Passion, intrigue, suspense, romance, murder, and science blend together in Elizabeth Loupas’ historical novel about the infamous Medici family. Set in mid-1500s Florence, Italy, The Red Lily Crown fulfills readers’ desire for love, life, and family in a background that is as common today as seven-hundred years ago, and yet as vastly different from the independent, free-spirited society most of us recognize presently. Readers are transported into the courtly life of Medici Florence in Loupas’ Red Lily Crown—the descriptions of royal life will no doubt fascinate readers, but anyone wishing to live a day in the life of Duchess Katherine or a Disney fairy-tale princess will probably be thankful they were not royalty in the days of the Medici family.
Loupas’ novel centers around palace intrigue involving seven significant characters at the Medici court. Whether based on their real-life counterparts or created for the purposes of the novel, the characters in The Red Lily Crown are vibrant animators amongst the many locations of Medici Florence, Cornwall (England), and Austria. Loupas’ characterization is good enough to keep the story moving; however, readers, such as myself, who require deeper, more filling characters, will struggle with Loupas’ characters because Chiara, Ruan, Franceso, Giovanna, Bianca, Isabella, and Ferdinando (amongst multiple other characters) only skim the surface of who they could really be as people living in such a turbulent time. I liked the characters as they were, but I wanted—and expected—much more of them, especially as the story progressed and the plot thickened to unimaginable heights. At times the superficiality of the characters detracted from the plot, and I asked myself questions regarding them to ensure I gave the story the credit it deserved. Did I find the story slow simply because I did not like Chiara for base reasons, for example, or did Loupas truly create Chiara to be un-likable because her character is meant to be villainous? While all readers should question the author’s motives for creating characters, I disliked constantly interrupting my reading to put aside any extra bias I might have held for a character just for personal reasons. I also found I felt empty upon finishing the novel because the characters motivations, emotions, and actions did not come across as necessary or substantive since their characterization was somewhat superficial.
Loupas excels in her descriptive, emotive writing, her dialogue between characters, and her inclusion of historical fact amongst all other aspects of the novel. Throughout reading the novel I constantly imagine myself joining Chiara among the palaces of the Medici family, wandering the back alleyways of Florence, or standing along the cliffs or within the mines of Cornwall with Ruan. Loupas spares no detail in her physical descriptions of her settings, her emotive descriptions of every action her characters pursue, or her historical descriptions—from characters clothing, to alchemical processes, to medicinal remedies for illnesses, to events from around Europe during this time period—and that decision helps her story come alive.
Publishing abounds—rightfully and understandably so—with books about the Tudor period. The confluence of royalty, wealth and privilege, passion, and intrigue brims with good storytelling. Readers who enjoy novels about Henry VIII, Elizabeth or Mary Tudor, or really just anything British, will enjoy Loupas’ The Red Lily Crown because the story holds those same elements; however, reading about a different family within a royal court that held family obligations to high esteem brought was enjoyable purely for the sake of learning something new about European history.
Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Review originally posted on April 7th, 2014 for LuxuryReading