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The Confessions of Catherine de Medici: A Novel Audiobook, by C. W. Gortner Extended Sample Click for printable size audiobook cover
Author: C. W. Gortner Narrator: Cassandra Campbell Publisher: Blackstone Publishing Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: June 2011 ISBN: 9781483072029
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (2,563 ratings) (rate this audio book)
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From C. W. Gortner, acclaimed author of The Last Queen, comes an ambitious and gripping new novel about the dramatic, tragic, and misunderstood life of one of history’s most powerful and influential women: Catherine de Medici.

To some, she was the ruthless queen who led France into an era of savage violence. To others, she was the passionate savior of the French monarchy. In this brilliantly imagined novel, acclaimed author C. W. Gortner brings Catherine to life in her own voice, allowing us to enter the intimate world of a woman whose determination to protect her family’s throne and realm plunged her into a lethal struggle for power.

From the fairy-tale chateaux of the Loire Valley to the battlefields of the wars of religion to the mob-filled streets of Paris, The Confessions of Catherine de Medici is the extraordinary untold journey of one of the most maligned and misunderstood women ever to be queen.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “The notorious Catherine de Medici emerges as a flesh-and-blood woman in this masterful recounting of her life. C.W. Gortner has an uncanny ability to delve into the intense humanness of his characters.”

    Margaret George, New York Times bestselling author

  • “An intriguing and provocative book about one of history’s most controversial queens and the turbulent world of 16th century France.”

    Sharon Penman, author of The Devil's Brood

  • “Thrilling and original…a dramatic portrait of a brilliant queen and a realm divided by dissension.”

    Stephanie Cowell, author of Claude and Camille: A Novel of Monet     

  • The Confessions of Catherine de Medici is a dramatic, epic novel of an all-too-human woman whose strength and passion propelled her into the center of grand events. Meticulously researched, this engrossing novel offers a fresh portrait of a queen who has too often been portrayed as a villain. Bravo, Mr. Gortner!”

    Sandra Gulland, author of The Josephine B Trilogy and Mistress of the Sun

  • “Powerful and determined, Catherine de Medici strides across the treacherous glamour of 16th century France in this breathtaking novel…With an exquisite eye for detail and deep sensitivity, Gortner evokes a woman of immense personality and resolve, who never gave up on her children or country. You will not be able to put this book down!”

    Michelle Moran, author of Nefertiti

  • “Catherine de Medici uses her natural and supernatural gifts to protect the French throne in Gortner’s (The Last Queen) portrait of a queen willing to sacrifice happiness and reputation to fulfill her family’s royal destiny…Gortner’s is not the first fictional reinterpretation of a historical villainess, but hers is remarkably thoughtful in its insight into an unapologetically ruthless queen.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Cassandra Campbell tells this fictionalized account of Catherine’s life with little embellishment in the dialogue or accents of those who surround Catherine. But it is Catherine’s story, and Campbell focuses her attention on the depth of Catherine’s character and her development from the Italian girl who arrived in France to marry the king’s second son. Campbell imbues her voice with determination and maturity as Catherine learns the ways of the court and its politics. Later, we hear harshness in Campbell’s tone as Catherine sees herself losing everything that reminds her of the girl she used to be.”


  • “In this meticulously researched novel, Gortner (The Last Queen) gives us a Catherine who is passionate yet sometimes naive…While the Catherine depicted here is in some ways similar to Jeanne Kalodigris’ protagonist in The Devil’s Queen, Gortner breathes more life into his queen. Historical fiction fans will appreciate the vivid details of Renaissance France.”

    Library Journal

  • “Gortner has reimagined the life of one of the most controversial women in history in a fresh, well-researched, and powerful portrait of a queen and mother in the turbulent 1500s. With great sensitivity she gives readers a woman struggling to keep her children and country safe. Readers will come away with new ideas, and that’s just what historical fiction is supposed to do—open our eyes to new possibilities.”

