Everything I know about relationships and sex, I learned from the Catherine series of books by Juliette Benzoni. I remember the terrible thrill of reading my grandmother’s collection of ‘Catherine’ novels as a little girl. They weren’t at all suitable reading material for a small girl but I was a voracious and precocious reader and had tired of my own books at an early age before turning to Austen, Frances Burney and my grandmother’s huge collection of historical fiction.
While my peers were still reading Enid Blyton, I was staying up late at night, devouring dozens of books by Jean Plaidy, Georgette Heyer, Anya Seton, Margaret Irwin and Norah Lofts. They were all great books but in my mind now, I feel the most nostalgia for the lurid, sexy world of the ravishingly beautiful, golden haired and violet eyed Catherine Legoix as imagined by French novelist Juliette Benzoni.
The Catherine series follows the various misadventures of the beautiful Catherine and her noble lover, the hot headed and rather abusive Arnaud de Montsalvy who, now I come to think of it, is a sort of fifteenth century version of Edward Cullen with his moody looks, scorching kisses and unfathomable behaviour.
The books begin in 1413 and follow Catherine through a series of unfortunate marriages, countless near fatal encounters, a passionate relationship with Philippe the Bold of Burgundy, a perilous brush with the villainous Gilles de Rais, a friendship with Jeanne d’Arc and, perhaps best of all, a stay in a harem when Arnaud is captured on crusade and kept as the sex slave of a sultan’s sister so of course Catherine has to go after him and become the sultan’s favourite mistress in order to rescue him.
They truly are amazing books and it is such a shame that they aren’t more widely known and available. I found this site with amazing collections of the often really quite horrible covers, which should tell you everything that you need to know about what lies within.