Release Date: April 5, 2016
Publisher: Atria Books
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: Historical | General Fiction
And you thought sisters were a thing to fear. In this compelling 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.
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.
Told in Christie's witty and modern style, this second book in the Mistresses of Versailles trilogy will delight and entrance fans as it once again brings to life the world of eighteenth century Versailles in all its pride, pestilence and glory.
ICYMI, Sally Christie's The Mistresses of Versailles Trilogy is a dramatization or fictional depiction of some of France's King Louis XV many mistresses (57 in total?). It's a mixed bag of infamous characters and lesser known paramours from the Nesle sisters, a few commoners, and in this installment, the high profile Madame Pompadour, who during her time was considered one of the most influential females in Europe alongside Russia's Catherine The Great.
I've become acquainted with Madame Pompadour when I read Eleanor Herman's (yes, THAT Eleanor Herman who penned the bestselling YA series Blood of Gods & Royals), Sex with Kings. Madame Pompadour seemed like a force to be reckoned with as she had the King's ears, loyalty, and respect long after they stopped sleeping together. Needless to say, I'm both curious and excited to read SChristie's account of how the affair was probably like and how Madame Pompadour was as a mistress and the unofficial Queen of France for a decade.
SChristie's The Mistresses of Versailles Trilogy, though fiction, are based on historical accounts, countless letters, and anecdotes so there's a grain of truth in the novels. THE RIVALS OF VERSAILLES, like the previous novel, features a few of Louis XV's mistresses with Madame Pompadour leading the bevy of women. I have to say though that this installment wasn't what I was hoping it would be. It's told more than it showed. I was hoping to get a glimpse of how Madame Pompadour kept the King's attention long after they stopped sharing a bed together. She's described as sweet but shrewd, kind yet cunning, charitable but vindictive. However THE RIVALS OF VERSAILLES leaned more towards Madame Pompadour's virtues and is a little remiss in showing us her darker side like did she throw tantrums? What ammo does she have with the King that he kept choosing her over most everyone? How brilliant is she as a politician that King Louis XV listened to her counsel when she's a woman and a commoner at that?
Yet in spite of these, I still find THE RIVALS OF VERSAILLES entertaining, scandalous, and intriguing. I love the anecdotes, the gossip, the trivial bits, the atmospheric setting, and the rivalries. I look forward to reading the final installment, The Enemies of Versailles (2017), to be headlined by yet another infamous mistress, Madame du Barry.