review: To Serve a King

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toserveakingTo Serve a King

by Donna Russo Morin

Morin’s newest femme fatale, Genevieve Gravois, is sent to the court of Francois I as a spy and assassin. Brought up from a young age to honor and serve England’s King Henry VIII, Genevieve believes the story imbibed in her that the French king is responsible for her parents’ death. With pure hatred in her heart, Genevieve learns much in her early years of espionage and cruelty.

Genevieve begins the path to what she believes is her destiny as one of the ladies of the king’s mistress, Anne de Pisseleu d’Heilly. From this position—the absolute closest she can get to the king—she is able to glean information to send abroad to King Henry and form a plan of attack if word is given. However, what she didn’t suspect is how her very being would soon be at war with itself.

My first thought after reading the synopsis of this book was that I wouldn’t be able to connect with the protagonist—after all, who roots for a character bent on malice and murder? But once you see Genevieve’s inner struggles, she becomes so much more human, and it is easy to sympathize with her. She finds love, a best friend and grudging respect for her mistress and even the man she was taught to hate and sent to destroy.

This is an intriguing story, though many may say far-fetched, but that is the beauty of Morin’s writing; almost poetically, she takes the reader to a time and place that feels genuine, while spinning an adventurous tale always with a strong female at the lead.

Besides writing with painstakingly alliterative prose, Morin’s characters always have surprising facets and you never know who will turn out to be friend or foe. I loved the mystery feel to this story and am not too proud to say that I was completely wrong in what I thought would happen at the end.

I recommend this novel to all lovers of French and Tudor historical fiction, but be aware that it’s not a quick and easy read. You’ll need all your wits to take in the flowery, verbose narrative.