Friday, November 19, 2010

Review: Courtesan by Diane Haeger

Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance
Publisher: Three Rivers Press, 1993

A Right Royal Romance!

The court of Francois 1 of France is full of lust, intrigue and bawdy bon temps - a different world from the quiet country life Diane de Poitiers led with her elderly husband. Now a widow, the elegant Diane is called back to court, where the King's obvious interest marks her as an enemy to the King's 'favourite', Anne d'Heilly and the court is soon electrified by rumours of their confrontations. As Anne calls on her most venomous tricks to drive Diane a way, Diane finds an ally in the one member of court with no allegiance to the King's mistress: his teenage second son, Henri.

Neglected by his father and disliked by his brothers, Prince Henri expects little from his life. But as his friendship with Diane deepens into infatuation and then a romance that scandalizes the court, the Prince begins to discover hope for a future with Diane. Fate and his father have other plans - including a political marriage with Catherine de Medici.

I bought this book at a recent Book Fair and not having read anything of Diane Haeger's I was looking forward to reading what gives the impression of being a good solid historical novel. I can only say now that I'm happy I paid a mere $2 for it.

The relationship between Henri and Diane is one of history's great love stories. The young man who would become Henri II and the woman who was almost 20 years his senior would remain devoted to each other until Henri's premature death in a jousting match when he was 40.

However fascinating that may be , I found the first part of the book dragged on and on and I was hard put to continue. Throughout, the focus is on the romance - repetitive love scenes and endless avowals of undying devotion became very boring.
I didn't like the way the author whitewashed Diane - she was a remarkable woman but no one survived in those times, particularly amongst court intrigue with its plotting and backstabbing, without having their wits about them. The way Diane is portrayed is too good to be true and I couldn't relate to her at all . If I felt a connection to anyone it was the young Catherine de Medici .

Overall I was disappointed and I think I already have a more balanced perspective of this relationship from other books I've read .

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  1. The historical Diane is a fascinating figure, but I doubt she was all sweetness and light. As you say, she would have to be pretty tough to be successful in that kind of environment for so long.

  2. Ahh Cat...I read this book this year and I liked it but perhaps that is because it is the first that I've read of these two historical figures ;) I agree with you that it did drag and I was glad to get to the end of it and did want to see a little more fire from Diane...especially when Henri was off making babies with his In the beginning I had more trouble getting over the age difference being the mother of two grown boys. I also got it on sale and would not have wanted to pay full price but it was a good start for a beginner ;)