The second book, Reluctant Queen, continues the story of Henry IV and Margot, of what happened when she was reunited with her husband in Nerac, and with her relationship with Guise. It then moves on to Henry’s mistress, Gabrielle d’Estrées. History tells us that when Gabrielle was sixteen years old she was so lovely that her mother sold her as a mistress to Henri III. A most unnatural mother if ever there was one. Gabrielle, however, got the worst of the deal as she was passed on from lover to lover, including the Cardinal de Guise, who she was with for more than a year until May 1588 when he left for Paris to support his nephew, the Duke de Guise, in what became known as the Day of the Barricades. And then she caught the eye of the new King Henry IV. Margot absolutely refuses to divorce him in order to allow him to marry his whore, but there are more ways than one of getting rid of a troublesome wife…
Out in papberback at the end of July 2011
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I’ve just finished the last in the trilogy, titled The Queen and the Courtesan, which will be out in the Autumn. In this Henry is embroiled with Henriette d’Entragues, but she isn’t satisfied with simply being his mistress, she wants a crown too. Despite his promises to marry her, he is obliged by political necessity to marry Marie de Medici, an Italian princess who will bring riches to the treasury. But Henriette isn’t for giving up easily. She has a written promise of marriage and is prepared to do whatever it takes to declare the royal marriage illegal. Queen Margot eventually returns to Paris, much to the new queen’s despair. Hasn’t she enough problems dealing with a mistress out for revenge, let alone an ex-wife?
The fascinating part of writing this type of true historical is the research. I love working out what kind of people they were, why they made the mistakes they did, what was their motivation, what made them tick and how did others respond to them? The same rules of characterisation apply, except that you can’t make it up. You have to be a bit of a detective and build them from clues. Then it’s a case of reading through a mass of material, and as it’s impossible to put everything in, deciding which are the relevant parts for your story. I discovered it was vital to read widely, so that I could negotiate my way through political and religious bias, what was likely to be rumour or propaganda, and often pick up gems from one source that weren’t available in others. It’s like putting together a jig-saw, but gathering the pieces from different boxes. I was sorry when the tale was told and I had to say goodbye to my characters whom I’d come to know and understand so well.