of the story of Queen Margot, but it's hard to write a bad book with such an astonishing true plot-line to support the narrative. At times supremely irritating, it's also a great mini-introduction to the court of Catherine of Medici, and portrays a much softer side to Marguerite of Valois, certainly more so than that portrayed in the film of Dumas' book.


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