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As I have, I think, mentioned in the past, I seem to have become a real fan of Diane Haeger. I have not yet read a book of hers that I have not thoroughly enjoyed. "The Courtesan" was no exception!
This book follows the life of Diane DePoitiers, favorite mistress of King Francoise 1st of France. As the story begins to unfold we are introduced to Diane, as the widowed Comtesse de Sancerre, is reintroduced to the Court soon after her elderly husband's demise. It is apparent that the Sancerre's left Court amid some cloud - as they had been apart from the Court for some time. As Diane returns the daily life at Court the King's current mistress, the infamous beauty, Anne d'Heilly, makes life utterly miserable for Diane. Disparaging, jealous and vicious, Anne was not about to let the King become interested in Madame de Sancerre.
Diane ultimately requests to be know by her former name, Diane de Poitiers. She rekindles her friendship with Francois' son, Henri - a young man who has few friends and who is plagued by depression, dark thoughts. Henri is disliked by his father and belittled by his brothers, but Diane sees a sensitive, good-hearted young man lurking beneath the surface. The rest of the story, as they say, is history. Diane and Henri ultimately become lovers despite the age difference that causes them to become shunned by members of the Court and Francois himself. In a twist of fate, through the deaths of his male siblings, Henri becomes King Henri, marries the infamous Catherine D'Medici, a powerful woman who loves Henri, provides him heirs to the throne but still cannot secure his love. Diane remains the most powerful person in Henri's life, the one he turns to for comfort, discussion, and love. The book covers some fascinating "What if" conjectural scenes- such as 'what if' in order to protect Henri from Nostradamus' fateful prediction about the end of Henri's life- Diane and Catherine become odd co-conspirators to keep him safe?
I found that I could not put this book down once I started it! This novel follows history quite closely, but also has some areas of particularly well done "filling in the gaps". I think it is one of Ms. Haeger's best books. Read this book ! I am sure that it will not disappoint you if you love great historical fiction.