Where many heroines on teenage dramas dream of being prom queen, Mary, heroine of the new fantasy historical drama, Reign, already is queen. Of Scotland, to be exact, and, if she plays her cards right, of France as well. Think you know the story from the history books already? Well, maybe, and maybe not.
With strapless gowns, ladies in waiting named Lola and Aylee, spooky doings in the woods and a mysterious voice warning young Mary not to drink a fateful cup of wine, Reign makes it clear from the get-go that historical accuracy is not the star of the show. Yes, the real life Mary was betrothed to and did marry the Dauphin Francis, later King Francis II of France, but politics aren’t the star of the show here, either. Well, sometimes, according to Francis, but that’s for later.
Romantic teen angst abounds here, in sumptuous settings. Young Mary has been betrothed to Francis since they were children, and several brief flashbacks indicate that the kids were all right and might have a chance of making a go of this marriage thing as young adults. There’s some charming, awkward flirting going on as Mary interrupts Francis and discovers his avocation of making knives and swords.
Mary charms Francis with her own accomplishments, that she can milk a goat and cut peat. Good skills to know, Francis allows, in case there’s ever an uprising in France. They’d have to do something to get by. Mary is quick to respond that she’d take him back to Scotland and he could rule with her there. Francis hopes he’ll never have to take Mary up on that, and it’s a sweet moment, until the betrothed pair disperses, and Francis finds a not entirely clothed Natalia in his rooms. Nobody saw her come in, Natalia assures him. Nobody ever does, and that doesn’t have to change. Francis looks besotted and Natalia looks sultry.
No big surprise that, when Mary drops by later to gift Francis with some pretty pebbles, that he won’t let her in. Is he alone? Francis won’t answer that, because kings don’t have to answer to their wives (though his mother, Catherine, would tell a different story) and closes the door in his royal bride’s face.
Fans of young adult or new adult dramas know that this is exactly when our heroine needs a dangerous, handsome bad boy to happen on the scene, and in Reign, that’s Sebastian, aka Bash. Bash is Francis’ half-brother, from their father’s mistress, Diane. Bash is dashing, roguish, can do what he wants and doesn’t have to be king. Basically, he’s perfect and Dad likes him better. He’s also Francis’ best friend and he brought Mary’s missing dog home. How is a young, vulnerable queen far from home supposed to ignore all of that? Hint: she can’t.
Lest we forget that Mary and Francis are all but wed, another royal wedding provides not only a chance for Mary and her ladies to witness a marital consummation (albeit through a mostly obscuring curtain) but another moment where Mary and Francis remember the good times they had as kiddos (this time, dancing as feathers rain down upon them for a reason that isn’t immediately obvious, but hey, it was pretty.) Later that night, a sleeping Mary wakes to fight off an intruder bent on divesting her of her virtue. Mary resists, and guards haul off the man, who proves to be one of her ladies’ acquaintances. This serves to remind Mary exactly what’s at stake, and of course sets up the conflict between her and Francis.
Mary demands to know if Francis ever really means to marry her. Maybe he will, Francis answers, but they have to consider more than only themselves; they have to consider their countries. Was Mary even thinking about Scotland when she caused a scene at court, asking to speak to her attacker? Well, no, but would Francis even want to marry her if they weren’t monarchs? If they were just a boy and a girl? The two almost kiss, before Francis wrenches himself away. He won’t. He can’t. Whether his angst comes from political principle or the naked Natalia back in his room, we have yet to find out.
The tale history tells is already written, but Reign’s characters are only getting started. Who knows what mischief Mary’s ladies and their potential suitors will bring to the mix, and with Nostradamus putting in his two cents on occasion, things are going to get tricky. For now, the burning question is clear: Team Francis or Team Bash?
Anna C. Bowling considers writing historical romance the best way to travel through time and make the voices in her head pay rent. She welcomes visitors to her blog, Typing with Wet Nails and to follow her at Twitter.