Category Archives: French Revolution

Review: Before Versailles: A Novel of Louis XIV by Karleen Koen

Before Versailles: A Novel of Louis XIV by Karleen Koen
Hardcover: 480 pages
Publisher: Crown (June 28, 2011)
ISBN-13: 978-0307716576
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:

Karleen Koen’s newest novel represents several firsts for me. Before Versailles is the first novel on Louis XIV that I’ve read, therefore it offers my first characterization of Louis and his contemporaries. Secondly, this is my first Karleen Koen novel, even though I’ve ogled her previous books and been told many times that I absolutely must read them. I do own them and have already let my mother read them (who devoured them all in a short amount of time) and now I am certainly looking forward to all those novels after enjoying Before Versailles so much!

Since this is my first novel that deals with Louis XIV, please realize that I really have no way of differentiating from the gossip, rumors, scandals or facts that Koen utilizes in her magnificent storytelling. Before Versailles focuses on a specific four months of the reign of Louis soon after the powerful Cardinal Mazarin passes away in 1661. The Cardinal and the Queen mother, Anne, were known to have a close relationship, but how close was any one’s guess. Louis realizes it is now time to take over the reigns of the government after the passing of the Cardinal, and he begins to learn of the treachery amongst his family and courtiers. And while he is focusing on the politics of his court with a lookout for more revolts, he is also eyeing Henriette, his brother’s wife whom everyone adores. Henriette is portrayed as a bored woman stuck in a loveless relationship, and happily wreaks romantic havoc throughout Louis’ court, as she tells the King to court other girls as well as her to divert some of the rumors surrounding her own conduct with the King.

Louise de La Baume Le Blanc

The story features these women who Louis courts, as well as his own boring wife and his meddling mother. His brother Phillippe is a scandalous creature causing embarrassment everywhere, yet I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him as his wife was making him a fool until I later realized Phillippe didn’t really deserve my sympathy at all. One of the main characters is maid of honor Louise de La Baume Le Blanc, a young spirited girl who adores animals over people any day. (She is featured in Sandra Gulland’s novel Mistress of the Sun). King Louis takes notice of her and a courtship eventually develops, helped along by Henriette’s maneuvering. Louise seemed like a hunted deer, as she was caught in the royal traps and manipulations of the court although she was the one of the few true innocents of the court. It was very hard to not feel sympathetic towards her, especially how the author favorably portrays both Louis and Louise.

Besides the relationships of Louis and his dalliances with women, the novel touches upon Viscount Nicolas as we watch Louis and his main man Colbert slowly gather damning evidence against the Viscount who was becoming a threat to Louis due to his own wealth and powerful connections. The Viscount is not aware of the concerns of the King, and blindly hopes for a high position under Louis’s wing. It was all very entertaining and suspenseful to read and witness the Viscount’s downfall, learning the ways of the early reign of Louis before he was known as the Sun King. Louis was portrayed in a most positive light as a strong and powerful young man with a growing leadership ability, yet with the faults of having a soft heart as well. The women at court were catty and snobby and the men encouraged it as they took advantage of whatever they could get. I really enjoyed how the intricacies (and scandals!) of the storyline played out because there were quite a few of them running concurrently. Behind the scenes of Louis’ courtships and political machinations, there was always the running current of Louise’s girlish curiosity of a mysterious boy in an iron mask which slams her into reality when she finally tells the King of this strange boy she saw at a monastery.

“L’Homme au Masque de Fer” (“The Man in the Iron Mask”) 1789

Fontainebleau was the setting for the story, and I was immediately intrigued by the author’s description of it and its immeasurable beauty. It was always there as a symbol for Louis, as a place that was built by ancestors, where Louis seemed to walk along its shadows and those of his predecessors. It slowly began to make sense to this reader why Louis moved court to Versailles and why the author chose the title Before Versailles. The writing of Karleen Koen was a bit different, as she has her own uniquely mesmerizing style which was conversational yet verges occasionally towards stream of consciousness. The myriads of court players in the beginning of the story were a bit much to get my head wrapped around, but I quickly caught up and found myself intrigued and enthralled with Louis and his many courtiers and musketeers, as Karleen Koen offers us a sensational glimpse of Louis as he was just beginning to become the man known later as the Sun King. I absolutely adored the ending, and there were several times in the book I could have cried. This is a must read for French history fans as well as those who enjoy historical romance, because there was plenty of that in this story, with a healthy dose of suspense as well. A wonderful combination of enjoyable factors and I am so glad that this one was my first read on Louis XIV. In fact, this is going on my shortlist for favorites of 2011. Where to go from here? And where does Karleen Koen go from here? A novel on Athenais, and Louis’ later reign? I would love to see another trilogy that starts with Before Versailles.



Filed under 17th Century, 2011 Reviews, Best of 2011, France, French Revolution, Karleen Koen, Louis XIV

Book Review: Finding Emilie by Laurel Corona


Paperback, Simon & Schuster, April 12, 2011
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
The Burton Book Review Rating: 5 stars!
Woman is born free, and everywhere she is in corsets. . . .

