"The life of Marguerite de Valois was so full of drama, romance, intrigue and danger that very little in this story needed to be invented."
Ms. Lightfoot you get two very big thumbs up for that comment alone.
It is 1565 and France seethes with tension between the ruling Catholics and the Protestant Huguenots. Catherine de Medici wants to keep the peace and avoid a costly war France can ill afford, but the Pope is pressuring her son, Charles IX, to end this *heresy* no matter the cost. Charles' sister, young Marguerite de Valois (Margot), loves the Duke of Guise, but hell will freeze over before *mum* will let her wed a member of the hated Guise clan. After purposely blowing her chances to wed the Portuguese king, Margot is married off to Henry of Navarre, who appears quite the country bumpkin (or is he?). Plots are afoot to murder a prominent member of the Huguenots and on a hot August night the city explodes with violence - the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre.
In the aftermath, Margot and Henry dance a fine line trying to keep their heads intact amidst the vicious treachery and intrigue that surrounds the court. The dying Charles is haunted by ghosts from the massacre, his two younger brothers desire his throne, as well as the scheming Catherine who wants nothing more than to put her favorite son Henri on the throne - although once he's there things don't go quite to plan...
Yes, there's a whole lot more to the story than that, but no I am not telling. I really enjoyed this a lot, despite a bit of telling here and there when history is being recounted (although I don't know how it could have been done otherwise). There are no really, really bad people in the story (even Catherine gets a fair shake) or too pure (I loathe heroines that bleed sugar). I liked seeing where Margot's slutty reputation came from, as well as the country bumpkin (lol at the smelly feet and garlic breath) portrayal of her husband Henry. One note, although both Margot and her husband have affairs (as well as sleep with each other when they're not fighting), the sex is very tame and tastefully done - kudos for resisting the temptation to turn this into another sex-pot novel.
This is a very complicated piece of history that can send a person's head spinning, but the author did a good job making sense of it all for the reader and definitely a good choice for those wanting a better grounding on the period. My only quibble is the novel ended sooner than I had anticipated, I wanted to learn more about the latter part of Margot's life. Is there any hope for a sequel? 4/5 stars.