Rinette Leslie, a girl who can read truth in flowers, is entrusted with a casket by Scotland’s dying queen. Destined for Mary, known to history as Queen of Scots, the casket contains predictions made by Nostradamus, meant to protect her from the folly in her future. But foolishly, Rinette shows the casket to her young husband, the man she loves with all her heart, and decides not to go back to Edinburgh to put it in its secret hiding place or give the casket to Mary. After all, she’s happy in her seaside castle, and she trusts him. But when the secret of the casket gets out, the lives of Rinette, her husband, and her young child are in grave danger.
I’ve never heard of the art of “floromancy” before, but it’s an art that makes sense and has a grounding in history. Rinette can read flowers, by which I mean she can apply the meanings of flowers to the future. It kind of goes along with the idea that a certain color rose means passion, a different one love, a different one grief, and so on, but Rinette can see meanings in all different kinds of flowers, as though they speak to her. It’s an intriguing premise and adds an element of magic to what could have been a relatively standard historical thriller.
It is a thriller, this book; it’s full of twists and turns and death and mystery. Rinette is put through agonies on multiple occasions, her spirit crushed, buried in mourning and regret and sorrows, all due to a casket that she didn’t even want anything to do with. All she wants is to live quietly in Granmuir by the sea, and it’s a desire that grows with time as her life spins out of control, forced to the whims of the court and the royalty around her. Loupas did a great job creating such a sympathetic character who suffers much too severely for the faults of youth that many of us will recognize in ourselves. Her mistake in trusting the husband she adores, a man who clearly isn’t trustworthy, haunts her even as she seeks to find his murderer and exact revenge.
I also loved the refreshing take that this sort of book gave on sixteenth-century Scotland; we’re right at the start of Mary’s reign, and even at her court, many of the more controversial elements of her later life are only just beginning. The future is still completely open to her, but she’s not an admirable character, and it’s very clear that we’re not meant to like her or her mother. Instead, Rinette gets all of our sympathy, and she certainly deserves it.
I would definitely recommend The Flower Reader to a reader who is generally interested in historical fiction, particularly those who love Tudor era fiction but are tired of Henry VIII and his antics. It’s a well-paced, well-written read with a good basis in history but enough of a fantasy touch to make it feel fresh.
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