Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Flower Reader

The Flower Reader by Elizabeth Loupas was such a good book, I really enjoyed reading it.  While I was looking up authors in the library search I noticed this one and had to reserve it.  This book follows Rinette Leslie of Granmuir, a young ward of Queen Mary Guise of Scotland.  Her father had died and afterward her mother entered a convent there to devote the rest of her life in sanctuary to God.  That is how she became to be a royal ward of the queen's.  At the age of 17 the queen regent was dying and with her last words ordered her to a secret- to take a casket to Saint Margaret's Chapel in Dunfermline, there to hide it in a secret vault until she could give it to her daughter.  The queen's daughter Mary had been in France since a young age as a ward of Queen Catherine Medici and King Henry II, where she was married for two years to their son Francis until he passed away.  The queen entrusted whatever secrets were in the casket to Rinette.

It didn't take long for the drama to being unfolding; Rinette escaped on horse with her nurse before she would become a ward of Rothes or someone else.  She took the casket with her and rushed to meet her childhood love, Alexander Gordon.  They met a few days later and hurriedly met in a chapel to wed.  They were interrupted by Lord Rothes and several other men- Rinette was the lady of Granmuir now that her father was dead, but Rothes was to be in charge of her until she came of an age.  By claiming sanctuary they were able to buy time and were wed the next day.  During their honeymoon interlude Rinette told her husband Alexander about the casket.  He asked to see what was inside, and against her better judgement she lets him.  There was a packet of letters sealed by Nostradamus and other cipher letters inside.  Rinette hid it and they continued on.  She discovered she was pregnant, and near the end of her time they heard Mary was landing and rushed to meet her to give her the casket.  They rushed to Holyrood to Edinburgh Castle, but were not able to meet Mary right away as she was resting.

They decided to put the casket in the hidden vault in the chapel, and Alexander went with her to hide it.  Rinette hid a bunch of flowers in and around the casket and they slipped back out.  On the streets she was feeling sick and asked to return to their apartments when suddenly an assassin from the crowds slit Alexander's throat.  Rinette was rescued by Monsieur Nicolas de Clarac, a secretary of the deceased queen.  She soon gave birth to her daughter and didn't awaken for several days.  When she woke up she discovered that her daughter Mairi had been baptized by her godmother the new Queen of Scotland, and that her husband was lying in a coffin at Holyrood Abbey.  It took time for her to start healing both in body and spirit, and her ladies were there to attend her.

The Earl of Huntly had been a ward of her husband and so held Glenlithe as a fiefdom, and immediately began to fight to take her and her daughter as a ward.  The Earl of Rothes also fought back as she was a lady of Granmuir and therefore fell under his protection.  Through her sharp wit she asked to remain at court with the Queen for motives of her own, and also as the queen was her daughter's godmother.  It was decided by the Queen's half brother James that she would stay until she handed the casket over to the Queen.  The casket was no longer a secret- it appears her husband had written several monarchs about the secret casket and its contents to try and sell it.  Even though he had blatantly betrayed her, Rinette still desired to find out who his killer was.  She had some memories of the dagger that had killed him and what it looked like.  When she was presented to the Queen she decided to use the casket as a bargain- she said she would turn it over when the Queen helped find her husband's killer and bring him or her to justice.  This way she hoped to evade the Earls of Huntly and Rothes as well as bring her husband's killer to justice.

Court life continues and during it all, the dances and weddings and plays and serving the Queen and being with her daughter, Rinette tries to discover the identity of her husband's killer.  While at court she befriends Nicolas de Clerac who seems over and over to save her.  He becomes a favorite of the Queen's and is always by her side so they have to be careful about being seen together too much as the Queen is easily jealous.  Her daughter is taken care of at Granmuir by her ladies as the years pass away at court.  Rinette is approached often by various courtiers and agents to sell the casket to them.  The patience of the Queen and her half brother soon wears out and they demand that she turns the casket over to them.  They write up a treaty of protection for her and her daughter and her lands and say she does not have to marry against her will if she turns the casket over.  The queen and her brother the Earl of Moray signs the treaty.  When Rinette goes to find the casket it is gone- only the flowers remain.  Angry at her the Queen and her brother think that she has sold it and betrayed them.  They strip her of her castle Granmuir by the sea and force her to marry Rannoch Hamilton, a friend of the Earl of Rothes. 

