Publication Date: April 5th, 2016
Series: The Mistresses of Versailles Trilogy
And you thought sisters were a thing to fear! In this compelling follow-up to Sally Christie’s clever and absorbing debut, we meet none other than the Marquise de Pompadour, one of the greatest beauties of her generation and the first bourgeois mistress ever to grace the hallowed halls of Versailles.
The year is 1745 and Louis XV’s bed is once again empty. Enter Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, a beautiful girl from the middle classes. As a child, a fortune teller had mapped out Jeanne’s destiny: she would become the lover of a king and the most powerful woman in the land. Eventually connections, luck, and a little scheming pave her way to Versailles and into the King’s arms.
All too soon, conniving politicians and hopeful beauties seek to replace the bourgeois interloper with a more suitable mistress. As Jeanne, now the Marquise de Pompadour, takes on her many rivals—including a lustful lady-in-waiting; a precocious fourteen-year-old prostitute, and even a cousin of the notorious Nesle sisters—she helps the king give himself over to a life of luxury and depravity. Around them, war rages, discontent grows, and France inches ever closer to the Revolution.
Enigmatic beauty, social climber, actress, trendsetter, patron of the arts, spendthrift, whoremonger, friend, lover, foe: history books may say many things about the famous Marquise de Pompadour. Alongside Catherine the Great of Russia and Maria Theresa of Austria, she is considered one of the three most powerful women of the 18th century, and one of the most influential royal mistresses of all time.
In The Rivals of Versailles, Christie gets to the heart of Pompadour’s legendary relationship with Louis XV, France’s most “well-beloved” king. Pompadour was not only his mistress, but his confidante and influential political adviser for close to twenty years. Full of historical insight, decadence, wit and scandal, The Rivals of Versailles is about one woman’s trials and triumphs, her love for a kind, and her role in shaping a nation.
Told in Christie’s witty and modern style, this second book in the Mistresses of Versailles trilogy will delight and entrance fans as it once again brings to life the world of eighteenth century Versailles in all its pride, pestilence and glory.
What Did I Think About the Story?
Since reading and thoroughly enjoying The Sisters of Versailles (you can read my review HERE), I've been looking forward to the next installment in the trilogy. After seeing the roller coaster ride o' love the Nesle sisters went through at court, what new excitements and scandals could this newest novel, with a bourgeois mistress no less, bring to the table? A lot is the simple answer!
Right off the bat I was drawn into Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson's story, especially given the fact that a brief encounter as a child with a psychic who said she would become the powerful mistress of the king completely changes the path her life will take and the future, with its many ups and downs, she will end up with. I found it a little odd at first that her mother was so willing to groom her young daughter to become this perfect mistress, but once I put my modern opinions aside and just let the story unfold as it would, I was along for the ride that would become the Marquise de Pompadour's life. As with the Nesle sisters in The Sisters of Versailles, there was quite a bit of sadness, longing and backstabbing sprinkled in with the riches and influence of Jeanne-Antoinette's time at Versailles, and I couldn't help but really empathize with her journey.
One of my favorite aspects of the novel was seeing many of the same people who populated The Sisters of Versailles floating through the Rivals. There was much of the same over-the-top grandness, cunning and backhanded complimenting and brown-nosing as before, but this time these same players are a little bit older, a little bit bolder and a lot more desensitized to the depravity and viciousness they lived within. The one different factor - the fact that Jeanne-Antoinette is from the bourgeois class and not the elite - as well as the fact that, no matter how they try to lower her in the eyes of the king she cannot be transplanted, seems to enrage the people of Versailles and it was quite shocking at times to see how the various factions worked to hurt her. To be honest, this very fact made me like the Marquise de Pompadour even more and her added strength, wittiness, and her unflinching determination brought me the rest of the way to rooting for her each and every time they tried to bring her down.
