Published by Madame Guillotine in 2013, Minette is the first part of Melanie Clegg’s two-part series of historical fiction books about Henrietta Anne, youngest daughter of King Charles I of England and his French-born queen, Henrietta Maria. Melanie Clegg is best known for her works about Marie Antoinette, and her books set during the eighteenth century. For this, however, she turns to another favourite time period of hers, seventeenth-century France and England and centres on the lives of the impoverished, exiled Stuart family in the 1650s following their defeat in the English Civil Wars and King Charles’s execution.
Written in first person present tense through Minette’s eyes, I thoroughly enjoyed Clegg’s characterisations of some of my favourite Stuart personas: James II (when still Duke of York), Rupert of the Rhine, Philippe, Louis XIV, Athenais, the Mazarinettes, etc. I think she made very realistic characterisations for all the characters, especially Henrietta Maria. Clegg, a historian, clearly knows even the lesser-known details of the historical figures involved and does a good job of filtering in these facts into the storyline without being heavy-handed.
This book felt like the literary equivalent of eating a sumptuous dessert: sweet, frothy, decadent, especially with all the references to the characters’ clothing and hair (this is something Clegg is known and loved for by fans). There is something unquestionably romantic about the whole thing. That being said, the book as a whole lacks the gravitas that some historical fiction readers enjoy. If you’re anything like me, you’ll welcome Clegg’s style of writing for it is fun escapism. I look forward to reading the sequel, which is currently in the works!
The SCL rating: 4/5