Friday, 27 May 2016

Review: Minette by Melanie Clegg

2013  242 pages (eBook)  Madame Guillotine 

Born in the heart of the English Civil War and smuggled out of England as an infant, Princess Henriette has lived most of her life as an exile in the French Court. The youngest daughter of the unfortunate Charles I, Henriette and the rest of her family wait in hope of their fortunes being restored as she is brought up in the decadent and treacherous court of Louis XIV. A rags-to-riches story, Minette follows Henriette’s early adolescence as she and her family fight to survive.

This was a nice little book – not a sweeping epic, but still very entertaining. Henriette (or Minette to her family) led a very turbulent life from a young age and anyone familiar with her story will know that things were never smooth sailing for her. During her refuge in France she lived pretty poorly due to her family's allowance being scarce, and what money they did have was shared with the other English aristocrats in exile or sent to England for the war effort. She didn’t exactly live the life of luxury accustomed to a seventeenth century princess but her character was charming; she’s sweet and attentive and I found her to be an interesting historical figure. I read this book already knowing about Henriette’s later life so it was fun to see how Clegg dealt with depicting her childhood.

Despite her seemingly hectic early years very little seems to happen to Henriette, at least until the final third of the book. Living in exile isn’t the most glamorous of positions to be in and there’s a lot of hearing about thing happening elsewhere - what her brother, the soon to be Charles II, is up to, the battles being fought away from the French court, and what occurred before Henriette was born. I’m not saying it isn’t interesting but there was a limit to what a seventeenth century princess could do and for Henriette it’s lots of parties and lots of waiting.

It’s not until Charles II is welcomed back to England that things really start to change for her. Her family finally have money and respect once more so that’s an up, and once that happens people start to take notice of her in a kind of she’s-the-sister-of-a-king-and-we-need-an-alliance sort of way. Henriette’s a pretty sad figure – her life was full of early family deaths and strained relationships so this isn’t the happiest read of your life but it’s still very good fictional portrayal of an unconventional historical princess.

Clegg is apparently working on a second novel about Henriette which will probably pick up where this story left off so I’ll be sure to check that out when it’s published. 

Overall rating: 3 stars

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