Amid the disapproving gossip of the Court, a royal romance defies all obstacles. The Court of Francois I is full of lust, intrigue, and bawdy bon temps-a different world from the quiet country life Diane de Poitiers led with her elderly husband. Now a widow, the elegant Diane is called back to Court, where the King's obvious interest marks her as an enemy to the King's favourite, Anne d'Heilly. The Court is soon electrified by rumors of their confrontations.
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July 24, 2006
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Excerpt from Courtesan by Diane Haeger
In dawn's semidarkness, she stood ankle deep and motionless at the river's edge, her tall silhouette blending with the bare white elms which braided through the cloudless winter sky over Beaumont-sur-Sarthe.
The pungent aroma of wood smoke from village chimneys mixed with damp earth and laced the air near the shore as she plunged naked into the icy water. She felt the chill, sharp like needles, as it quickly turned her skin to gooseflesh, but to Diane, discipline was sacred. Defiantly, she moved deeper into the rapid current. She finally came to the surface, water dripping from her hair and face, and her alabaster skin glimmering with the sheen of early morning light on water. A flock of geese flew in precision above her, but made no sound. In this state of meditative peace, she bathed alone until the thoughts returned and her mind began once again, to echo the fear.
It is too late . . . You cannot turn back now . . . You have come too far . . .
Since she always bathed at dawn, Diane reached the inn just as the royal coachmen were loading the first of her brocade-covered trunks back onto the King's coach. Six of His Majesty's best Spanish stallions swayed as two of the guards attached them to a tooled silver harness. At least four of the animals were required to pull the awkward lumbering vehicle. Diane grimaced at the prospect of another long ride in it. The price of the King's hospitality, she reminded herself, and looked away. Before her in the cobblestone courtyard, two mongrel dogs fought over a scrap of meat. They had garnered all of the attention from the velvet-tuniced coachmen so that she could return unnoticed from the river. She said a silent prayer and slipped past them.
Clothed only in a thin cambric dressing gown, she slid through the paneled door. The musty smell of dried wine on scarred oak tables dizzied her, but she crept steadily toward the staircase. In the candlelit shadows she heard laughter, then the faint sound of whispers. A man's voice; then a woman's. She passed quickly, not wanting to hear them. Not today. When she finally reached the welcome privacy of her room, she closed the door and leaned against it to catch her breath. She let the wet dressing gown fall to the floor around muddied feet and ran her hands through the full masses of wet blond hair. As she sank onto the tousled bed covers, she sighed. Is it really too late to turn back?