Impressively well-researched historical fiction conveyed with dramatic verve.



From the Anne of Brittany series , Vol. 3

In this third installment of a series, Anne of Brittany and her husband, Louis XII, the king of France, struggle to agree on a future husband for their daughter, a choice with high political stakes.

Initially, the decision regarding the marital future of Princess Claude of France is amicably made in the early 16th century by her parents. Both Anne and Louis select Charles of Luxembourg, not quite 2 years old, to one day marry their infant daughter. Their reasons for picking Charles, while different, are borne out of political strategy, lucidly depicted in this historical novel by Gaston (Anne and Louis: Passion and Politics in Early Renaissance France, 2018, etc.). Anne pushes the idea, knowing Charles is destined for great power: He’s the son of Philip of Burgundy, archduke of Austria and heir to the Holy Roman Empire, and Joanna of Castile, the daughter of Ferdinand, the king of Spain. Since Charles will one day become the Holy Roman emperor and Claude the duchess of Brittany, he surely would prevent the French usurpation of Brittany, preserving its sovereignty, a cause close to Anne’s heart. And Louis hopes that Ferdinand will support his interests in Italy. But Louis harbors a “secret desire” for Claude to wed Francis d’Angoulême, the son of a dead cousin, in order to maintain the throne within his own bloodline. Even after brokering the arrangement with Philip and Joanna, he furtively authorizes the composition of a new will that ensures the future matrimony of Claude and Francis, risking the astonished ire of Anne. In this engrossing volume of the Anne of Brittany series, the author deftly re-creates the complex political landscape of Europe, an entangled skein of agreements and acrimonies. Her mastery of the historical period is superb, and her portrayal of the social nuances of the day, painstakingly authentic. In addition, the relationship between Anne and Louis—romantically strong but politically disharmonious—is brought to vivid life (Louis’ “mind wandered to Anne. Would she remain loyal to him, should she find out one day that he had promised Claude to Francis? He could bear a rupture with Ferdinand, the Borgias, the Venetians, or the Florentines, but he couldn’t bear the thought of one with his wife”). This is a delightful blend of historical rigor and dramatic entertainment delivered in easily companionable prose. 

Impressively well-researched historical fiction conveyed with dramatic verve.

Pub Date: Dec. 12, 2019


Page Count: 401

Publisher: Renaissance Editions

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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The years pass by at a fast and steamy clip in Blume’s latest adult novel (Wifey, not reviewed; Smart Women, 1984) as two friends find loyalties and affections tested as they grow into young women. In sixth grade, when Victoria Weaver is asked by new girl Caitlin Somers to spend the summer with her on Martha’s Vineyard, her life changes forever. Victoria, or more commonly Vix, lives in a small house; her brother has muscular dystrophy; her mother is unhappy, and money is scarce. Caitlin, on the other hand, lives part of the year with her wealthy mother Phoebe, who’s just moved to Albuquerque, and summers with her father Lamb, equally affluent, on the Vineyard. The story of how this casual invitation turns the two girls into what they call "Summer sisters" is prefaced with a prologue in which Vix is asked by Caitlin to be her matron of honor. The years in between are related in brief segments by numerous characters, but mostly by Vix. Caitlin, determined never to be ordinary, is always testing the limits, and in adolescence falls hard for Von, an older construction worker, while Vix falls for his friend Bru. Blume knows the way kids and teens speak, but her two female leads are less credible as they reach adulthood. After high school, Caitlin travels the world and can’t understand why Vix, by now at Harvard on a scholarship and determined to have a better life than her mother has had, won’t drop out and join her. Though the wedding briefly revives Vix’s old feelings for Bru, whom Caitlin is marrying, Vix is soon in love with Gus, another old summer friend, and a more compatible match. But Caitlin, whose own demons have been hinted at, will not be so lucky. The dark and light sides of friendship breathlessly explored in a novel best saved for summer beachside reading.

Pub Date: May 8, 1998

ISBN: 0-385-32405-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1998

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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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