Title: The Red Lily Crown: A Novel of Medici Florence
Author: Elizabeth Loupas
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: NAL Trade (April 1st)
Source: Review copy from publisher
“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?”
After the death of her father Chiara Nerini and her family are left in poverty. Being the older sister Chiara feels responsible for her two little sisters and her grandmother. She knows Francesco Medici is an avid alchemist and her last hope to get some money. She approaches him and offers her father’s alchemical equipment but Chiara gets more than what she bargained for, Francesco asks her to be his soror mystica, a virgin female alchemist, whom is supposed to balance his male counterpart in his experiments. Without a way out Chiara accepts Francesco’s offer. What Chiara wasn’t expecting was to be taken into court and made part of the intrigues, betrayals, murders and deceptions of the Medici.
Chiara is glad with the opportunity given by Francesco, not only she is given a proper education, but also her family is in a good place and they lack for nothing. What Chiara can’t abide with are the intrigues and risks the court life brings. Luckily for her she finds an ally in Ruan Pencarrow, the Englishman who is Francesco right hand in his Alchemical endeavors.
Francesco doesn’t need Chiara all the time, for that reason she is place in service in the household of Francesco’s sister, Isabella Medici. After the death of Isabella, Chiara is moved to the household of Francesco’s wife, Grand Duchess Giovanna of Austria. After the death of Giovanna Chiara is asks by Francesco to serve in the household of Bianca Capello, the despised Mistress of Francesco, who later on will become his wife.
During her many years of service Chiara not only learned about alchemy, she also learned to be a survivor, even if that meant to lie and go behind Francesco’s back.
In a world with many limitations Chiara is a very strong heroine. Her transformation from street urchin to worldly woman was very realistic and a joy to watch. Chiara is not in an easy place, she is pull from different directions and her loyalties are tested day after day. She knows any little mistake can cost her life and that of those she cares about; still, Chiara is a survivor at heart and she fights for what she thinks is right.
Ruan is broody and has many secrets. He serves Francesco as means to an end; he has a secret agenda and will do anything to obtain his objective, but working for Francesco is not easy, especially when Francesco does some despicable things and Ruan is helpless to stop him.
Ruan wants revenge and for that he needs sweet Chiara’s help.
Francesco is a very easy to dislike character, but at the same time it was easy to understand him. He is a sadist, who grew in a court where just the strong survives. He is a master at manipulation and will do whatever needed to get what he wants.
Francesco never wanted to be the Grand Duke, he would have been happy being a simple man; his only passions are his mistress Bianca Capello and alchemy.
Bianca Capello is vile woman; she knew the power she had over Francesco and wasn’t afraid of using it. She always obtained what she wanted without caring for the cost. At the end she knew Francesco would do anything for her, even going behind everybody wishes and marrying her in secret just couple of weeks after the death of his wife.
The Red Lily Crown: A Novel of Medici Florence by Elizabeth Loupas was a really nice surprise. I have read historical fiction about the English, French, Habsburg, and other Monarchies, but I have never read anything about the Medici.
Elizabeth Loupas masterfully weaves historical facts into her story, bringing to life not only the characters, but also the political, cultural and social situations of the Renaissance era.
It’s pretty obvious Elizabeth Loupas knows what she’s writing about, I can’t imagine the amount of research she must have done prior to writing this book. I can only say, whatever she did was completely worth it; Mrs. Loupas has a winner here.
Since the moment I started The Red Lily Crown: A Novel of Medici Florence I was completely submerged into the story. With its many twist, turns, plots and subplots Elizabeth Loupas shows us she has a gift with words and knows how to tell a story.
If you want a well-written historical fiction with enough intrigues, deceptions, murders and betrayals to keep you glued to its pages The Red Lily Crown: A Novel of Medici Florence by Elizabeth Loupas is the book you want to read.
The Red Lily Crown: A Novel of Medici Florence was my first book by Elizabeth Loupas, but I can guarantee you it won’t be my last. I’m planning to read some of her previous books in the coming days.
My Verdict: 4 ½ Paws
Other reviews Goodreads