    RT Book Reviews (4 stars)

Listener Reviews

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  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jenn | 2/8/2014

    " This piece of historical fiction was good but not great. I had trouble liking Catherine, and rightly so. She was leader of France through some really, really tough times. I think the problem I had was reconciling what I read with what I already knew about her - the St. Bartholomew massacre, the murderous plots, conferring with "prophets". The writing was pretty good, although the historical accuracy is tough to fit the plot. On the lighter side, I have been to Chenonceau (absolutely charming) and Chambord (big, but beautiful), have traveled in the Loire and through Provence a couple of times, so it was nice to see some of my favorite places in this novel. Even the Louvre is represented, and it was fun to picture it as the home of the court. I will try another novel by Gortner. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 ~terri | 2/5/2014

    " I have gained a better understanding of Catherine De Medici. Thank you C.W. Gortner! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ruth | 12/29/2013

    " Thanks to the ravages of time, the primary image of Catherine de Medici that remains is that of a black-clad, power hungry widow who dabbled in the dark arts, authorized massacres, and murdered her enemies in order to ensure her family's power. But perhaps the truth, as it so often does, lies somewhere between the black and white lines of the historical record, in the gray areas of heartbreak and triumph, wisdom and error that make up a life. From Gortner's extensive research and his solid grasp of the manners and mores of the time in which she lived, Catherine springs from the dust of history to vibrant life - not to apologize or defend herself, but to tell her story. This first-person account of Catherine's tumultuous life is a veritable feast for historical fiction lovers. With deft assurance and an insightful eye, everything from the opulence of the French court to the devastation of the 16th-century religious wars that nearly destroyed the Valois monarchy is resurrected on the page with a startling immediacy and noteworthy attention to detail, immersing readers in Catherine's world. But more than atmosphere, Gortner's recreation of Catherine reveals her to be a woman both wholly of and ahead of her time, possessed of a keen intellect and an unswerving loyalty and will to survive, her greatest strengths also her greatest weaknesses, catapulting her into legend. Catherine was the last legitimate heir of the Medicis and as such she was raised to be a political pawn, but never a queen. As an child she endured over two years as a hostage when Florence overthrew Medici rule; when she was freed her uncle Pope Clement IV sought to cement an Italian alliance with France via marriage. At the age of fourteen, Catherine wed Henry, the second son of France's Valois king, Francis I. Possessing commoner antecedents, prestige-wise the marriage was a coup for Catherine, who as an outsider had to fight for acceptance in the elitist French court. When the unthinkable happens and Henry becomes France's presumptive heir, Catherine's first fight for survival pits her against her husband's long-time mistress, as she must produce heirs if she hopes to protect her position at court. Gortner spins an engrossing yarn as he reveals how, in her formative years, the disappointment and trials Catherine overcame in her marriage set the stage for the iron-willed regent she would famously become. Gortner strips away the veneer of quiet, unquestioning subservience with which it is easy to carelessly characterize historical women and reveals how Catherine's trying youth served as a proving ground for her quick whits and her apparently fathomless capacity for survival agains all odds. As fascinating and heartbreaking as I found the first third of the novel detailing Catherine's fight to establish herself as a worthy French queen, the last two-thirds of her Confessions took my breath away. Following her husband's death, Catherine was thrust into a fight to secure her sons' inheritance that would consume the remaining thirty years of her life. The "Protestant problem" that was an irritant to the Catholic French court when Catherine first arrived in France balloons into all-out religious wars. Gortner paints Catherine with a forward-thinking eye to religious tolerance (most controversial in the age of the Inquisition), but when negotiation would fail, the one point Catherine refused to compromise on was anything that would compromise her sons' legacies as France's legitmate rulers. Catherine possesses an admirable and fierce love for her offspring that blinds her to their faults and the resentments that foster thanks to her eagle-eyed focus on protecting the throne, their inheritance. Gornter delivers an unvarnished, honest and heart-rending portrayal of the personal toll Catherine's family and dynasty-centered focus took on the lives of her subjects as well as herself. This culminated in the tragedy of the 1572 St. Bartholomew's Day massacre, a wave of violence against French Protestants the blame for which history has laid largely at Catherine's door. Gortner has an extraordinary gift for bringing history to life and delivering page-turning, thoroughly engrossing reads. He brings Catherine to vibrant life, the intoxicating mix of her strengths and weaknesses, giving - perhaps restoring - credit due her for triumphs and advancements that has been lost to the passage of time. But more importantly, he doesn't shy away from his leading lady's errors and poor judgements that resulted in both personal and national tragedy and turmoil. In Confessions, Catherine emerges as a fully realized woman, both gloriously strong and tremendously flawed. Gortner's recreation of one of history's most infamous and controversial women is a page-turning triumph from start to finish, a powerful reminder of the fallible humanity behind the legend. Catherine's was a life fully lived, epic in every sense of the word. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tara | 12/28/2013

