Louis XIV is one of the best-known monarchs ever to grace the French throne. But what was he like as a young man—the man before Versailles?
“After the death of his prime minister, Cardinal Mazarin, twenty-two-year-old Louis steps into governing France. He’s still a young man, but one who, as king, willfully takes everything he can get—including his brother’s wife. As the love affair between Louis and Princess Henriette burns, it sets the kingdom on the road toward unmistakable scandal and conflict with the Vatican. Every woman wants him. He must face what he is willing to sacrifice for love.
But there are other problems lurking outside the chateau of Fontainebleau: a boy in an iron mask has been seen in the woods, and the king’s finance minister, Nicolas Fouquet, has proven to be more powerful than Louis ever thought—a man who could make a great ally or become a dangerous foe . . .
Meticulously researched and vividly brought to life by the gorgeous prose of Karleen Koen, Before Versailles dares to explore the forces that shaped an iconic king and determined the fate of an empire.”
There is something about historical fiction that has always been magical to me. It literally can take you not just to another place but another time. That being said I think it’s also one of the hardest genres to perfect. Not only must one contend with the ambitious quest of writing a good story but the writer must also mix in writing with characters well-known to many including persnickety “experts” and at the same time be aware of the tiniest historical accuracies/inaccuracies like the color of a dress or the exact size of a carriage. When done well historical fiction can be educational and enchanting…when not it can be a downright disaster of historical proportions that will eventually be used as a coaster by many a reader.
Karleen Koen in my opinion is an author who does historical fiction well…quite well in fact. For those who enjoyed Through a Glass Darkly, her latest work will be a pleasure. Exquisitely detailed and rich in factual material the book takes us into the life and times of Louis XIV from multiple character point of views. While lush in it’s detailing and scope the book still manages to not become too weighty and readers will find it a pleasurable read. In case of of character mix-ups, Koen has provided a short list in the front of the book. I always enjoy supplemental materials like this in historical fiction. We are all human and sometimes we might need a little note taking to fully enjoy a book that goes deep into historical depth. In short Before Versailles is a wonderful trip down the road of French history and storytelling at the same time.
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