Source: This book was given to me by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: 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.
My Review: The Sisters of Versailles takes place in the early reign of Louis XV. It chronicles the lives of the Nesle sisters: Louise, Pauline, Diane, Hortense, and Marie-Anne. Four of the sisters became mistresses to Louis XV one right after the other (Hortense by choice decided not to be the king’s mistress). These four sisters compete with one another as they yearn for the king’s attention and power. Set in the rich glittering court of Versailles, this tells us the story not only of the four sisters, but the decadence and lavishness of the French court that leaves a foreshadowing of the French Revolution that takes place decades later.
The problem that I had with this book is that none of the characters are likable. Each of the chapters is told in first person by the five sisters with a lot of epistolary sections with the sisters writing to each other. I found all the sisters to be selfish. I did not really see them to have a sisterly bond with one another. They were mostly thinking about themselves and often used each other to get what they want. It was really hard to root for them. However, while these sisters had their flaws, it is obvious that they are powerful. They had the ability to choose a life for themselves. They were behind the scenes manipulating the king and the French court. They were able to dictate powerful advance marriages and to have the choice to be the king’s mistress. Therefore, these sisters were strong and powerful within the court.
Because it was told from the sisters point of view, it was hard to know who Louis XV truly was. Even though the sisters try to compete for the king’s attention, Louis XV seems to be a pawn for their ambitions. It is hard to determine the human aspect of the king because he remains elusive. He seems distant and unapproachable to the reader. Therefore, there needs to be more character development on him so the readers can get a glimpse of the true king, rather than a puppet whom the sisters use to get what they want.
Overall, this is a feminist retelling about the splendid court of Versailles during the reign of Louis XV. Because I have read many books about Marie Antoinette that feature Louis XV as old and fat, it is refreshing to see him as a young, energetic, handsome young man. This novel is a juicy read that is filled with court intrigue, drama, scandal, betrayal, and rivalry. This novel gives us lavish details about the everyday life within Versailles. There is a trilogy that tells us about the other lives of Louis XV’s mistresses, some that are more famous than others. I feel like this series is a great introduction to life in Versailles before Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution. I recommend this novel to fans of Sister Queens by Sophie Perinot, Four Sisters, All Queens by Sherry Jones, The Marie Antoinette trilogy by Juliet Grey, and Nefertiti by Michelle Moran.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
"A stunning breadth of period detail, offered in a fresh, contemporary voice."-Juliet Grey, author of the acclaimed Marie Antoinette trilogy
"Sally Christie's The Sisters of Versailles is an intriguing romp through Louis XV's France. Filled with lush backdrops, rich detail, and colorful characters, fans of historical fiction will enjoy this glimpse into the lost golden era of the French monarchy." -Allison Pataki, author of The Accidental Empress
AMAZON US | AMAZON CAN | BARNES & NOBLE | BOOKS-A-MILLION | CHAPTERS | ITUNES | INDIEBOUND | KOBO
ABOUT 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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