Book Review: The Confessions of Catherine de Medici

24 Jun

The ambitious, gripping tale of one of history’s most 
notorious and misunderstood queens . . .

At the age of fourteen, Catherine de Medici, last legitimate descendant of the Medici blood, finds herself betrothed to the King Francois I’s son, Henri. Sent from her native Florence to France, humiliated and overshadowed by her husband’s life-long devotion to his mistress, when tragedy strikes her family Catherine rises from obscurity to become one of 16th century Europe’s most powerful women.

Patroness of Nostradamus and a seer in her own right, accused of witchcraft and murder by her foes, Catherine fights to save France and her children from savage religious conflict, unaware that her own fate looms before her—a fate that will demand the sacrifice of her ideals, reputation, and the passion of her own embattled heart. . .

From the splendors of the Loire palaces to the blood-soaked battles of the Wars of Religion and haunted halls of the Louvre, this is the story of Catherine’s dramatic life, told by the queen herself.


C.W. GORTNER holds an MFA in Writing with an emphasis in Renaissance Studies from the New College of California.

In his extensive travels to research his books, he has danced a galliard in a Tudor great hall and experienced life in a Spanish castle. His novels have garnered international praise and been translated into thirteen languages to date. He is also a dedicated advocate for animal rights and enviornmental issues.

He’s currently at work on his third novel, about Isabella of Castile, and the second novel in his Tudor series,The Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles (US) or Elizabeth’s Spymaster (UK).

Half-Spanish by birth, C.W. lives in Northern California.

My Impressions:

C W Gortner has created a sympathetic character in his portrayal of Catherine de Medici, a figure that received little sympathy during her life and following her death.  The Confessions of Catherine de Medici begins with an innocent girl used as a pawn in the marriage games of royal Europe.  From lowly antecedents, Catherine is given in marriage to the second son of Francois I of France. Considered only as a means to an end, Catherine is left to fend for herself; the only friend at court her father-in-law.  Faced with a loveless and barren marriage, Catherine grits her teeth, puts away modesty and dignity to achieve what she was brought to France to do — provide Valois heirs.

What could have been a life of obscurity, Catherine finds herself wife of one king and mother to three others.  A long life filled with tragedy and heartache, Catherine is determined to achieve not only her survival, but the survival of her adopted France. Gortner portrays Catherine as a pragmatic ruler who puts the feelings of her children and herself aside for the good of the nation.

The Confessions of Catherine de Medici is rich with court detail, intrigue and deception.  Any lover of historical fiction needs to include this novel on a must read list.  I admit, I didn’t know much about this time period in France’s history.  I have confined my reading mostly to novels set among the Tudors.  Yet just a few pages into this story had me clamoring for more.   Gortner’s portrayal feels authentic.  Although Catherine is often called opportunistic and ruthless, the character drawn in these pages is complex — a woman who loves and wants to be loved.  A woman who lived a full life; not a caricature.

I would recommend this novel to lovers of European history, expecially those who want both sides of the story.  (Please note that this is not Christian fiction. There is some profanity and sex scenes that might be offensive.)


(I received The Confessions of Catherine de Medici from the author and Pump Up Your Book in consideration of a review.  The opinions expressed are mine alone.)

The Confessions of Catherine de Medici Tour Schedule

Monday, June 13th

Book spotlighted at Books, Products and More!

Tuesday, June 14th

Book spotlighted at The Phantom Paragrapher

Book reviewed at The Bookish Dame

Wednesday, June 15th

Book reviewed at Mom’s Tree House

Thursday, June 16th

Book Trailer spotlighted at If Books Could Talk

Book reviewed and giveaway at Curling Up by the Fire

Book spotlighted at Pump Up Your Books, Blurbs and Bytes

Friday, June 17th

Book reviewed at Crystal’s Reading Room

Monday, June 20th

Book reviewed at Always with a Book

Tuesday, June 21st

Book reviewed at One Book Shy of a Full Shelf

Wednesday, June 22nd

Book reviewed at One Day at a Time

Thursday, June 23rd

Book reviewed at Library of Clean Reads

Friday, June 24th

Book spotlighted at By the Book (review to follow)

8 Responses to “Book Review: The Confessions of Catherine de Medici”

  1. ccgevry June 24, 2011 at 9:46 am #

    Thanks for the fabulous review of Christopher’s book. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I couldn’t put this one down either. I hope your readers get a chance to check it out.

    All my best,


  2. Ann June 24, 2011 at 6:19 pm #

    This sounds interesting, thanks for posting.

  3. Christopher W. Gortner June 24, 2011 at 10:17 pm #

    Thank you for this great review and for hosting me on my tour! I hope your readers enjoy Catherine de Medici’s story.

    • rbclibrary June 27, 2011 at 7:31 am #

      Thanks. Looking forward to the sequel to The Tudor Secret.

  4. Cindy Swanson June 25, 2011 at 1:53 am #

    Yep! This one goes on the To-Read list, on the strength of your review! Sounds fascinating.

    Hope you’ll stop by my Saturday Review!

    Cindy at Cindy’s Book Club

    • rbclibrary June 27, 2011 at 7:32 am #

      I also really like The Tudor Secret by Gortner too.

  5. Bluestocking June 25, 2011 at 8:22 am #

    I’m visiting from Semicolon Blog! Nice review. I have this one on my shelf.

    • rbclibrary June 27, 2011 at 7:32 am #

      Thanks for stopping by. Enjoy this book.

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