The Red Lily Crown by Elizabeth Loupas
|The Red Lily Crown by Elizabeth Loupas|
|Category: Historical Fiction|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: 1574 is not a good time to be at the Florentine court under the Medici. Life may be decadent and love unbridled but death is sudden and unprovoked. Worst yet, everyone seems to be an expert at delivering it. Not a good time to be at the court, but a great time for historical fiction!|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 432||Date: May 2015|
|External links: Author's website|
Florence 1574: Chiara Nerini only approaches Francesco de' Medici to sell him her late father's alchemical equipment. She and her family are starving and a sale would mean survival. However the soon to be Emperor has other ideas and abducts Chiara to become his assistant in the quest to find the Philosopher's Stone. If he finds it she will go free. If not... Best not think about that option!
American author Elizabeth Loupas, according to her website bio, specialises in opulent, sense-drenched historical sagas of romance and adventure. Looking at that in conjunction with the historical-bust-heaving heroine on the cover of The Red Lily Crown one may assume it's heavy on the bodice ripping while light on historical substance. One may assume, but then one would be very wrong.
Yes, our heroine Chiara will find love, although the chances of its permanency waiver, however in the opulence and excesses of the Medici court she will also find – and see – a lot more besides. Once again Elizabeth proves that historical fiction aimed at a female readership doesn't mean scrimping on the level of research and detail. There's even a bit of a Poldark tie-in, but more of him later.
The novel is from Chiara's viewpoint, she who is almost as much an alien in the court of Francesco as we'd be so it's easy for our imaginations to superimpose us onto the scenery. It's not only the sights and sounds she has to contend with either as she becomes witness to the dangerous love triangle of Francesco, his wife Joanna of Austria and his mistress Bianca Cappello.
Joanna may take Chiara under her wing but protection is minimal as none of the three are the sort we'd take home to Sunday tea. Capricious, spoilt, mentally imbalanced (putting it politely) and downright dangerous Francesco (watch out for the garden!) tolerates Joanna while enjoying a controlling BDSM relationship with Bianca.
No, not a novel for the kiddies but that doesn’t mean graphic violent sex scenes either. We're told enough to get the picture and come to realise that for Bianca the treatment is necessary for her leg up (so to speak) into society, although she's not averse to sorting out a grudge or two for herself.
Chiara teaches us about the beliefs surrounding alchemy and Francesco's all-embracing search for the Stone. There are also some fascinating insights into other areas that were then classed as science, like the virginity test that has little to do with anatomy and nothing to do with sex. Plus, lest we forget, that interesting Poldark link via Francesco's assistant, Ruan Pencarrow and the Cornish Rebellion and, yes ladies, historical information aside, this is where the swooning will occur!
The ingenious little touches don’t stop at the historical detail or the character formation though; Elizabeth has writing tricks to share too. At one point Ruan is vehemently accused of his past, permitting the narrative to cleverly conversationally-inform us of his background without that awkward appearance of telling him what he already knows. Smooth!
Ladies, if you're looking for that elusive holiday read that punches above its apparent weight here it is: satisfying with romance in proportion and deaths by poisoning and garrotting thrown in… What more could we ask?
(Big thank you to Arrow for providing us with a copy for review.)
Further Reading: If this appeals, we also recommend Elizabeth Loupas' The Second Duchess. If you're already a fan but can't get enough Medici (and who can?!) we just as heartily recommend Wolves in Winter by Lisa Hilton.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Red Lily Crown by Elizabeth Loupas at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Red Lily Crown by Elizabeth Loupas at Amazon.com.
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