I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
The Rivals of Versailles by Sally Christie
Release date: April 5th, 2016
Publisher: Atria Books
Length: 448 pages
Genres: Historical fiction
I write this before her blood is even cold. She is dead, suddenly, from a high fever. The King is inconsolable, but the way is now clear.
The way is now clear.
The year is 1745. Marie-Anne, the youngest of the infamous Nesle sisters and King Louis XV’s most beloved mistress, is gone, making room for the next Royal Favorite.
Enter Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, a stunningly beautiful girl from the middle classes. Fifteen years prior, a fortune teller had mapped out young 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, but one thing is clear: for almost twenty years, she ruled France and the King’s heart.
This is the second book in The Mistresses of Versailles trilogy. I have not read the first novel, but I am going to hurry and purchase the first one because I thoroughly enjoyed this book. That said, it is not a continuation of the first and can be enjoyed as a standalone.
The book’s main focus is on Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson (better known to history as the Marquise de Pompadour) and her rise within the French court. I have always found her to be a fascinating figure as she was more than the king’s mistress, she was a woman who was highly educated and an excellent politician. Even when she was no longer in a position to have children, she easily move into the role as an advisor, demonstrating her strong and important relationship with King Louis XV.
While the novel mostly focused on the Marquise de Pompadour, other perspectives were also present. These perspectives came from the king’s other mistresses or rivals to the Marquise’s position within the court. To be honest, I could have done without reading about these perspectives. They were long, tedious and did not hold my interest. These women lacked sympathetic characteristics and I could not connect with them like I had with the Marquise. For example, Rosalie (the king’s first mistress after he ended his sexual relationship with the Marquise) was bitter, vindictive and crass. However, having the perspectives of these women did provide the reader with a well rounded view of the the Marquise, which I appreciated.
While some of the characters were not likeable, the writing style and attention to detail kept me reading. The author obviously spent a lot of time researching these women and 1700s France. The characters and locations were vivid and engaging. Reading The Rivals of Versailles was like being transported in time. It’s an excellent read and one that I would highly recommend to those that enjoy historical fiction.