In the final installment of Sally Christie’s “tantalizing” (New York Daily News) Mistresses of Versailles trilogy, Jeanne Becu, a woman of astounding beauty but humble birth, works her way from the grimy back streets of Paris to the palace of Versailles, where the aging King Louis XV has become a jaded and bitter old philanderer. Jeanne bursts into his life and, as the Comtesse du Barry, quickly becomes his official mistress.
“That beastly bourgeois Pompadour was one thing; a common prostitute quite another kettle of fish.”
After decades suffering the King’s endless stream of Royal Favorites, the princesses of the Court have reached a breaking point. Horrified that he would bring the lowborn Comtesse du Barry into the hallowed halls of Versailles, Louis XV’s daughters, led by the indomitable Madame Adelaide, vow eternal enmity and enlist the young dauphiness Marie Antoinette in their fight against the new mistress. But as tensions rise and the French Revolution draws closer, a prostitute in the palace soon becomes the least of the nobility’s concerns.
Told in Christie’s witty and engaging style, the final book in The Mistresses of Versailles trilogy will delight and entrance fans as it once again brings to life the sumptuous and cruel world of eighteenth century Versailles, and France as it approaches inevitable revolution.
Every time I read a really good historical fiction book I come to the realization that I seriously need to read more historical fiction.
The events leading up to, during, and after the French Revolution have been of particular interest to me ever since my high school trip to France in 1989, the 200th anniversary of the storming of the Bastille (and if you don’t think that fact wasn’t marketed to its fullest extent while we were there, then you just don’t know marketing!) so when I had the chance to read this book, which deals with that time period from the POVs of two very different women, you’d better believe my response was, “Yes, PLEASE!”
It did not disappoint.
Oh, the two main characters–Louis XV’s oldest surviving daughter and his last mistress–are never going to make a list of my favorite characters ever, either in books or in history. (Actually, now I’m really tempted to read more about both of them, because I’m dying to know how much of what they said, did, and thought came from actual evidence and how much was the author’s imagination.) Jeanne “Comtesse du Barry” was easier to like overall, but pretty hard to have much respect for. She garnered as much sympathy from me as she did eye rolling. Madame Adelaide, though? She was a lot harder to feel much for beyond frustration. Yes, she was a product of her times and the attitudes of those around her, but…argh. She was such a prig for so much of the book, I kind of wanted to push her down the stairs she was too afraid to walk down without assistance.
Seriously. She wouldn’t walk down the stairs.
Even though I didn’t really love the characters in this book, the drama completely swept me away. I wasn’t able to put it down! Reading the first two in the series is definitely on my to do list once school gets out in May, and I’ll absolutely be keeping an eye out for whatever Ms. Christie decides to write next.
Rating: 4 stars / A-
About the author:
I’m a life-long history buff and I really wish time travel were a possibility—I’d be off to the eighteenth century in a flash!
Since I can’t travel back in time (yet), I have done plenty of global travel: as a child I lived in England, Canada, Argentina, and Lesotho, and attended eight schools in three languages. I continued my global wanderings with a career in international development, but now I’m settled in Toronto and loving it.
The Sisters of Versailles is my first novel, though I’ve been writing since I could hold a pencil. When I’m not writing I’m reading, reading, reading; disappearing down various rabbit holes of historical research, and playing lots of tennis.
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