The Three Graces Trilogy offers something unusual: novels of the French religious conflict with noblewomen as heroines. The three de Clèves sisters find themselves on differing sides, so each brings a unique perspective. Thus Laura du Pre offers her readers an experience of the religious wars in a personal, female way.
The Three Graces Trilogy: Engaging Characters, Plot and Settings
Laura du Pre introduces her Three Graces Trilogy saying, “In a country torn apart by religious war, things can change in an instant, and no one in France is safe.”
Words both correct and sinister, they set the scene for her Three Graces Trilogy. The three charming, high-ranking sisters are entrapped in the complications of the 16th-century French wars of religion. They are wives in the greatest families, the Bourbon, the Guise and the Condé. As with many, the religious divide tears their family allegiances to shreds.
Excellent Trilogy for a General Audience
Du Pre writes her Three Graces Trilogy for a general adult audience. Since each sister tells her story from her point of view, their relationships fascinate us whether or not we have sisters. They gossip about one another, their brothers’-in-law, their nieces, nephews, cousins and extended family. Each woman’s style is chatty yet distinct. Using it, du Pre integrates the French religious conflict naturally. Kudos to Du Pre for her achievement for it is a challenge.
1. Almost a Queen: Romantic conflict involving a classic triangle
The first novel tells the story of youngest sister, Marie, brought up protestant after the death of her mother. She is unhappy in her arranged marriage with her cousin, Henri, Prince de Condé. This novel is structured around the horror of the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. Its romantic conflict involves a triangle. Marie suffers between her sulky husband and the man who falls in love with her. [No spoiler here!]. Marie struggles with the complexities that arise from her forced conversion.
The intricate and deadly game of religious conflict
Du Pre interweaves the politics, religion and passion that made up the intricate and deadly religious conflict. In the first novel, both older Catholic sisters weave in and out of the plot. They seek to preserve their families from the destruction that tears France apart.
2. Lady of the Court: glamour and danger at the French court
In the second book, the eldest sister, Henriette, represents the moderates. The story begins at the point King Charles IX dies. The de Nemours sit at the apex of the royal court. They are among King Henri III’s most trusted advisors. Henriette experiences the glamour and danger of French court life firsthand. They suffer personal tragedy and risk ruptured family relationships’ as the religious divide worsens. In this book the tension and tragedy crackle.
3. Fate’s Mistress: Insurrection, rebellion, blood and tragedy
The the third volume of The Three Graces Trilogy brings the story to its shattering climax. France disintegrates as a functioning state. Through the voice of middle sister, Catherine, we witness the disastrous reign of King Henri III. France must cope with the almost constant fighting and destruction. Catherine is married to the Duke of Guise, leader of the ultra-Catholics. We see her alarm as she gives us an intimate view of this breakdown.
Who will be the next King of France?
War, rebellion, blood and tragedy mark Catherine’s life. King Henri III produces no heirs. Who will be the next King of France? In the Three Graces Trilogy, this divisive question tears the sisters and the country apart. The Catholics cannot tolerate that the protestant King of Navarre, the legitimate heir.
Three Graces Trilogy: Novels of the French Religious Conflict
Du Pre’s trilogy is persuasive, with convincing logical and emotional unity. Each sister’s voice is unique. Her personality and dramatic individual story drives the reader on to rush on to the next. The Wars of Religion are a blot on the history of France. But their effect on each person’s life makes compelling reading.
Marie is the emotional sister, full of guilt and self-doubt. Henriette is the sensible eldest sister who weathers the storms. Catherine is fiery and passionate, devoted to her husband’s family.
Du Pre said her French ancestry stimulated her interest in French history. Her archival studies prepared her to do the research. She’s been writing for years and tells a great story. At present, she is writing a series on French mistress at the court of Catherine de Medici. You can learn more about her and her writing at lauradupre.com
Her books are available on Amazon either individually or as a trilogy.
Reviewed by Keira Morgan