Review: The Rivals of Versailles

02_The Rivals of Versaille

The Rivals of Versailles (The Mistresses of Versailles Trilogy #2)
by Sally Christie

Publication Date: April 5, 2016
Atria Books
eBook & Paperback; 448 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

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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.

The year is 1745 and Louis XV’s bed is once again empty. Enter Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, a beautiful girl from the middle classes. As a child, a fortune teller had mapped out 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 bourgeoise 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 14-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 say many things about the famous Marquise de Pompadour. Alongside Catherine the Great of Russia and Maria Theresa of Austria, she is considered one of the three most powerful women of the 18th century, and one of the most influential royal mistresses of all time.

In The Rivals of Versailles, Christie gets to the heart of Pompadour’s legendary relationship with Louis XV, France’s most “well-beloved” king. Pompadour was not only his mistress, but his confidante and influential political adviser for close to twenty years. Full of historical insight, decadence, wit and scandal, The Rivals of Versailles is about one woman’s trials and triumphs, her love for a king, and her role in shaping a nation.

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My Thoughts

The Rivals of Versailles by Sally Christie is about one of history's most influential women, Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson a.k.a. the infamous Marquise de Pompadour, lover of Louis XV. This novel is told in the first person by Jeanne, also known as Reinette, when she first learns of her fate to be loved by a king. Reinette is but a girl at this point, but already embraces the prophesy told by a fortuneteller to do what is necessary to fulfill her destiny.

Louis is immediately taken with her, but her optimism soon dwindles when she learns how many rivals she has at court. Not just other women, but also politicians, and people who would see her leave in disgrace. However Reinette is a force to be reckoned with. Though this novel also tells of other of Louis' loves, told in first person as well, Reniette is never out of the picture. 

I enjoyed this novel immensely. This is without a doubt a female-driven novel. So many strong--and not so strong--female characters moved around like chess pieces. It really made me think about the women of the past and what they had to endure. But it also made me think about women of today and the similarities of the past and present. 

The only thing that bothered me was Louis' love for younger girls. I know this was probably the norm way back then, but today he would have been labeled a pedophile. I do appreciate the way Christie handled most of the writing of this sensitive topic. Though, it might be too much for some.

Overall, this book was entertaining. Even though I didn't read the first book in the trilogy, I didn't feel at all lost in the story. The Marquise de Pompadour led an interesting life, and I'm glad I got to read Christie's fictional version of it. I want to continue on with the story and go back to read the first book, The Sisters of Versailles, and finish the series with the last book, The Enemies of Versailles, set to release the fall. 

04_Sally Christie_AuthorAbout the Author

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 12-year old 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).

For more information please visit Sally Christie's website. You can also find her on Goodreads and Pinterest.

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