Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Flower Reader by Elizabeth Loupas — 448 pgs

Rinette Leslie of Granmuir has a very special gift that allows her to decipher messages from the flowers that surround her. As the reigning queen, Mary of Guise, lies on her deathbed, Rinette is charged with delivering an infamous silver casket full of dangerous secrets and letters to her daughter Mary Stuart, the new queen of Scotland. Before Rinette can discharge her duty, her new husband is brutally murdered in connection with the hidden casket. Unable to dissuade the young queen from pressing her into service, Rinette finds herself at the mercy of almost every nobleman at court, all who seek the silver casket for themselves and their own country’s interests. As Rinette tries to survive the melee of threats, violence and murder, she’s unsure whom to trust. But one man in particular seems to be ever intertwined in her fate. Is this man a force that she can trust or one who seeks to do her the ultimate harm, and will the whispering of the flowers be enough to save herself and the young queen who seems hell bent on destroying her own newfound dynasty? In this richly dramatic and darkly potent historical fiction novel, Elizabeth Loupas unveils a tale of dark intrigue imbued with drama, violence and love.

This book was very different than most historical fiction I’ve read in the past. For the most part, many of the book’s central characters were entirely fictional creations, while the real historical players stayed mostly on the outskirts of the story. This enabled the author to be very daring in the story that she created, and at times I marveled over the extreme darkness that this tale provided. It was more than intriguing to watch all these events unfold, and as the narrative spans the course of several years, there was a lot of figurative space for the story to blossom and realize its full potential.

As the story opens, Rinette is a very young woman in love and is unable to see the follies of her betrothed. These follies are very apparent to the reader, but Loupas does a great job in creating in Rinette a delicious naïveté that is stripped away from her one layer at a time as the narrative moves forward. When the silver casket comes into her possession, the danger and heartache that follow her turn this story from a simple historical fiction piece into a tale of suspense and intrigue that had me deeply wound in the story. As Rinette discovers too late, she’s not the only one who knows about the casket, and due to a betrayal of the most egregious kind, she must now protect herself with a fierceness.

The villains in this story were plentiful and it was almost as if each and every character carried a varying degree of hostility, deceptiveness and danger in them. Discovering the balance of cruel intentions that each of them carried became something of a thrill for me. In a court full of glittering personages, there was virtually no one whom Rinette could trust, and this made her all the more resolute to protect herself at all costs. As the story moves forward, Rinette is burdened with more to lose but also more to love, putting her in the position of secret keeper and warrior, as well as flouromancer and courtier.

There was an element of romance in the book as well, but Loupas does credit to her story by making her hero very enigmatic while drawing him with a touch of duplicity as well. He’s a great match for the heroine, but I felt that the love story wasn’t the primary element to this tale. Each of the characters were finely etched and had ruses and machinations that ran extremely deep. Often I was overwhelmed with the amount of work that must have gone into creating such a cohesive historical drama shot through with threads of mysticism, intrigue and relevance.

I really enjoyed this story and have the feeling that there may be a sequel based on how the tale wraps up at the end. For those readers who don’t naturally gravitate towards this genre, this is a great place to get a toehold. There is enough suspense and mystery to delight readers who lean that way and just enough historical flavor to really give the reader a sense of time and place. There are also an infinite amount of fine details that are worked in with precision, making this book an all around solid read. Worthy of attention and recommended.


This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.

15 comments:

Jenny said...

I have not read a historical fiction in forever, but I always enjoy them. I think in this one I would have no clue what is actually historical and what was fiction!

Suko said...

What a lovely review! This truly sounds like a solid, worthwhile read, with well-depicted characters and a historical grounding.

geosi said...

Ehm! Interesting premise. The overview sounds good but I doubt if this is for me though.

Beth F said...

Interesting that the real historical characters are mostly on the sidelines. That does open up opportunities for the author.

Sandy Nawrot said...

I LOVE that cover. And while historical fiction is not something I read often, I'm intrigued by all the evil-doers running around in this one. You know I like my share of evil-doers!

bermudaonion said...

I'm one of those readers who don't generally read historical fiction, so I'm making note of this one.

Mrs Q Book Addict said...

I love historical fiction, but I haven't been reading it as much lately. Great review!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Interesting! I'm wondering how this compares to The Language of Flowers?

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I like occasional historical novels, but this one is totally new to me. Glad to see you enjoyed it.

Harvee said...

This period of English history is always fascinating. The story of Mary Queen of Scots as the background of the novel makes it intriguing, yes!

Jenny said...

It's fun when historical fiction uses mainly fictional characters -- then you get that little frisson of recognition when a real person shows up! I've always felt cameos from the Famous are the way to go with historical fiction, or else it starts to feel a teeny bit like the author's playing with Tudor Paper Dolls (or whatever era it is). :p

Stacy at A Novel Source said...

How very exciting! A new historical fiction writer to add to my list of tbr! Historical fiction is probably in the top 3 of my favorite genres and I'm always seeking new authors - I love how you think this one has tied so much together creating a drama worthy of reading. Excellent review!

Holly (2 Kids and Tired) said...

I've been seeing this one pop up all over the place and it sounds so good. I think I need to track down a copy soon.

2 Kids and Tired Books

Jenners said...

I imagine that if I ever wrote historical fiction, I would approach it in the same way. : )

Elizabeth Loupas said...

Zibilee, thank you so much for this fabulous review--you can be sure I will quote you on "richly dramatic and darkly potent." :) I would indeed love to write a sequel and hope I get the opportunity.

Thanks also to your wonderful readers who commented.

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