Thursday, March 24, 2011

To Serve A King

I just finished this book by Donna Russo Morin and I really enjoyed it. This was purely fictional but it of course involved some royalty. I do love my period pieces. This book is about a girl, Genevieve, who is raised by her aunt. She is taught from a young age how to kill animals, shoot a bow and arrow, and how to lie. Her aunt was approached by King Henry VIII at a tournament, to raise this young girl to be a spy in the court of Francois his rival. So the aunt taught this young girl from a young age everything it would take to be a courtier, and also eventually how to kill. Her aunt tells her that her parents were killed by King Francis, so she must get revenge.

At the age of 22 she goes to court, and serves King Francis's mistress Anne. She serves as a lady in waiting to her. Genevieve quickly learns how to be a courtier, and tries to keep from making friendships so she can complete her mission. While there she becomes good friends with Arabelle, another lady in waiting. She also meets a handsome man, Sebastien. Genevieve receives letters written in code from King Henry from time to time, telling her what to do. As she learns information that would be helpful, she sends it back in code. While serving at the court, Genevieve comes to actually like King Francis. Her mind fights with her heart, that with what she was raised to do. To kill the King when the opportunity was ripe.

Word soon gets spread around that there is a spy at court. Soon the entire court is strife with lies and intrigues, wondering who the spy is. In order to put suspicion away from herself, Genevieve tells Montmorency, the advisor investigating this, that she saw Lisette with a foreigner. Lisette was another lady in waiting, who she did in fact see with a strange gentleman. Genevieve didn't intend for anything untoward to happen, but Lisette is brought to trial and then hanged. Genevieve as well as the other ladies in waiting, are very upset at this. Genevieve didn't mean for anything to happen to her, she just wanted the suspicion off of her. As she battles with the grief and guilt of the death of Lisette, she also struggles to deal with her feelings toward the King. He is friendly, nice to all the courtiers, and was even grief stricken himself when he heard of the death of Lisette.

King Francis was later in his life, and had changed quite a bit. He did have many mistresses early in life, and also did many things he was not proud of. But when his first wife and some of his children passed away, he was tempered by grief. He was married to Queen Eleanor, but there was not much affection there. His true love lay with his mistress Anne. Although still not living in complete fidelity he was known to be a true and loyal King to his subjects. He was a collector of arts, which is now in the Louvre in Paris. He also loved books and poetry, which he collected many popular works. He also worked at bringing the most talented musicians to Court. His rival was King Henry VIII, who was pretty close to his own age. They met from time to time, always competing to top the other.

Genevieve was soon to meet her sponsor, King Henry VIII. Her mistress Anne was to go and meet with him on some political matters, and Genevieve was to attend her. While there, she is disappointed at what she finds. King Henry hardly acknowledges her, and she hears about the deaths of his first three wives. He sounds not at all how she had hoped. While there, she also runs into an old woman who is badly scarred. She offers her money and help, but the woman doesn't speak much. The next morning everyone wakes up to see her hanging in a tree. It was supposedly a suicide. What Genevieve never finds out, is that it was her mother. She was told her parents had died in a fire.

Upon returning to Court, Genevieve receives a letter telling her to kill the King. The Emperor Charles V was coming to visit. This would be a good chance to kill him, and hopefully put guilt on the Emperor. Genevieve tries to decide what to do, because she has grown to love the King Francis, but for 22 years she was trained to kill the King. She manages to get time along with him that night, and keeps a dagger hidden in her dress. The King sees her as a daughter and talks tenderly to her. He asks how her parents died, and she tells him. As she is getting ready to kill him, he tells her that the fire started over by King Henry's tent. Genevieve stops herself and listens to the King. She feels in her heart it is true, that it is King Henry who killed her parents, and was just using her. She doesn't kill the King and goes back to her chambers.

Her lover and friend Sebastien finds her there. She starts crying because she feels released from all the turmoil. She finally knows where her place and home is. Sebastien starts choking her, and she tries to defend herself. He is also a spy of King Henry, and is upset at her change of mind. King Francis had sent guards to check on her, and they rescue her just in time. Sebastien is killed and she is barely alive. The King asks her what happened, and she tells him the entire story. He decides he needs to send her away from Court for her protection from King Henry, and he sends her away with his love. And away she goes.

I know this story was fictional, but I liked it because it showed me a glimpse into King Francis's court. Most books I've read were about King Henry VIII, so it was fun to see the other side of his rival. Most things I've read about King Francis don't put him in a good light. He was lustful, had many mistresses, and used his children for ill. But it sounds like later in life after much grief, he changes. I've always found him to be an interesting character in history. I hope to read more about him as well. If you like romance, murder and intrigue in a court of France, you will like this book. I've decided to start adding ratings to my books, because books can be just as dirty as movies.

Rating: PG13 for a few short paragraphs of love scenes. I just skipped over them. No swearing.

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