Friday, August 28, 2009


Today I thought I would write a little about another favorite book of mine; Courtesan by Diane Haeger. I had never heard of Diane Haeger before I read Courtesan even though I think she had two other books out before Courtesan. I remember walking around Barnes and Noble one rainy Friday looking for my next book fix. Most of the time when book browsing I mentally take in titles I might be interested in and then go home and look them up on Amazon to see how good they were. As it happens though that rainy Friday I had a coupon (a rarity for Barnes and Noble which is why when Borders and their weekly coupons moved in next door I quickly switched allegiances) that was going to expire so as I wandered the bookshelves I came across Courtesan. After a brief skim of the back which stated this romance became legendary in France I snatched it up and dashed home eager to start. I did not know much about French history at the time as I mostly focused on England and the Tudor era when reading so I was keen to learn more about this legendary couple. As it was I was swept away into the court of King Francois (the contemporary of King Henry VIII ) and into the lives of his courtiers and children. His second son Henri (named after said English king) was a lonely, angry teenage boy outcast in his father's court by both his father and brothers. Years ago when King Francois waged war against Charles V and lost Henri and his older brother Francois were taken hostage. Those years in a Spanish prison colored Henri's feelings for his father and his bitterness and anger toward his father made life at court difficult from him. At the beginning of the book a woman named Diane de Poitiers is making her way back to court after a long period away. Diane is different from the other courtiers of the time disliking Francois' open and liberal court. Upon her arrival Diane finds herself at odds with the King's mistress, Anne d'Heilly, who sees her as a rival for the King's affection and works to make her life more difficult at court. An unlikely protector arrives in the form of young Henri and a love story is born.
Haeger does a masterful job of making both Henri and Diane and their love come to life. Through circumstances greater then themselves they find each other and share a love that is tender, raw, and encompassing of their worlds. Henri is transformed from a bitter petulant boy to a caring, sweet, gentlemen who lives for Diane's happiness. Its not hard to get swept away in their love and I have been in love with both Henri and Diane and their story ever since.

This transitions nicely into another book I read recently called The Devil's Queen by Jeanne Kalogridis
which is about Catherine Medici, Henri's wife for political reasons. Since reading Courtesan I have been desperately looking for other books that involve these two fascinating people (I also read The Serpent and the Moon which is an non-fiction book about Diane and Catherine written by Princess Michael Kent a direct descendant of both women) so I was over the moon excited for the release of The Devil's Queen. While I knew that the book was about Catherine and would be told through her eyes I still eagerly wanted to see Henri and Diane even if it was through her eyes. The Devil's Queen is certainly a more sympathetic book toward Catherine who has a notorious reputation (Madame Serpent they called her) as a Queen and regent through her sons after Henri's death. I enjoyed seeing Catherine's youth as I had heard it was a difficult one and it was interesting to see how the children of Henri ruled on after him. One big issues I did have though with the book was that Kalogridid omitted a daughter (Claude) and a son (Hercules) which I didn't really understand. Overall the book was interesting enough especially the events leading up to the St Bartholomew Massacre and the relationship Catherine had with her sons. especially her younger son in the book Edouard. I was disappointed through as the relationship I had grown to love in Courtesan between Henri and Diane was not portrayed the same as I had hoped which I guess was something I should have expected considering the book was through Catherine's eyes. In the end it was still a good read through nothing compared to Courtesan. Still I will always be on the hunt for more books that tell the story of Henri and Diane so I am still glad I read this one.

1 comment:

  1. I have them both sitting on my desk right now. I started Royal Affairs by Leslie Carroll which is non fiction and I really am enjoying it. It is a broad span of British monarchs