Publication Date: September 1st, 2015
Publisher: Atria Books
The Mistresses of Versailles Trilogy (Book One)
Carefully researched and ornately detailed, The Sisters of Versailles is the first book in an exciting new historical fiction trilogy about King Louis XV, France’s most “well-beloved” monarch, and the women who shared his heart and his bed.
The Sisters of Versailles centers on the (relatively, at least for the genre) overlooked period of early 18th century France. The French Revolution and Marie Antoinette have been extensively written about; it’s time for fans of that time period to step further back in time and to explore the reign of Louis XV (1715 – 1774) a time of increasing social turbulence and change that sets the stage neatly for the Revolution that follows.
Goodness, but sisters are a thing to fear.
Set against the lavish backdrop of the French Court in the early years of the 18th century, The Sisters of Versailles is the extraordinary tale of the five Nesle sisters—Louise, Pauline, Diane, Hortense, and Marie-Anne—four of whom became mistresses to King Louis XV. Their scandalous story is stranger than fiction but true in every shocking, amusing, and heartbreaking detail.
Court intriguers are beginning to sense that young King Louis XV, after seven years of marriage, is tiring of his Polish wife. The race is on to find a mistress for the royal bed as various factions put their best foot—and women—forward. The King’s scheming ministers push Louise, the eldest of the aristocratic Nesle sisters, into the arms of the King. Over the following decade, the four sisters—sweet, naïve Louise; ambitious Pauline; complacent Diane, and cunning Marie Anne—will conspire, betray, suffer, and triumph in a desperate fight for both love and power.
In the tradition of The Other Boleyn Girl, The Sisters of Versailles is a clever, intelligent, and absorbing novel that historical fiction fans will devour. Telling the story of a group of women never before written about in English, Sally Christie’s stunning debut is a complex exploration of power and sisterhood—of the admiration, competition, and even hatred that can coexist within a family when the stakes are high enough.
What Did I Think About the Story?
I have to admit up front that I haven't read very extensively about French history. British history has always been my favorite and with the exception of books centered around Marie Antoinette and/or The French Revolution I haven't had that many novels set in France cross my path. This being said I was delighted when I saw TLC Book Tours would be doing a blog tour for The Sisters of Versailles. How could I NOT want to read a novel that promises to be a well researched peek into the scandalous court of King Louis XV, something I knew so little about? Decadence, intrigue and plotting sisters...I'm all in! I'm happy to say that the synopsis lived up to it's promises and thoroughly immersed me in the plotting, grasping and sometimes devastating world of the Nesle sisters and their time at court.
These sisters had an upbringing I would expect for those of their background: distant parents, an education more in the ways of being a proper woman of fortune than of intellect, the prospect of advantageous marriages. Where what I consider "normal" for women such as these began to veer off was the fact that four of the five sisters so easily found themselves the mistresses of the King! Now, I can see one sister falling into the King's bed and would have been satisfied with Louise's story of her rise in favor and devastating fall, but the fact that her sisters schemed their way in for their own selfish, or naïve, reasons was just delightfully scandalous. This whole concept just drives the point home that regardless of familial love and devotion, the prospect of advancement can warp someone's actions and the greed, jealousies and natural competitiveness of sisters can be amplified and deformed into something quite ugly. I also enjoyed seeing how the more innocent personalities they developed in the nursery were so corrupted by the adult world they were born into....the court didn't make the women who they became but sort of exaggerated the negative aspects of their personalities. I've never come across sisters quite like these!
The chapters alternate between sisters (the first and last being from Hortense's point of view, which is interesting as she was the only sister not to land in Louis XV's bed and was the last surviving sister) and gives a front row view into not only each of their inner machinations but into the toll the court takes on their personalities over time: Louise, the eldest, was a loving, sweet yet gullible young woman until the court intrigue and betrayal of her sisters broke her spirit; Pauline, the headstrong and fiercest sister only became meaner with the court's influence; ever jolly and lazy Diane became more gluttonous in the opulence that surrounded them; and littlest Marie-Anne, always cunning, sharp and pretty, was able to further hone her skills at manipulation until she became the cruelest of them all. Only Hortense, the most pious and virtuous of the sisters, seemed to escape the court relatively unscathed, but even this might be biased as she is the one leading the story. I found their journeys not only surprising and fascinating to watch but somewhat sad, as none were really able to live full, happy lives even with all their wealth and influence.
