The Sisters of Versailleby Sally Christie (Website, Facebook)
Series: The Mistresses of Versailles Trilogy #1
Published by Atria Books on September 1, 2015
Genres: Adult, Historical, Romance
Source: Kismet Book Touring
Amazon • Goodreads
I received this book for free from Kismet Book Touring in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
A sumptuous and sensual tale of power, romance, family, and betrayal centered around four sisters and one King. 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.
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, naive 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. Based on meticulous research on 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.
Historical fiction can sometimes be a bit dry, but The Sisters of Versailles is an engaging, almost soap opera-like account of five sisters in eighteenth century France–four of whom become mistresses of King Louis XV. Based on the real-life story of the Nesle sisters and written in a narrative style as if the sisters are telling their own story–including letters to each other–you really get to know each of the very different women as the navigate French court and the shark-infested waters that are the people the king surrounds himself with.
Louise, Pauline, Diane, Hortense, and Marie-Anne must make a life for themselves after the death of their aristocratic mother, having only paltry dowries and no marriages in the works. Louise is the eldest and first to arrange a marriage, finding herself at Versailles and being a lady for the Queen while taking over her deceased mother’s rooms. It’s not long before it’s decided that the young King should take a mistress, and that prim and proper Louise fits the bill.
While Louise is seemingly living the high life at court, Pauline and Diane were sent to a convent. While Diane is a bit simple and not bothered by much, Pauline is scheming, mean, and arrogant. She writes Louise often, demanding that Louise find her a husband or invite her to Versailles. But once Pauline is finally at court, she quickly wins the king’s affections, stealing him away from Louise. And so begins the chain of four of the sisters being the king’s mistress over time.
The characterizations and relationships between the sisters are realistic and quite caustic at times. While they all grew up in the same household with the same nanny/tutor, the women have such different personalities and views on life. The competition that exists between a few of the sisters is quite extreme, and sibling rivalry runs deep and knows no bounds with one sister as she tries to get what she wants. The intrigues and daily life at court was fascinating, as were the inner workings of the king’s life.
I give The Sisters of Versailles a four out of five. Full of vivid descriptions and great writing that doesn’t feel too historical, the story of five sisters and their life in eighteenth century France with King Louis XV was engrossing. There was plenty of backstabbing, rumors, and intrigue, as well as romance and subterfuge from a lot of the characters. I particularly enjoyed how each sister never really told any of the other sisters what was really going on in their letters. They always made things seem great, happy, and rosy. It was such a typical reaction no matter what time period we’re in.
About Sally Christy
I’m a life-long history buff – and I mean life-long. One of the first adult books I read was Antonia Fraser’s masterful Mary, Queen of Scots. Wow! That book just blew my little ten year old mind: something about the way it brought the past right back to life, made it live again on the page. I date my obsession with history to that time, but I’d been writing (“writing”) ever since I was able to hold a pencil.
If you’d told my younger self that I’d not be a writer when I grew up, I would have laughed you out of the tree house. With a few detours along the way, to work overseas in consulting and development, as well as to go to business school, I’ve finally come full circle to where I think I should be.
I currently live in Toronto and when I’m not writing, I’m playing lots of tennis; doing random historical research (old census records are my favorite); playing Scrabble, and squirrel-watching (the room where I write has French doors leading out to a deck; I avidly follow, and feed, a scruffy gang).
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Sally Christie’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:
Monday, February 29th: BookNAround
Tuesday, March 1st: Time 2 Read
Wednesday, March 2nd: Luxury Reading
Thursday, March 3rd: Worth Getting in Bed For
Monday, March 7th: Reading Reality
Wednesday, March 9th: Bewitched Bookworms
Thursday, March 10th: Rinn Reads
Monday, March 14th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Tuesday, March 15th: Puddletown Reviews
Wednesday, March 16th: Dreams, Etc.
Thursday, March 17th: Mom in Love with Fiction
Monday, March 21st: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
Wednesday, March 23rd: Books & Tea