Series: Mary #1
Welcome to Renaissance France, a place of poison and plots, of beauties and beasts, of mice and . . . queens?⠀
Mary is the queen of Scotland and the jewel of the French court. Except when she’s a mouse. Yes, reader, Mary is an Eðian (shapeshifter) in a kingdom where Verities rule. It’s a secret that could cost her a head—or a tail.⠀
Luckily, Mary has a confidant in her betrothed, Francis. But after the king meets a suspicious end, things at the gilded court take a treacherous turn. Thrust onto the throne, Mary and Francis are forced to navigate a viper’s nest of conspiracies, traps, and treason. And if Mary’s secret is revealed, heads are bound to roll.
**My Contrary Mary comes out June 22, 2021**
Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for this copy in exchange for an honest review.
I’ve been a fan of the Lady Janies since their first collaborative work, My Lady Jane, came out. With humor and plenty of witty asides to us readers, these ladies can really draw you into their version of history full of the miraculous and happy endings. My Contrary Mary follows this same line of storytelling, the first in I’m assuming a series of ladies named Mary instead of Jane. However, sometimes like a joke that repeats itself a bit too much in a comedic routine, it just loses its initial appeal.
Okay, I might be a little bit harsh here. I love their concept and I absolutely love the story of Mary, Queen of Scots. It’s why I picked this one up after some of the later Jane stories after the first one just had me yawning. I’m not normally keen on too much comedy. But I appreciate things that take me by surprise and give credit where it’s due. It’s why I loved their first book together with its unique voice and author’s narration.
This book follows this to the T. And it still works because it makes what is a romantically tragic story into something…not a tragedy. Which I’m 100% for. Yet I struggle with my feelings about the rest.
There are 3 POVs in this story: Mary; her betrothed Francis, the future king of France; and Ari, the fictional daughter of seer Nostradamus. Out of these 3, Ari’s was the most fun and unpredictable. She’s unsure of her skills to match what her father can do to divine the future for the royals but hopes to be useful so they won’t kick her out. She has a good heart but can be misguided at times. I liked that about her because she feels real. Like, what would a 16th century teenage girl do?
Francis, however, felt reduced to a boy who doesn’t want or know how to be king (poor boy!) and has this super massive (unrequited) crush on Mary. I would normally love this but he’s just super into her when she is…not? It’s like she can do no wrong and the sun literally rises and sets at her feet. I just feel he could use a bit more of a backbone, ya know? Especially if one needs to lead a kingdom or two?
Mary, for her part, I liked the least in POV. She didn’t feel very developed as a character to me. She doesn’t like to do what she’s told (fair), but she also feels she has what it takes to be queen on her own, sometimes not consulting anyone or just jumping to conclusions based on assumptions. She’s too naive at times or not trusting enough at others. There’s no between with her. And I’m not sure she fully grows from it all.
These are the bad things. I’m an avid lover of character development so it’s hard when most of these protagonists just aren’t doing it for me.
What I did appreciate and will highlight is the humor and connection to My Lady Jane. As I mentioned, the authors are really good at narrating the fun, the dumb and the weird stuff in history in a way that works well for humor sake but also to teach us stuff that actually happened. I love how they take something that happened in the past that was unfortunate and turn it on its head and ask, what if something like this were to happen instead?
Mary and Francis’ rule was always so short in history. While it’s been franchised in many mediums (does anyone remember that old show Reign?), I’m glad they chose her to ask this question. If maybe they could’ve had a happier ending that didn’t lead to her head on a block.
Also, if you have fond memories of their first book, this setting is placed in the world of Edians, people who can change at will to their animal form. While it’s not super important to have read My Lady Jane to enjoy this one, it’s nice they connected some of the players there in this story (and maybe a cameo or two!). World continuity is great and I’m all for that.
But the question remains: would I continue reading any more Mary books down the road? I suppose I’ll always be a sucker of their particular brand of humor so I’ll always try. But there’s no promise I won’t still feel like it’s the same old tricks wrapped up in a new shiny cover.
My Contrary Mary follows the same vein of what-if history and hilarious tales of magic, mayhem and happier endings like the Lady Janies’ other books together. That is partially the problem as it just feels like their other stories but with a new heroine. I didn’t feel there was enough character development (or character in general) for some of the protagonists to stick out among the other heroines they’ve written about. But I can still appreciate the funny narrative asides and better ending for one of my favourite historical queens, Mary Queen of Scots. If that’s enough for you, then by all means please pick this one up.