I received this book for free from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Rivals of Versailles (The Mistresses of Versailles Trilogy, #2) by Sally Christie
Series: The Mistresses of Versailles Trilogy #2
Published: 2016 by Atria Books
Genres: Historical Fiction
Source: TLC Book Tours
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It’s 1745, right after the events of The Sisters of Versailles, and Louis XV is in need of a new mistress. Jeanette Poisson, much later known as Madame Pompadour, is a young girl, and a gypsy fortune-teller promises that she will one day be lover to a king. Although her mother tries to prepare her for that moment, Jeanette is bourgeoisie, and so she feels out of place as she is introduced to the intrigue of Versailles.
Jeanette is resilient and adapts quickly to the court’s intricacies. Because she isn’t born to the nobility, she quickly makes enemies as her influence rises. As she struggles to maintain her place in Louis’ life, she begins to vanquish her rivals, becoming one of the most powerful women of her time. As her health fails, Jeanette seamlessly transitions from the king’s paramour to a more platonic friendship, but must still work to keep her place at Louis’ side from being usurped by younger and prettier faces.
I’m glad that the Sally Christie decided to write about Louis XV’s lovers in the form of a trilogy. It’s the kind of thing I’ve seen done with the lovers of Henry VIII a la Phillipa Gregory, but not with other European monarchs, and being able to see the changes over time in the monarch, his mistresses, and in France itself was very interesting. That said, you don’t have to read The Sisters of Versailles before reading The Rivals of Versailles. While there are references to Louis’ former lovers, you don’t need to know much about them to understand his relationship with Madame Pompadour.
The Rivals of Versailles portrays Madame Pompadour as a multi-faceted character–a lover of the arts, the companion of the king, and adept at politics. While I found her character fascinating, I wasn’t as big a fan of the other women who were given point-of-view places in the novel. I found Marie-Anne de Mailley, for instance, to be unbelievably flighty and insipid. I don’t believe for a moment that she was truly that stupid. And while possibly historically accurate, many of the characters in the novel were so scheming and conniving that they almost seemed a caricature of themselves. I wish I could have seen a bit more depth in characters other than Jeanette and Louis, and I would also have to see more of an exploration of the cordial relationship that developed between Jeanette and the Queen.
Overall, I enjoyed The Rivals of Versailles, despite my issue with the secondary point-of-view characters. Madame Pompadour was a fascinating woman, and it was so nice to learn more about her life and to explore her motivations.