The other aspect that I really liked about The Rivals of Versailles is that we begin to see how the frivolous spending and pig-headed ruling of the country begins to wear on its people and turn them against their king. I got little chills as I anticipated the continued vitriol, knowing how it would eventually lead to the downfall of this monarchy. The Marquise does do her part in spending exorbitant amounts of money on clothing, houses, furnishings, etc. and does have her toes in the running of France, however it is the lusting, hedonistic Louis XV and his mismanagement that starts the ball rolling to destruction.
My only real complaint is the fact that, somewhere in the middle of the story, the point of view switches over to three of Louis' other mistress during the time the Marquise de Pompadour was still influential at court. While I enjoyed learning about these three women - none of who could hold a candle to her in my opinion - I found the shift in view pulled me away from her story somewhat and I found myself just wanting to get back to it.
The Rivals of Versailles is a wonderful follow up to The Sisters of Versailles and sets the stage for the final installment that I am beyond excited to read. Sally Christie has a way of bringing this lush, exhilarating and vicious world completely to life and I so enjoy my time spent at Versailles with these fascinating characters. Anyone wanting to learn more about the women in Louis XV's life or just really enjoys historical fiction will find much to love in this series.
What Did I Think About the Cover?
I think it's gorgeous! Like The Sisters of Versailles and the upcoming The Enemies of Versailles, this cover has rich, beautiful colors and a style that makes me think "Versailles". My favorite aspect, however, has to be the picture of Jeanne-Antoinette peeking from the background. We are just given a glimpse of the fascinating women we learn of within the pages. So far the two books in the series I've read look so lovely on my bookshelves! I'm very excited to add the third book to my collection!
My Rating: 4.0/5.0
Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me with a free copy of The Rivals of Versailles in exchange for an honest review! Continue below for more information about the book, the author, and the book tour.
Praise for The Sisters of Versailles
“Sally Christie’s The Sisters of Versailles is an intriguing romp through Louis XV’s France. Filled with lush backdrops, rich detail, and colorful characters, fans of historical fiction will enjoy this glimpse into the lost golden era of the French monarchy.” Allison Pataki, author of THE ACCIDENTAL EMPRESS
“A stunning breadth of period detail, offered in a fresh, contemporary voice.” Juliet Grey, author of the acclaimed Marie Antoinette trilogy
“Such an extraordinary tale makes for compelling reading and, as the lead book in a planned trilogy, will draw in readers who are interested in royal lives before the French Revolution…. Historical fiction fans, unfamiliar with the history of the Nesle sisters, will be intrigued.” Library Journal
“Tantalizing descriptions and cliff-hangers will leave the reader rapidly turning the pages in anticipation… A wickedly delightful read.” New York Daily News
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About the Author
Sally Christie was born in England of British parents but grew up mostly in Canada. As a child she moved around with her family and then continued her wandering as she pursued a career in
international development; she’s lived in 14 different countries and worked in many more. She’s now 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 learn more about Sally on her website and Goodreads.
The Rivals of Versailles TLC Book Tour Stops
Monday, April 4th: Peeking Between the Pages
Tuesday, April 5th: Let Them Read Books
Wednesday, April 6th: A Chick Who Reads
Friday, April 8th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
Monday, April 11th: Broken Teepee
Tuesday, April 12th: Books Without Any Pictures
Wednesday, April 13th: Scandalous Women
Thursday, April 14th: From the TBR Pile
Thursday, April 14th: BookNAround
Thursday, April 14th: Worth Getting In Bed For
Friday, April 15th: Bewitched Bookworms
Monday, April 18th: A Literary Vacation
Monday, April 18th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Tuesday, April 19th: Historical-Fiction.com
Wednesday, April 20th: Raven Haired Girl
Thursday, April 21st: The Maiden’s Court
Friday, April 22nd: A Bookish Affair
Monday, April 25th: Reading Reality
Tuesday, April 26th: Ace and Hoser Blog
Wednesday, April 27th: Dreams, Etc.
Wednesday, April 27th: Luxury Reading
Thursday, April 28th: Mom in Love with Fiction
Friday, April 29th: Books & Tea
Monday, May 2nd: Time 2 Read