Publication Date: 04/01/2014
Publisher: Penguin Group
Imprint: New American Library
Genre: Historical Fiction
(Received for an honest review from New American Library)
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Indiebound
Elizabeth Loupas on the WEB: website, twitter, facebook, goodreads
Excerpt from, The Red Lily Crown, courtesy of Amazon's Look Inside feature.
Elizabeth Loupas returns with her most ambitious historical novel yet, a story of intrigue, passion, and murder in the Medici Court...
April, 1574, Florence, Italy. Grand Duke Cosimo de’ Medici lies dying. The city is paralyzed with dread, for the next man to wear the red lily crown will be Prince Francesco: despotic, dangerous, and obsessed with alchemy.
Chiara Nerini, the troubled daughter of an anti-Medici bookseller, sets out to save her starving family by selling her dead father’s rare alchemical equipment to the prince. Instead she is trapped in his household—imprisoned and forcibly initiated as a virgin acolyte in Francesco’s quest for power and immortality. Undaunted, she seizes her chance to pursue undreamed-of power of her own.
Witness to sensuous intrigues and brutal murder plots, Chiara seeks a safe path through the labyrinth of Medici tyranny and deception. Beside her walks the prince’s mysterious English alchemist Ruanno, her friend and teacher, driven by his own dark goals. Can Chiara trust him to keep her secrets…even to love her…or will he prove to be her most treacherous enemy of all?
Elizabeth Loupas proves why she has become a name to watch in historical fiction with her latest book, The Red Lily Crown. The time of Medici rule in Italy has been well documented by many authors, but Loupas has chosen a lesser none Medici on which to focus her story. Francesco Medici was no saint, were many of the Medici rulers and Loupas portrays him well. From his love of alchemy to his love for his infamous mistress Bianca. Readers who love historical fiction will find this one hard to put down. With violence, the lust for ultimate power and a bit of romance, The Red Lily Crown is a must read in the genre.
What I liked:
Being a former history major, I tend to love a story that doesn't take too much poetic license with the real historical details of the times and Loupas did just that. Sometimes the truth is even more interesting than fiction and I think Loupas used that to her advantage here. Some of the things that the Medici rulers did during their reigns were monstrous, violent and ruthless and the author uses that as a backdrop for her story. Francesco Medici was a man who had a lust for power that was limitless. He was cold, calculating and ultimately evil to some extent, but Loupas does the unbelievable with his character here. She makes him human, real and believable.
Chiara is the young fictional heroine of this story and she was just as well developed and complex as Francesco himself. She was resourceful and determined. She wanted to save her family and she was willing to go to just about any links to do so. I liked her bravery and her tenacity. She was hellbent on survival and in the end she creates for herself a life that could never have imagined. I loved the way she interacted with real historical characters and held her own with them. Loupas did such an amazing job with her. It was almost as if she to, were a part of history.
Ruanno, who eventually becomes more than just a friend and teacher to Chiara was also a deep philosophical man. But he had demons of his own and some very strong motives. Learning alchemy was a means to an end for him and it was hard at times to understand where Chiara would fit into his plans. I enjoyed reading their story and how over a period of years they come to not only care for each other, but to understand each other. He was not an easy character to like, even though I sympathized with his mission, but in the end I thought these two were truly meant for each other.
Bianca, Francesco's mistress was perhaps the most intriguing character in this novel. She was absolutely ruthless. She had no conscience. She wanted what she wanted and how she wanted it and did not matter what it took to get it. She was firece and such a good villain she made me cringe more than once. Together with Francesco's need for power, he and Bianca formed a devilish partnership, more than just an underlying romance. They were divinely evil in this book. Loupas must have known that their historical relationship did not need to be improved on. They were the epitome of danger in truth and in fiction.
I loved all of the references to the political climate of times. The grandeur of the Francesco's Florentine court and the links to which everyone went to save face, to court power and receive favor. I thought the author did an amazing job mixing history with fiction in this one. She used a deft hand and let history lead her, but she knew when to let fiction rule. I loved it.
What I didn't like:
There was a bit of repetition here and there that was a little annoying if nothing else. The story was still spectacular and written so well that the reader might forget they were reading a book and instead believe they had been sucked into the past. It was just the engrossing.
Repetition aside, this was an amazing story and Loupas certainly does justice to history here. Her fictional characters were just as well drawn as her historical characters and together they created a very well written and highly entertaining novel.
The Red Lily Crown is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.
I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!
About the Author:
Elizabeth Loupas held various positions in radio and television, and worked as an editor, writer, and marketing consultant. She holds degrees in literary studies and library/information science. She lives with her husband and two beagles. She is the author of The Second Duchess and The Flower Reader.
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