Without further ado, here is Elizabeth!
One of my favorite descriptions of Nico de Clerac, the fictional hero of The Flower Reader, falls in the course of a court masque, in which the Queen of Scots is costumed as Apollo and nine of her gentlemen courtiers are costumed as the Muses of Greek mythology:
... a hand in a silver glove closed itself around Blaise Laurentin’s forearm just so, and with a little grunt of pain the Frenchman let go of my wrist. I turned my head, and there I saw the queen’s advisor and secretary Nicolas de Clerac, costumed as Urania, the muse of astronomy, his white silk tunic and gathered mantle embroidered with scattered silver globes and compasses. There were blue and silver streaks of paint around his eyes. All the same, he did not look foolish or mischievous as the other gentlemen did; woman’s costume or no, if I had met him alone in a dark place I would have been afraid of him....
(George Buchanan, Mary’s tutor, actually did write a masque featuring Apollo and the Muses which was performed in the early years of her Scottish reign, although I’ve taken a number of fictional liberties with its staging.)
This is the quintessence of Nico—he is the foppish courtier/man of action, the swordsman with maquillage. That duality fascinates me, and for me makes a character like Nico de Clerac endlessly intense and compelling.
Of course, I’m only the last and least in a long line of writers who have explored this duality. There was Baroness Orczy, of course, with The Scarlet Pimpernel—who could ever forget Sir Percy Blakeney? I loved that book as a child, and checked it out from the library so many times my poor mother finally gave me my very own copy for a birthday present. I also loved Zorro—Zorro not only had a black mask and a black cape but he had a magnificent black stallion as well, and for me a horse was always a plus. I was introduced to Zorro by the Disney versions, but soon graduated to Johnston McCulley’s original novel, The Mark of Zorro. My seventeen-year-old heart was never the same.
Later I discovered the incomparable Dorothy Dunnett’s Francis Crawford of Lymond, and followed him breathlessly through all his adventures, from Scotland to France to the Levant to Russia and back to France and Scotland again. By then I had also embarked on my lifelong fascination with Mary Queen of Scots, and could only wish that Lymond’s checkered chronicle had continued into the years of Mary’s adulthood and her return to reign in Scotland.
Later in The Flower Reader we see Nico again:
...Nicolas de Clerac turned into a countryman overnight, with a little help from Wat Cairnie and Norman More. The next day he appeared with a laced linsey-woolsey shirt over his brown leather breeches, and a plaid over his shoulder like a herdsman...
I love him just as much with a plaid over his shoulder and leather breeches, or for that matter with a sword in his hand (although those scenes would be spoilers), as I do when he is acting the part of the Muse of Astronomy with blue and silver paint around his eyes. That duality, the French polish of the court and the ancient mythos of Scotland itself, is something I could write about forever.
Thank you Elizabeth! In case you missed it, you can read my review of The Flower Reader HERE. This novel was definitely a treat and Nicholas de Clerac happened to be one of my fave characters in it!