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The Confessions of Catherine de Medici: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

C.W. Gortner
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (112 customer reviews)

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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

BONUS: This edition contains a The Confessions of Catherine de Medici discussion guide and an excerpt from C.W. Gortner's The Queen's Vow.

The truth is, not one of us is innocent. We all have sins to confess. So reveals Catherine de Medici, the last legitimate descendant of her family’s illustrious line. Expelled from her native Florence, Catherine is betrothed to Henri, son of François I of France. In an unfamiliar realm, Catherine strives to create a role for herself through her patronage of the famous clairvoyant Nostradamus and her own innate gift as a seer. But in her fortieth year, Catherine is widowed, left alone with six young children in a kingdom torn apart by the ambitions of a treacherous nobility. Relying on her tenacity, wit, and uncanny gift for compromise, Catherine seizes power, intent on securing the throne for her sons, unaware that if she is to save France, she may have to sacrifice her ideals, her reputation, and the secret of her embattled heart.

Editorial Reviews Review

C.W. Gortner on The Confessions of Catherine de Medici

I found Catherine de Medici to be both a perfect subject and enormous challenge for my next work of historical fiction. Though I’d known about her for years, I soon discovered during my research how little I had truly understood her. Few queens are as notorious as this woman who ruled France during the 16th century, renowned for her ruthlessness and accused of heinous crimes, including the Massacre of St. Bartholomew. Obscured by her own dark legend, Catherine lurks in the shadows of history as the perennial black widow, weaving intrigue in her Louvre palace apartments even as outside her window, Paris lies bathed in blood.

Catherine was born in a time of deep religious conflict, when the idealism of Europe’s early Renaissance had given way to the zealous Protestant Reformation. England, Germany, and the Low Countries embraced this new faith, while imperial Spain tenaciously combated the spread of what was seen as heresy. France found itself trapped between the tenets of the old faith and innovation of the new one--and the struggle that ensued is marked by its fervor and savagery. It is also dominated by the widowed queen-mother, Catherine de Medici.

When someone lives an eventful life in a tumultuous time, there’s always more to her story than history can tell us. Catherine de Medici is a figure of lurid speculation but she had dreams and aspirations; hopes and disillusions. Yet unlike Elizabeth I, who commands our respect with her virginal splendor; or Mary of Scots, who elicits sympathy for her romantic martyrdom, Catherine has not been allowed much compassion. We forget that in the end, like all of us, she was human.

This is the flesh-and-blood Catherine de Medici readers will meet in my book: the teenage Florentine heiress sent to France to marry a prince she does not love; the determined wife enduring years in the shadow of her husband’s icy mistress; the powerful regent fighting for her country; the fierce mother with her brood of children; and the bold queen whose alliance with an enigmatic rebel plunges her into a labyrinth of passion, betrayal, and murder. You will also meet the seer Nostradamus, who shares a prophetic gift with Catherine; the haughty duke of Guise, whose ambitions could bring about France’s ruin; and Catherine’s own children--weak Francois, married to Mary of Scots yet terrified of becoming king; fervent Charles, scarred by the fears of his childhood; gallant Henri, whose courage hides a secret; deformed Hercule, frantic to prove his worth; and beautiful Margot, whose thwarted desires will wreak terrible vengeance.

Unlike the legend, Catherine’s true story is full of drama, courage, triumph and tragedy; set in a complex era of glamorous spectacle and lethal deceit, where one woman faced the conflict between faith and survival and did everything she had to, to protect those she loved.

I hope that once you read her words, you will find her as fascinating as I did. I hope you enjoy The Confessions of Catherine de Medici.

From Publishers Weekly

Catherine de Medici uses her natural and supernatural gifts to protect the French throne in Gortner's (The Last Queen) portrait of a queen willing to sacrifice happiness and reputation to fulfill her family's royal destiny. Orphan Catherine has her first vision at age 10, and three years later is betrothed to Henri d'Orleans, brother of the sickly heir to the French throne. She heads to France with a vial of poison hidden among her possessions, and after negotiating an uneasy truce with her husband's mistress, she matures into a powerful court presence, though power, she learns, comes at a price. Three of her sons become king in succession as the widow Catherine wields ever-increasing influence to keep the ambitious de Guise clan at bay and religious adversaries from murdering each other. Gortner's is not the first fictional reinterpretation of a historical villainess—Catherine's role in the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, for instance, is recounted in a way sympathetic to her—but hers is remarkably thoughtful in its insight into an unapologetically ruthless queen. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1882 KB
  • Print Length: 417 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: B004KZOXMM
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; 1 edition (May 25, 2010)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0036S4B8K
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #62,301 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
92 of 94 people found the following review helpful
Gortner's portrait of Catherine de Medici is rich in historical detail, a view inside the world of a woman touched by the hand of fate, France awash in religious wars in the late 16th century. In spite of Catherine's reputation as "the Italian Jezebel", Gortner melds fact and fiction, myth and legend in a fascinating, provocative tale that speaks of power, governance, passion, ambition and the realm of the occult. Catherine is expelled from Florence and the shadow of the Medici line, great-granddaughter of Il Magnifico, Lorenzo de Medici, sent to France as daughter-in-law to Francois I and wife of the Duc de Orleans. Still an impressionable girl, Catherine has expectations: a husband who might show her some small affection, the privilege of bearing his heirs. For all her fanciful dreams of a new life in France, Catherine learns that reality is fraught with danger, her husband's affections freely given to another, the judgment of the French people harsh, the fatherly love of Francois her only comfort.