Rinette marries him very unhappily and is scared as she has mocked him on several occasions in front of other men.  He abuses her in every way and she cannot escape or they will harm her daughter.  She is asked back to court to serve the Queen again, and the Queen acts like nothing has passed between them.  Rinette is relieved to serve the Queen as it keeps her from her husband during the day and sometimes at night.  Pierre Chastelard, an agent of Queen Catherine Medici, had tried to kill her with a dagger thinking to get the casket.  Word had spread the casket was gone but people still believed Rinette had it hidden.  She did not.  Nicolas de Clerac tries to do what he can for her but he could not stop the marriage.  Over time they have fallen in love but not declared it to each other.  Nicolas was injured by someone in the dark trying to stab him- it seems whoever this assassin was was trying to get at her through him.  A courtier was stabbed and killed in the same fashion as her Alexander had- as a warning to her probably.  Nicolas conferred often with Rinette in secret, trying to help her find her deceased husband's killer.  He said it was likely one of the Escadron Volant who worked for Catherine of Medici who had killed her husband.

Her husband Rannoch of Hamilton had married her in order to discover where the casket was so he could be the duke of Kinmeal Castle.  He worked for the Earl of Rothes and Moray and thought that by marrying her and threatening her child he could get the casket from her.  He hates the Queen and manages to get Rinette away from her and the court and takes her away.  She is pregnant and has another daughter Katherine she calls Kitte, but she is taken away from her.  Rinette is locked up for almost a year and is starting to suspect poison in her meals.  She manages to use her wits once again and uses the help of the deaf girl who feeds her and the stable boy to help her escape while Rannoch is drunk.  They take her daughter with her and escape back to Granmuir.  Nicolas comes to visit with a letter from the queen saying she will help her divorce him; he had gone to the kirk in St Giles and complained that his wife had fled with his daughter and she needed to answer the charges.  Rinette goes back to court to see the Queen and to read her flowers for her.  The Queen had met a man named Darnley that she wished to know their future together.  Rinette sees darkness and destruction from the man and tries to warn the Queen but she does not believe her. 

While back in the city she hears Rannoch is there; while at a wedding everything happens all at once.  Rannoch with Blaise Laurentin take her daughters and come to attack Rinette.  She stabs Blaise and escapes with her daughters to find Nicolas- he helps her hide her daughters and they tell the Queen what has happened.  One of her men was killed in the attack to take her daughters and her ladies were injured.  While stabbing Blaise she noticed the dagger had a falcon, just like the one that had killed her husband.  The Queen orders for both him and Rannoch to be killed for being agents against the crown.  In a confrontation between Rannoch and Rinette and the queen and Nicolas, Rannoch shoots Blaise in the face and kills him in front of everyone.  To take up arms in front of the queen is a crime and the Queen desires him to be hanged for his crimes.  Rannoch is hanged the next day for killing Blaise, one of Rinette's men and for his rude comments to the queen. 

Finally Rinette is free of the evil man and her daughters are safe.  She goes back to Granmuir away from the intrigues of court and the queen who one minute is loyal and the next is not.  The queen marries this Darnley and Rinette predicts only danger for the future of Scotland.  Rinette discovers that Nicolas was a cousin of the queen's and that is why he was always so close to her.  He was also an agent of the Countess Antoinette and had the casket in his possession all along.  Rinette is angry for some time because the casket is what had caused the murder of her husband and many others.  Nicolas gives the casket to Rinette to present to the queen.  She reads the letter of Nostradamus then throws the rest in the fire.  Nicolas and Rinette marry while they settle at Granmuir with her children.  Most the characters besides the queen, her half brother and Darnley are fictional.  The casket was indeed real but what was inside is a mystery and served as the basis for the story.  Flower reading is what Rinette did but many called witchcraft.  There is a lot of content to the book and I hope I did it justice- it was a good book, full of twists and turns, love, lust, power, danger and murder.  I am happy Rinette has a happy ending after her many trials.  The Queen of Scotland is interesting because of her many mood changes and the husband she chooses to marry that does lead to her downfall.  It was common back then for children to be royal wards when their parents died or entered convents or served at court.  Children were most often brought up by other relatives than their own parents.  I highly recommend this book, very good.