As part of the Timeless Tour, I decided I would write my thoughts on all three of the Mistresses of Versailles books as I have already reviewed them on the blog.
The Sisters of Versailles was an exciting read as I found it shocking that a king would have so many sisters as his mistresses over the years. And even more shocking that the Nesle sisters were okay with this. Such a taboo topic, yet extremely fascinating. This line from the dust jacket pretty much sums it all up: "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." I think my most preferred of the sisters were Louise and Marie Anne. Louise was just in love with the king and wanted his love forever. And Marie Anne was conniving and powerful in her wicked ways. Pauline was the least enjoyable for me and Diane was the humour needed in the story (she actually is in the entire trilogy or at least mentioned in all three books).
I think, The Rivals of Versailles was my favourite of the three. I found the Marquise du Pompadour interesting enough to pull a book (Queen, Empress, Concubine: Fifty Women Rulers from the Queen of Sheba to Catherine the Great by Claudia Gold) off my shelf to learn more about her. Even though Jeanne was a bourgeois, she became Louis XV's mistress and held her place at court and in his heart for a long time. She was very influential in his political dealings and if she hadn't died, I think she would have helped him rule much longer. She was fashionable and fun with all of her parties and plays that kept his attention. She was smart to know when she became more of a friend and confidant than a lover, yet strategic in finding ways to keep herself in the position of royal mistress and not be overthrown by any of his dalliances.
And the last book, The Enemies of Versailles, where Louis takes a common prostitute as his newest mistress is filled with conflict. The chapters alternate between the Comtesse du Barry and Louis' daughter Madame Adelaide. His daughter dislikes every one of his mistresses, but especially du Barry. She thinks that the Comtesse is taking all of his attention away from his daughters and is jealous in a way, always seeking approval and his affection. It's a great ending for the women of Versialles as it not only tells the tale of his mistresses, but also his family. And my how the tables are turned when the revolution begins and Madame Adelaide learns a few hard truths in life. I enjoyed this part of the Mistresses of Versailles trilogy, but it was my least favourite - perhaps because it was nearing the end of Louis' life and things weren't as shocking anymore? He'd pretty done everything you can think of to cause scandal after scandal. Except this time, I think he truly loved this mistress and might have married her if he was given the chance.
So many women graced King Louis XV's bed, yet only a handful were talked about long enough to remember. There are even more mentioned in The Rivals of Versailles as the Marquise fights to keep herself in her rightful spot in court. The stories of these other girls are just as interesting as many of the more detailed ones in this series. I highly suggest giving this series a try so you can learn more about this time period as well as about Louis and his women. Sally Christie has a way of describing everything in her books without it being overdone and too detailed. Sometimes you read a historical book that nitpicks every tiny detail of clothing and furniture style and it can become tedious and boring, but Ms. Christie has woven the details into the stories in a way that you can imagine it all and become interested in the details as well as the overall storyline! And you can read them as standalones, but I'd really recommend reading them in order as characters are mentioned from previous books and it just flows better than way.
Have you read the series yet? Which book was your favourite? Which mistress was most liked by you? Any other characters that you loved or hated?
About the Author:
Sally Christie was born in England of British parents but grew up mostly in Canada. As a child she moved around with her family and then continued her wandering as she pursued a career in international development; she’s lived in 14 different countries and worked in many more. She’s now settled in Toronto and loving it.
Sally lives and breathes history; ever since she read Antonia Fraser’s masterful Mary, Queen of Scots when she was 10, she’s been an avid history junkie. She wishes more attention and technical innovation was devoted to time travel, because there is nothing she would rather do than travel back in time! Writing historical fiction is a poor substitute, but it’s the best one we have at the moment.
When not reading and writing history, she’s a tennis and Scrabble fanatic.