Marvelous by Molly Greeley

Marvelous by Molly Greeley
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Historical, Romance
Rated: 5 stars
Review by Snapdragon

1547: Pedro Gonzales, a young boy living on the island of Tenerife, understands that he is different from the other children in his village. He is mercilessly ridiculed for the hair covering his body from head to toe. When he is kidnapped off the beach near his home, he finds himself delivered by a slave broker into the dangerous and glamorous world of France’s royal court. There “Monsieur Sauvage,” as he is known, learns French, literature, and sword fighting, becoming an attendant to the French King Henri II and a particular favorite of his queen, the formidable Catherine de’ Medici. Queen Catherine considers herself a collector of unusual people and is fascinated by Pedro…and determined to find him a bride.

Catherine Raffelin is a beautiful seventeen-year-old girl whose merchant father has fallen on hard times and offers up his daughter to Queen Catherine. The queen will pay his debts, and his daughter will marry Monsieur Sauvage.

Catherine meets Pedro for the first time on their wedding day. Barely recovered from the shock of her father’s betrayal, she soon finds herself christened “Madame Sauvage” by the royal courtiers, and must learn to navigate this strange new world, and the unusual man who is now her husband.

Gorgeously written, heartbreaking and hopeful, Marvelous is the portrait of a marriage, the story of a remarkable, resilient family, and an unforgettable reimagining of one of the world’s most beloved fairy tales.

The very unexpected beauty of Marvelous starts out as a promise that becomes, through Greeley’s elegant words, a complex, emotional and amazing story. She has a rather immediate style and seems to positively luxuriate in words, though we will notice that later, for at the start, and throughout really, the characters themselves have our attention.

We might dismiss the concept of arranged marriage as an old one. We romance readers might well believe we’ve seen it all in the ‘arranged marriage’ trope: the bride a mere pawn, but the marriage is suitable, or unsuitable, but love triumphs, or perhaps there is a last-minute rescue.

Yet here, in Marvelous, we are made to understand the bride’s dismay to deeply touching levels. This is only tempered by the sympathy the author has already developed in us, for the groom. Their situation is captivating. Their journey – in the courtly society of France in the 1500’s, has them struggle with church, community, and more, the court. We wonder, and then worry, for their future. Their humanity, and that of those around them, is subtly evaluated at every turn. On a day-to-day level, we feel the slightest highs, the depths of the lows. Every friendship is a treasure, their interests and pursuits often surprising. Even the most ordinary event, when they must meet it, will seem unique, because of who they are.

The events of the day are not overlooked, nor the political climate; the reality that was France at the time. Somehow, the ordinary human realm becomes a backdrop.

Greeley manages to convey a deep understanding of the two main characters. I don’t want to spoil a moment of reading, so suffice to say, that this long, involved tale is also incredibly moving and satisfying. It is a novel that one might open casually, but then discover it is somehow incredibly engaging.

One need not be a fan of historical fiction to find Greeley’s Marvelous to be a wonderful, engaging novel. Do read.

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