Review: Confessions of Catherine de Medici by C.W. Gortner

The Confessions of Catherine de Medici
by C.W. Gortner

SYNOPSIS:  The truth is, none of us are innocent. We all have sins to confess.

So reveals Catherine de Medici in this brilliantly imagined novel about one of history’s most powerful and controversial women. To some she was the ruthless queen who led France into an era of savage violence. To others she was the passionate savior of the French monarchy. Acclaimed author C. W. Gortner brings Catherine to life in her own voice, allowing us to enter into the intimate world of a woman whose determination to protect her family’s throne and realm plunged her into a lethal struggle for power.

The last legitimate descendant of the illustrious Medici line, Catherine suffers the expulsion of her family from her native Florence and narrowly escapes death at the hands of an enraged mob. While still a teenager, she is betrothed to Henri, son of François I of France, and sent from Italy to an unfamiliar realm where she is overshadowed and humiliated by her husband’s lifelong mistress. Ever resilient, Catherine strives to create a role for herself through her patronage of the famous clairvoyant Nostradamus and her own innate gift as a seer. But in her fortieth year, Catherine is widowed, left alone with six young children as regent of a kingdom torn apart by religious discord and the ambitions of a treacherous nobility.

Relying on her tenacity, wit, and uncanny gift for compromise, Catherine seizes power, intent on securing the throne for her sons. She allies herself with the enigmatic Protestant leader Coligny, with whom she shares an intimate secret, and implacably carves a path toward peace, unaware that her own dark fate looms before her—a fate that, if she is to save France, will demand the sacrifice of her ideals, her reputation, and the passion of her embattled heart.

From the fairy-tale châteaux of the Loire Valley to the battlefields of the wars of religion to the mob-filled streets of Paris, The Confessions of Catherine de Medici is the extraordinary untold journey of one of the most maligned and misunderstood women ever to be queen.


Catherine de Medici has been called many names throughout history: The Italian Woman, Madame Serpent, Jezebel, the Merchant's Daughter and the Black Queen. Now C.W. Gortner gives us another name to call her - woman.

The Catherine portrayed by Gortner is quite different than in previous novels I've read of her by Jean Plaidy (Catherine de Medici trilogy) and Diane Haeger (Courtesan). As with Juana la Loca in The Last Queen, Gortner obliterates what we think we know about these amazing, yet controversial women and brings to life the humanity within them, making them so real that you can't but help feel empathy. Or if not empathy, then at least you can understand the motives behind their actions, even if their actions aren't fathomable.

Having been bred with the knowledge that she was the one hope remaining to the survival of the Medici name, Catherine would forever remain loyal to her family and fight for them to her last breath. She was a woman married off to a man (future King Henry II of France) who loved another, who bore him 10 children and was forced to concede everything to her husband's mistress (Diane de Poitiers), even her children. She was a woman who after the death of her husband fought tooth and nail to keep the throne for her sons, in a country strife with religious war and a starving populace. Catherine could hold her ground with any man, but there was a softer side to her also. A side that just wanted to be loved as a woman and not as a queen. She was also a lover of animals, which is something very dear to this readers' heart!

The Confessions of Catherine de Medici is magnificently written historical fiction. Gortner never fails to amaze me with his understanding of women, research and accuracy and his seemingly-effortless writing talent makes this novel a must-read-again for me!! I am waiting with bated breath for his next novel on Isabella of Castile - another fascinating woman in history.

Click HERE for more HFBRT posts on The Confessions of Catherine de Medici by C.W. Gortner.



  1. I'm planning on reading this in the next couple of weeks. glad to hear it's a good one!

  2. You are so right about the author understanding women... that's something I noticed with his first novel and was amazed! Love it! Great review, Amy :)

  3. I love it when an author takes a character who has repeatedly vilified in literature and gives them a more human and sympathetic portrayal, so this book really interests me. Great review! It sounds like this is a great book, and one I look forward to reading!!

  4. Great post Amy...this sounds like the next book that I should read for my French Historical Reading Challenge...right after I finish The Courtesan by Diane Haeger...this would be perfect! I think my hammock is calling my name this afternoon for some reading time...trouble is...I end up falling asleep it's so darn Have a great day, fondly, Roberta

  5. I really want to read this book! I've only read one other book on Catherine and that was The Devil's Queen by Jeanne Kalogridis which was great. I look forward to more Catherine!

  6. I'm planning on reading this one next week and I can't wait. If it is half as good as his first book it will be great.

  7. I just loved The Last Queen so I know I need to get my hands on this book! Thanks for the review Amy.

  8. Thank for your wonderful review, Amy. I'm so pleased you enjoyed the novel! It's always a pleasure to visit and I'm very honored to be here as part of the HFBRT event.

  9. Am just reading a book titled Catherine de Medici by Leonie Frieda and liking it so much.

  10. Fascinating is right! Love your fab review, Amy! You're right when you say that Gortner did show us Catherine, the Woman- as opposed to more of the same in all other novels about her. I loved this book ( and I didn't know about her love of animals either..poor little Muet).
    Thanks Amy- excellent:)

  11. Wonderful review Amy. It is so true - this author truely has a great understanding of women!

  12. Amy, great review! I haven't heard of Courtesan by Karen Harper, I'll have to look that up!

  13. The more I read about this book, the more I want to read it. If he is indeed giving a fair voice to the women he writes about, his books should be on everyone's must read list.
    I look forward to reading it.

  14. I'm playing catch up on all the HFBRT events, as I was sick last week and I am so enjoying myself! Great review Amy! I really can't wait to get my hands on this book!

  15. Excellent review Amy, I am digging the new review style. Very well stated.

  16. He is a phenominal writer and chooses the best figures to write about.


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