(Review) The Rivals of Versailles by Sally Christie
Publication Date: April 5, 2016
Publisher: Atria Books/Simon and Schuster
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Free copy from France Book Tours and Atria Books.
Rating: 4 stars for very good.
The Rivals of Versailles is book two, in a three part series of The Mistresses of Versailles.
The first published book in the series is The Sisters of Versailles.
The third book is (unpublished) The Enemies of Versailles.
Links for further reading:
Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, Britannica
Madame de Pompadour, Biography
This is Versailles, Blogger
Chateau De Versailles
Link for the book tour page @ France Book Tours.
In this scandalous 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. 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.
Jeanne-Antoinette Poison was born in 1721. At a young age, a gypsy predicted her future as a mistress to a king. Jeanne fell in love with Louis XV before their first meeting.
From the beginning pages, Jeanne is shown as a remarkable girl with an extraordinary future. She is beautiful, charming, talented, discreet, and loyal. The Rivals of Versailles portrays her life and love as only to King Louis XV. The material benefits she received from him were secondary to her love for him. Her every thought centered on him.
If The Rivals of Versailles had focused only on Jeanne, the story would still be absorbing. However, several other mistresses are included. Their varying personalities and temperaments are set against the beloved Jeanne. Sharing each of the women's stories gave me a strong view of the competition for the affections of the king. The women and their families are shown as ambitious people. Money, prestige, and power are at stake. I found this fascinating.
I was given an education of French 18th century court life during Louis XV. People gossip, slander, and make alliances with people they feel can benefit their desires. It is hard to imagine loving parents directing their daughters to become mistress to the king. But this coveted role came with gifts that extended to the families. The girls were pawns and a means to an end.
Louis XV needed constant attention, entertainment, and "comfort". He had an insatiable sex drive. In my opinion he is presented as a spoiled and bored man. His mistresses not only performed a duty as a sexual toy, but must remain discreet in any political affairs they heard.
The Rivals of Versailles's strengths are the "fairy-tale" world of wealth and luxury at the bequest of the French king, and Jean-Antoinette Poison, the enchanting Marquis de Pompadour.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:Sally Christie is the author of The Sisters of Versailles. She was born in England and grew up around the world, attending eight schools in three different languages. She spent most of her career working in international development and currently lives in Toronto. Learn more about the sisters and the mistresses in the Versailles trilogy on her website Become a fan to hear about her next novels! Visit her Facebook Page Check her Pinterest page
CLICK ON THE BANNER TO READ REVIEWS, EXCERPT AND GUEST-POST
EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER 10
News of my rendezvous with the king quickly leaks and throngs of well-wishers crowd our house. I greet all the visitors and listen politely to their advice. My stomach is bound in knots and I am surviving on bouillon and the knowledge that I will see him again soon.
Last night Sylvie from the kitchens replaced my tea with a glass of milk, and solemnly told me the story of her cousin, used and abused by a horse trader who, already having the horse, did not bother to buy her a bridle. I drank the glass of milk defiantly, down to the last drop.
Binet brings tidings from Court and pulls me into a corner:
“Now, who would buy the chicken if they’re eating eggs every day? The Duchesse de Châteauroux held off on the eggs, and received the farm, as well as a castle.”
“You don’t feed the fish you’ve already caught, now do you?” says Madame de Tencin, waggling a gnarled finger at me.
What? I want to say, but instead: “I am sorry, Madame, but I am not sure I catch the way of your words.”
Others chime in.
“No one wants the beaver if they already own the hat.”
“Why purchase the book if you can borrow it? Libraries—the brothels of the literary world, my dear.”
“Who would buy the whole hog if all they want is a little sausage? No, wait, Madame, ignore those last words; I spoke ill.”
I flee the salon for the peace of my chambers. I want them all to go away, to do anything but give me more of their tiresome advice. I cannot explain, even to my dearest mother, what I know in my
heart: strategy, subterfuge, plans and plots—I do not need them. I reach under the mattress and pull out the note, so secret that no one else has seen it. I received it three days ago and the words
Fairest Flora, it is with delight and anticipation that I write this note. I must see you again—the ball at the Hôtel de Ville. Be by the back door, and wait for Ayen.