Monday, June 13, 2011

ESCAPE TO THE PAST WITH: Mary, Queen of France, by Jean Plaidy

We're still in the process of downloading and organizing our trip pictures, but I hope to post a few over the next week or so -- trying to prolong the memory as long as I can.

This weekend I'll be at the Historical Novel Society Conference in San Diego (more travel than I'm used to. Things just worked out this way. So I'll have lots to report on that, too.)

Now, back to book blogging:

Although I know I was introduced to Victoria Holt/Jean Plaidy many years ago, I don’t recall what books I read– there are so many! In preparation for my trip, I downloaded a few e-books for myself and my kids onto my new Nook, one of which was Mary, Queen of France, by Jean Plaidy.

This is the story of Mary Tudor, the youngest sister of Henry VIII, who was briefly wed to the aged King Louis of France. She was beautiful, vivacious, and used to having her own way. But her heart’s desire was to marry her brother’s closest friend, a man whose blood was not royal, Charles Branson. An impossibility? Don’t underestimate Mary.

She and Charles were both pawns of the king. Charles married twice early on, each time increasing his wealth and stature. Knowing the danger of getting involved with the princess, he was fearful of Henry’s wrath. Although Charles loved Mary, he didn’t have her confidence or fire. Initially, Mary felt certain she could circumvent her duty. Indeed, she managed to escape her first unwanted betrothal, due to political machinations going on around her. But she could not escape marriage to the king of France. She could only do what she could, short of actual murder, to hasten his demise.

The Tudors are an unlovable bunch, as are many of the scheming and ambitious nobles in their sphere. Mary, Queen of France is told from multiple perspectives. The narrative is somewhat jumpy, both because of the shifting points of view and its uneven chronology, but it does do a good job of presenting a complete picture of what Mary had to contend with before she could find happiness with Charles. I enjoyed being introduced to each of the characters and learning their place in history. However, I never really found myself pulling for Mary- a champion sulker. Selfish and self-centered, she was so certain that everyone loved her, even Charles – though he was willing enough to marry elsewhere to protect and advance his own interests – that nothing mattered to her but reaching her goal. No one else and nothing else were ever as important as her personal happiness. It made her a fairly one dimensional character, emotionally immature and not as interesting as if she had considered other peoples’ feelings or the consequences of her actions.

Nevertheless, this is an interesting take on a piece of the Tudor story. A quick, fun read, but for me, an emotionally superficial one.


  1. Mary is the Tudor I don't know very much about, so I will be definitely hunting this book out. It sounds like she has her brother's instict for scheming! :P

  2. Sounds interesting Susan, although I read very little historical fiction. Can't wait to see the holiday snaps!

  3. This was the first Jean Plaidy book I ever read. I remember really enjoying it, I think partly because it was one of the first times I'd read about Mary Tudor & Francois I. I definitely look back on it fondly, especially knowing this was what introduced me to Jean Plaidy who has easily become one of my favorite authors.