Superstitious since childhood, Catherine reluctantly acknowledges her gift of "sight", plagued by dreams that foretell of death and violence. In time, as Queen of France, Catherine bears six children and is widowed at forty, just as has been prophesied, her legacy forever twined with the religious wars that dominate the century. Conflict spreads throughout the realm between the Church and the heretical beliefs of French Protestants, or Huguenots, cities plagued with public burnings and murderous rampages as though the hounds of Hell have been released. Ultimately, Catherine bears the bitter fruit of her blind loyalty to her children and love for an untrustworthy man.
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69 of 75 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A softer Catherine June 11, 2010
This was interesting, but not as good as I expected. It's possible my expectations were too high, but I really wanted a lot more from this book.

There were plenty of very powerful people in the 16th century who were afraid of Catherine de Medici and it's probably safe to say that there's a reason for that. As a widow with young children she preserved the throne for her sons, shepherded her daughters into advantageous marriages, and did the best she could to navigate the very dangerous waters of Catholic vs. Huguenot France. She's been described as ruthless and I'm positive she was pragmatic - the stakes of the game she was playing were too high for her to be anything else.

The author is quite obviously intent upon making Catherine de Medici a more sympathetic character by rounding out her story and telling it from her perspective. He does a good job of capturing her spirit and strength as a young woman, but as she comes into power as Queen Regent her character begins to falter. In attempting to soften her the author instead turns her into a sort of bumbling hysteric, calling on mystics and stumbling her way into various massacres.

I found this portrayal highly unlikely. Why can't I be allowed to admire her for her strength, her intelligence, her patronage of the arts, her ability to survive? Why does she have to flutter about wringing her hands for me to empathize with her? I found this aspect of the book very frustrating despite the fact that the story itself is a decent read.
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40 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Allie's Review - Hist-Fic Chick May 25, 2010
The Catherine de Medici most know of from historical fiction of days gone by is the infamous Dowager Queen of France who dabbled in the black arts and used her royal children as pawns on her chessboard, setting her country on a path of bloody religious discord. But C.W. Gortner has never been one to accept historical stereotypes as reality, and his latest novel proves to be no exception to his quest to reveal the human side of infamously maligned women from history.

Forced by politics to marry for Italy and not for love, Catherine de Medici is sent abroad at a young age to marry Henri, the second son of King François I of France. She had never presumed that she might one day become queen; after all, her husband is the younger son and simply fills the role of the spare in the requisite heir-and-a-spare dynastic setup. But when tragedy strikes and Henri has to step up to the plate as King, Catherine finds herself in a new position at court. However, Queen of France as she may be, Catherine would never be Queen of Henri's heart. That position was already occupied by his mistress the chilly Diane de Poitiers. The Mrs. Robinson of the 16th Century, Diane was a cougar who wasn't afraid to show her claws, often at Catherine's expense.

Catherine actually holds more queenly powers as a widow after her husband's death, no longer queen in name but queen in the eyes of the people, as regent to her young sons who reign consecutively. With this newfound power, she sets to righting the wrongs her powerful enemies at court had once wrought on the nation, and to securing peace between the Catholics and Huguenots.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Two Sides to Every Story
I loved reading this book which is wonderful on so many levels. A while back I had read "The Tudor Conspiracy" by the same author and am familiar with his beautiful writing style... Read more
Published 13 days ago by karsiyaka
4.0 out of 5 stars Gortner's Catherine de Medici
Well written but merely a rehash of all Catherine's foibles and eccentricities. I learned nothing new about her from this book.
Published 28 days ago by Anonymous
4.0 out of 5 stars Good info on History
Even though the romace parts are a bit on the fantacy side , it is a good read.You learn a lot about French History and the Wars that took place that were real.
Published 1 month ago by Alexandra Donahoe
2.0 out of 5 stars A difficult read, characters were confusing and the beginning ...
A difficult read, characters were confusing and the beginning of the book did not give enough background to understand about the Medicis if you were not familiar with them.
Published 2 months ago by Nandini Sodhi
5.0 out of 5 stars Historic Fiction
I love this genre. I was hooked right away. I found Catherine to be a strong woman who did not shrink from a challenge.
Published 2 months ago by Lorraine Richardson
5.0 out of 5 stars The Confessions of Catherine de Medici: A Novel
Catherine de Medici was an intelligent and powerful women that survived in an era of bruitality, assassinations, and religious unrest that the author, C. W. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Bobbi C
5.0 out of 5 stars wow
The author brings one of the wickedest queens to life and makes us feel sorry for her. I found myself cheering her on and sympathizing with her. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Danielle Powell
3.0 out of 5 stars 16th century royal Italian Catherine
Never realized how much power this woman held as queen of France. Always thought of her as someone who was wed into royalty and brought many foods to France,which she did.
Published 6 months ago by Karol Scancarella
5.0 out of 5 stars Love di Medici!
Excellent read! I read this in about 5 days over New Years while it was freezing outside. It's one of those.books that makes you sad when it's over but the ending is perfect!!! Read more
Published 6 months ago by M. Malinowski
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written.
Great historical novel taking you into the mind and life of the last de Medici. Loved her real life thoughts on issues facing her and her adopted country France. Read more
Published 7 months ago by D. McGill
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More About the Author

C.W. Gortner holds an MFA in Writing with an emphasis on Renaissance Studies from the New College of California. In his extensive travels to research his books, he has experienced life in a Spanish castle and danced a galliard in a Tudor great hall. Half-Spanish by birth, he lives in Northern California. His novels have been translated in 20 countries to date.

C.W. enjoys talking to book groups. To schedule a chat or find out more about his work, visit:

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