    " interesting - i didn't know so many french kings met violent ends well before the revolution "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Denise | 12/14/2013

    " It was interesting to read and learn about Catherine and that period of French history because I didn't know much about it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kristen | 11/22/2013

    " Gortner does a terrific job getting inside the minds of his characters. He took a character who was generally reviled throughout much of history and made her a sympathetic figure. I like his writing anyway but this reminded me of how much. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Madeleine | 10/29/2013

    " This time period of the late 1500 to the mid 1600's in France is when the face of religion changes following the English. Religous freedom not at its best. I read it in a few days. All the royalty of Europe are married off. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Chalktalk1 | 10/22/2013

    " If you like historical fiction, read this book. It's a "hard to put down" book. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Chelsea | 10/18/2013

    " This book had me hooked and although I wanted to know what happened & even knew how things ended, I didn't want it to end. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Al | 4/20/2013

    " Kind of a messed up story. This is the second I have read on Catherine and I prefer this depiction. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Christy | 4/3/2013

    " What an amazing book, and an amazing woman. I loved it... "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Shannon | 8/2/2012

    " This was a fun book about Catherine de Medici. I didn't know anything about her so I found it really interesting. It was slow in spots and I lost interest a few times so it took a long time to get through, but I enjoyed it. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Britta | 6/22/2012

    " Not a fan of first person narrative but this one actually was ok. Very interesting character, sometimes, though, the story felt rushed/not detailed enough. Did whet my appetite to know more about this person,which is always a good thing about a book. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Blacknose | 1/26/2012

    " Not the best book of this genere. And it receives a special award for worst fighting description! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sara | 9/19/2011

    " Three and one-half stars. I did like this book very much, enjoying more human version of Catherine de Medici. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Laura | 6/20/2011

    " I've always been fascinated by the British monarchy's history, but I don't know anything about the French. This made me want to learn more about the centuries before the revolution. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tara | 6/20/2011

    " interesting - i didn't know so many french kings met violent ends well before the revolution "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Felicia | 6/16/2011

    " Really enjoyed, but historical fiction of this time period is my favorite! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Nicole | 6/13/2011

    " I liked this book, but I think it was the wrong time for me to read it. I had been on a waiting list at the library. When it became available, it wasn't what I was on the mood for. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Chalktalk1 | 6/5/2011

    " If you like historical fiction, read this book. It's a "hard to put down" book. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 cristol | 6/5/2011

    " Didn't enjoy this one quite as much as his other books, which is interesting because I think she's a much more interesting lead character... "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Shannon | 5/30/2011

    " Review to be posted shortly on Luxury Reading -- great read! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Karen | 5/29/2011

    " I loved this book. Reading it was like watching history unfold in front of my eyes. It gave me a new idea of who Catherine de Medici was and why she was the Queen she was. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Wendy | 5/18/2011

    " "Words cannot express how I felt about this book. I stayed up for hours reading about the royal drama in 16th century France. It was such a sophisticated, yet easy read. I highly recommend this book to women." "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Phyllis | 5/9/2011

    " Fascinating story. I enjoyed the historical significance. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ddelmoni | 5/5/2011

    " Like this as much as The Last Queen. Gortner did an excellent job in both. "

About the Author

C. W. Gortner is an American author of historical fiction novels, including the acclaimed The Last Queen and The Confessions of Catherine de Medici, as well as three historical mysteries in the Spymaster Chronicles series. He holds an MFA degree in writing with an emphasis in Renaissance studies from the New College of California. In his extensive travels to research his books, he has danced a galliard in a Tudor great hall and experienced life in a medieval Spanish castle. He is also a dedicated advocate for animal rights and environmental issues. Half Spanish by birth and raised in southern Sprain, he now lives in Northern California.

About the Narrator

Cassandra Campbell has won multiple Audie Awards, Earphones Awards, and the prestigious Odyssey Award for narration. She was been named a “Best Voice” by AudioFile magazine and in 2018 was inducted in Audible’s inaugural Narrator Hall of Fame.