*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
Title: The Rivals of Versailles
Author: Sally Christie
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication Date: April 5, 2016
Synopsis on Goodreads:
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 Favourite. 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.
I hadn’t realized that The Rivals of Versailles was part of a series of books until I was part way through the novel. It easily stands on it’s own as a snapshot of 18th-Century France in King Louis XV’s court. This story is written from varying perspectives and tells the story of the mistresses of the king. Jeanne’s destiny is to become a great lover of the king. Her life becomes a training course to perfect her mannerisms and knowledge, preparing her for the king’s court. Jeanne rises through the ranks, soaring above her birth in the middle class. She is legitimized and rules the court from behind the scenes.
Jeanne is really the only character who’s perspective I cared to read about. I found her fascinating. She makes a permanent place for herself in King Louis’ life, defying the expectations of everyone in the upper class and asserting control even when she is no longer in a position of sexual prowess. The other women were not nearly as entertaining. They are all presented as a bit brainless, their primary function being sexual playthings for the king. I would have loved to see more of Jeanne’s inner monologue as she plots and explores politics with the king and the people of the court. Jeanne’s survival is incredibly interesting, especially as the other women are discarded along the way.
This novel is receiving great reviews on Goodreads. It seems to be enjoyed by many, especially those who have read the other books in the series. I can’t say I loved this book, but I did enjoy it, and it was nice to read about a king who I’d never read about previously.