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Duchessina: Young Royals    by Carolyn Meyer order for
by Carolyn Meyer
Order:  USA  Can
Harcourt, 2008 (2008)

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* *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

I always enjoy Carolyn Meyer's historical novels about the lives of famous women. She has a number in her Young Royals series, but Duchessina is the first that I have read. This is the story of Catherine de' Medici, Queen of France.

Caterina Maria Romula di Lorenzo de' Medici's parents died while she was a little girl, leaving her the title of Duchess of Urbino. Because of this, her family and friends called her Duchessina, Italian for Little Duchess. Raised first by Pope Leo and then by Pope Clement VII, Catherine is eventually sent to live in convents when Clement angers the Italians by trying to exert too much power. At the first convent, Catherine is despised for being a Medici, but soon is transferred to a friendlier one, where she meets and befriends three other girls. When the civil unrest settles, Clement arranges Catherine's marriage to Prince Henri of France. As her new life begins, Catherine learns that things are never fair.

Most of Meye's heroines are easy to get to know, but Catherine is not. From the start of the story, it is hard for the reader to get into her life, and thus she seems more distant than Meyer's other protagonists. Also, at the very beginning, the narration mentions that Catherine started life as Duchessina and ended as Madame Serpent, but nowhere does the reader get to see that change (there's only a mention in the Historical Notes at the end). Though Duchessina is a good introduction to the Medici family, it is not as readable as some of Carolyn Meyer's other works.

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