Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
Publication Date: April 5, 2016
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.
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
Thank you so much to Simon and Schuster Publishing for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.
*Disclaimer* I have not read the first book in this series, but I believe that it could be read as a stand alone novel.
Here’s something that I realized as I was reading The Rivals of Versailles: everything I know about Reinette Poisson, I learned from Doctor Who. I know its strange since I practically live off my history lessons and I have taken history every year of high school, and plan to take it into university.
Told in separate perspectives, this book spans decades (1730-1764) and introduces readers to the various mistresses of King Louis XV. While The Sisters of Versailles focused quite a lot on the relations between the sisters de Mailly-Nesle, The Rivals of Versailles revolves first around King Louis XV, though all roads lead back to Madame de Pompadour. It’s not without reason that most know the name of Madame/Marquise de Pompadour (if not her birth name, Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson).
Like its predecessor, The Rivals of Versailles is filled with letters (generally to the Marquise when it is her point of view, and from the Marquise when it is not). They act as a little flavor and backstory, and give glimpses of the Marquise during long stretches of her life being told by other women – or girls, more likely.
Finally, at the end of the book, the last few chapters change back to The Marquise perspective and are easily the best: now, older, wiser and experienced, she is able to stop idealizing the King and is able to view his (many, many) faults. This full circle character development was easily the best part of the book.
The author has clearly done her research and even just a quick google search shows just how historically accurate it all is. The dialogue is very natural and I loved how the author was able to build such a sense of time/place: every detail shared reminded the reader that this takes place in the 1700s.
Overall, I did like this book, and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical and romance fiction.
Also be sure to check out my Q&A with the author herself, it will be posted along with this review!
-Read on Darlings!