Elizabeth Loupas

Renaissance & Alchemy in THE RED LILY CROWN by Elizabeth Loupas

Publisher: NAL Trade
Pages: 448
Release Date: April 1st
Genre: Historical Fiction
*Acquired copy through publisher for an honest review

April, 1574, Florence, Italy. Grand Duke Cosimo de’ Medici lies dying. The city is paralyzed with dread, for the next man to wear the red lily crown will be Prince Francesco: despotic, dangerous, and obsessed with alchemy.

Chiara Nerini, the troubled daughter of an anti-Medici bookseller, sets out to save her starving family by selling her dead father’s rare alchemical equipment to the prince. Instead she is trapped in his household—imprisoned and forcibly initiated as a virgin acolyte in Francesco’s quest for power and immortality. Undaunted, she seizes her chance to pursue undreamed-of power of her own.

Witness to sensuous intrigues and brutal murder plots, Chiara seeks a safe path through the labyrinth of Medici tyranny and deception. Beside her walks the prince’s mysterious English alchemist Ruanno, her friend and teacher, driven by his own dark goals. Can Chiara trust him to keep her secrets…even to love her…or will he prove to be her most treacherous enemy of all?

Praise: “Machiavelli meets The Brothers Grimm: a dark fairy tale with the addictive allure of a poison dream. Renaissance Florence springs to life in all its gorgeous, treacherous glory when a brave street urchin finds herself neck deep in Medici blood-lust. A dash of magic, a maze of murder, a heroine to root for, and a villain who needs to die–this is historical fiction at its most compelling.”— Author Kate Quinn

“Brings to life all the brutality, deception, and glamour of one of history’s most intoxicating eras. I could not put it down!”—C.W. Gortner

Cover: Pretty typical for the genre.

Review: Alchemy and the lust for immortality and power is the driving force behind THE RED LILY CROWN. The ‘Alchemist Prince’ was the working title for this novel and does much to describe the havoc and deceit that resulted from a prince obsessed with Alchemy. Chiara knows the same obsession is what ultimately killed her father. His death left their family with Alchemical instruments that prove valuable to the prince and his English advisor Ruan. The prince tears Chiara away from her home and forces her to practice Alchemy and live in the secluded apartments of the royal family. First with the Prince’s sister and then his wife, the Duchess of Austria. Loupas does a great job of painting the power struggles as play during this period. The struggle between siblings, between wife and mistress and between political agendas. Chiara embroils herself in all aspects and comes dangerously close to her own demise many times. It’s compelling to follow Chiara’s struggle to stay one step ahead of the Prince, as their working relationship evolves. Her character is the perfect balance of pragmatism and social grace that it takes to walk the delicate line between life and death. This novel needed all 448 pages to give us the full picture of the Prince’s rule and eventual downfall. That journey as a reader was heightened by the historical realities and the carefully nuanced characters within.

The author’s note at the end of the book sheds light on the truth behind the characters represented in the novel. There are still many mysteries surrounding the Prince and the unexplained deaths within his court during his reign. Loupas ran away with one of the many theories and created a unique and compelling interpretation that will satisfy history buffs and lovers of intrigue.

Overall: This third novel from Elizabeth Loupas was deftly researched and the characters and setting laid down beautifully on the page. Readers will find themselves easily transported.

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

About the Author

Elizabeth Loupas lives near the Elm Fork of the Trinity River, halfway between Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas. She hates housework, cold weather, and wearing shoes. She loves animals, gardens, and popcorn. Not surprisingly she lives in a state of happy barefoot chaos with her husband (the Broadcasting Legend), her herb garden, her popcorn popper, and two beloved beagles.