The only small qualm I have with the story was that it felt somewhat repetitive at times. Yes, I know that Louise is easily manipulated and somewhat over-emotional, that Hortense is sanctimonious and that Diane is a horrible writer and eats a lot. I didn't feel these traits needed to necessarily be mentioned as much as they did, however I can't say it necessarily pulled down the writing too much either. It simply had me rolling my eyes from time to time, which may have been the point as I can see the other sisters doing that as well when discussing it.
Overall this is a remarkable and fascinating look at a pack of sisters that found their way into the heart of the French court but seem almost lost to history. I am so glad Sally Christie let them tell their story and I am now thoroughly intrigued by French history. This makes me that much more excited when I know there are two more novels to come out about more of Louis's mistresses, and not only am I excited to learn about them but to see how Louis's personality might change over time as he indulges even more in his need for new women and an end to his easily triggered boredom. A wonder beginning to a very promising series.
What Did I Think About the Cover?
This cover grabbed me from the first moment I saw it! It just screams luxury and indulgence to me, with the pink brocade and glittery gold accents and the peek of who I think is Pauline (the second oldest Nesle sister) under the pink is perfect. Pink and gold happen to be two of my favorite colors together as well so this seems made for me :).
My Rating: 4.0/5.0
Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me with a free copy of The Sisters of Versailles in exchange for an honest review! Be sure to continue below for information on the author, the blog tour and how you can grab your own copy!
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About the Author
settled in Toronto and loving it.
Sally lives and breathes history; ever since she read Antonia Fraser’s masterful Mary, Queen of Scots when she was 10, she’s been an avid history junkie. She wishes more attention and technical innovation was devoted to time travel, because there is nothing she would rather do than travel back in time! Writing historical fiction is a poor substitute, but it’s the best one we have at the moment.
When not reading and writing history, she’s a tennis and Scrabble fanatic.
You can find out more about Sally Christie and her books on her website and Goodreads.
I am so excited to be able to offer one copy of The Sisters of Versailles up for giveaway (US/Canada only)!! All you have to do is enter your name and email address on the giveaway form HERE. Please be sure to leave both your name and your email on the form so I can contact you if you are my winner (no email address, no entry!). For extra entries you can follow the blog in various ways (all links are on the right hand sidebar) and leave the name/email you follow with on the form. That's it!
I'll use a random number generator to pick a winner on September 18th, 2015 and will announce the winner here as well as email the winner for their mailing address. The winner will have 48 hours to respond to my email before I have to pick another winner. If you have already won this giveaway on another site please let me know so I can pick a new winner and give someone else a chance to win a copy of this great book.
The Sisters of Versailles Blog Tour Schedule
Tuesday, August 18th: The Reading Date
Wednesday, August 19th: Scandalous Women
Wednesday, August 19th: Raven Haired Girl
Monday, August 24th: Peeking Between the Pages
Tuesday, August 25th: Curling Up With A Good Book – “Sister” Bio **
Wednesday, August 26th: Stephanie’s Reviews… 100 Pages a Day
Thursday, August 27th: Historical-Fiction.com
Friday, August 28th: Bibliophilia, Please
Monday, August 31st: The Maiden’s Court
Monday, August 31st: Peeking Between the Pages “Sister” Bio**
Tuesday, September 1st: Let Them Read Books
Wednesday, September 2nd: Life is Story
Thursday, September 3rd: Book Dilettante
Friday, September 4th: Books Without Any Pictures
Monday, September 7th: A Bookish Affair
Tuesday, September 8th: A Chick Who Reads
Wednesday, September 9th: Read. Write. Repeat.
Thursday, September 10th: Lavish Bookshelf
Friday, September 11th: A Literary Vacation
Monday, September 14th: Ace and Hoser Blog – Review and “Sister” Bio **
Tuesday, September 15th: Living in the Kitchen With Puppies **
Wednesday, September 16th: The Baking Bookworm **
Thursday, September 17th: #redhead.with.book – Review and “Sister” Bio **
Monday, September 21st: Snowdrop Dreams of Books – Review and “Sister” Bio **
Tuesday, September 22nd: Books a la Mode – author guest post & giveaway
Monday, September 28th: Pingwing’s Bookshelf **