Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Review: The Enemies of Versailles

If you know me in real life, you may have recently heard me raving about this historical fiction trilogy, of which the final installment was released just yesterday. The Enemies of Versailles continues the story of King Louis XV's reign through the lens of his last mistress. With this last look at the many women behind his throne, Sally Christie once again completely captivated me and had me dreaming of life at Versailles. If you're interested in starting from the beginning (I highly recommend it -- every detail is worth reading), you can find my review of the first here and the second here

This series is one of those that managed to transport me -- while reading, there was little to distract me from the delicious details, incredible scandal, and suspense of the court of King Louis XV. In this third installment, Christie examines the last period of Louis XV's reign from the perspective of his final mistress, a woman named Jeanne B├ęcu. Jeanne eventually becomes the Comtesse du Barry, but her origins are far from noble. Early on in life, Jeanne was recruited to be a prostitute for wealthy men. Jeanne's charm and flirtatious manner win her the attention of friends to the king, and eventually she finds herself with an apartment in Versailles and the object of the king's adoration. 

There was a pretty stark difference between the Comtesse du Barry and the woman that came before her, the intimidating and powerful Marquise de Pompadour. (For more details on her, read the second book.) Jeanne was far more frivolous in nature, and therefore not as interested in controlling the throne, but she did have a significant adversary in the king's eldest daughter. The novel switches back and forth between the perspective of the mistress and the daughter, and that is what made it so interesting. The stark contrast between the pious, spinster daughter and the bold, flirtatious mistress highlighted the dissonance of Versailles -- a court that tried desperately to uphold tradition but was known for its outrageous parties and rampant infidelity. I also loved that this novel gave the reader a different perspective on the reign of Marie Antoinette and the decline of the nobility due to the revolution. 

Christie manages to make this reading experience one that's both entirely educational -- the scope of her research is clear -- and marked by heart-pounding scenes of suspense and scandal. I adore this series and predict that any historical fiction lover would not be able to resist this story after reading the first few pages.

Bottom-Line Rating: 5/5

Title: The Enemies of Versailles (The Mistresses of Versailles #3)
Author: Sally Christie
Publisher: Atria, 2017
ISBN: 1501103024
Format: E-book
Source: Net Galley

Note: Top Shelf Text was provided with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own!

Friday, March 17, 2017

If You Liked That, Read This!

If you liked...

and... this!

If you liked Kate Morton's The House at Riverton (review here) or The Forgotten Room by Karen White, Beatriz Williams, and Lauren Willig (review here), you'll likely enjoy The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes.

Let's be real, this novel belongs in a whole category of women's fiction with these same elements, so if you're a fan of this general formula, then I'd recommend this novel for you. We're talking dual perspectives from past and present, family secrets, and female protagonists. Other novels that come to mind include The Seven Sisters (review here) and A Bridge Across the Ocean (review here). I just recently picked up The Girl You Left Behind for the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club and found that contains the same elements as some of my favorite historical fiction picks. The Girl You Left Behind mainly follows two women: Liv, a grieving widow in present day London, and Sophie, a woman living in northern France during the first World War. What links them is a painting of Sophie, which after 85 years has made its way into Liv's home. Years later, Liv finds herself involved in a high-tension art restitution case, which compels her to dig deep into the history of both the painting and the life of its subject. I didn't find Liv's character as likable as I had hoped, but overall the book was interesting and had a twist that surprised me and left me feeling satisfied with the story. I gave it four out of five stars and would even recommend it as a spring/summer read when you're looking for something interesting and easy to follow.