Lili du Chatelet yearns to know more about her mother, the brilliant French mathematician Emilie. But the shrouded details of Emilie’s unconventional life—and her sudden death—are elusive. Caught between the confines of a convent upbringing and the intrigues of the Versailles court, Lili blossoms under the care of a Parisian salonniere as she absorbs the excitement of the Enlightenment, even as the scandalous shadow of her mother’s past haunts her and puts her on her own path of self-discovery.

Laurel Corona’s breathtaking new novel, set on the eve of the French Revolution, vividly illuminates the tensions of the times, and the dangerous dance between the need to conform and the desire to chart one’s own destiny and journey of the heart.

Finding Emilie is about a young lady, Lili, looking to replace the void that was created within her as her mother, Emilie, passes away soon after Lili’s birth and her father wants nothing to do with her. It starts off with a group of letters which sets the scene for how Lili came to be and for a bit of characterization of the supporting figures that are in her life.

Lili grows up with Delphine and is treated as part of the family under Madame de Bercy’s roof, and where she is allowed to cultivate the spirit and inquisitive nature that she inherited from her scientific mother. The setting is the Enlightenment age of France, even though Voltaire’s wild views were ridiculed by the French government. Lili and Delphine prosper under Delphine’s mother’s watchful but tolerant care, and eventually the two realize they must part and make good marriages. What comes next is the proverbial race to the finish line, hoping against hope the two girls will be able to make marriages that are both advantageous and amenable at the same time.
Much like the stories that I grew up with, there is a lot of wishful thinking and fairy-tale whimsies so typical in young girls, but I loved the way it was told. I was totally immersed in the character of Lili, even though it was told in third person I felt very close to her throughout Lili’s story of self-discovery. Even though there were a lot of scientific references as Lili explored flowers under microscopes and thought about philosophies, I was not put off with the amount of it. I must have felt I was close to discovering the meaning of the universe right along with Lili.
A strong feature of the novel were the very characters, from the boys to the men and the servants in the many grand houses that were frequented. There were balls and the queen, and Voltaire, too. I loved feeling like I was whisked away to another time, as author Laurel Corona captured the essence of her characters with exquisite detail, making me feel like I had lost a friend when I concluded the novel. I was not disillusioned at all with the fact that the novel focused more on the character of Lili rather than solely on the historical details of the pre-revolutionary France, as I did not pick up the book with any expectations of the latter. By doing so, I was taken by surprise with how Laurel Corona’s writing immediately drew me into her reimagined world of the daughter of Emilie du Châtelet and the story of her coming of age. Finding Emilie goes easily on my favorites of 2011 list.


Filed under 2011 Releases, 2011 Reviews, Best of 2011, France, French Revolution, Laurel Corona

>Book Review: Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran


Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution by Michelle Moran
Hardcover, 464 pages
February 15th 2011
Crown Publishing Group
ISBN-13 9780307588654
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
The Burton Review Rating:Four and a Half Huge Stars

In this deft historical novel, Madame Tussaud (1761-1850) escapes the pages of trivia quizzes to become a real person far more arresting than even her waxwork sculptures. Who among us knew, for instance, that she moved freely through the royal court of Louis XVI, only to become a prisoner of the Reign of Terror? Her head was shaven for guillotining, but she escaped execution, though she was forced to make death masks for prominent victims. Novelist Michelle Moran covers this breathtaking period without losing the thread of its subject’s singular story

Readers have many ways to hear of the atrocities of the French Revolution, but Michelle Moran’s is one that should not be overlooked as among the best. Through the eyes of Marie Grosholz, the famous sculptress known later as Madame Tussaud, we become witnesses to the crimes of the anarchists who stylized themselves as Revolutionaries. With what first begins as a documentary view of the fall of the monarchy under Louis XVI, Madame Tussaud evolves into a passionate first-hand look into the horrors and the fears that the French people faced during the Revolution.

The novel begins as a sedate look at the salon of wax figures that Marie is running with her Uncle Curtius, which is a pleasant trade that allows her mother and she to thrive. Her greatest ambition is to be noticed by Queen Marie Antoinette, and is not until much later that she realizes that this one ambition for greatness could mean the guillotine for her family. Marie is extremely talented in portraying the wax sculptures with lifelike accuracy, and the salon does become recognized throughout France especially after the Royal family visit. With a devastating turn of events, the revolutionaries also visit the salon and her uncle, who becomes one of Robespierre’s National Guard. The politics of the Third Estate and the plight of the poorest people are well developed in the story, and it is with a crescendo of suspense and fear that we read on as King Louis’s head is brought to the salon’s doorstep.. with several other horrors beforehand that pulls you into this story of a remarkable time and a woman who showed great fortitude and resilience during those times of extreme crisis.

There are many notables in the novel, from the royal family to the revolutionaries, and then there are those members of Marie’s small circle that help bring a stunning clarity to the tenuous position Marie found herself in every day during the Revolution. Not knowing what was the right thing to say at any given moment (for the king or for the people?) as Marie was forced to put aside her morals and sense of right and wrong, in fear of those leaders who were making names for themselves as writers of political papers that brought chaos to the kingdom and the monarchy. No one was safe, innocent women and children were slaughtered just as the King and Queen were.

Although the start of the novel felt a bit rushed to document the events of France that brought the monarchy to its knees, the climatic story redeemed itself as this reader became completely engrossed in the travails of Madame Tussaud and her friends. I had little knowledge of the devastation the Revolutionaries caused for the entire country, and was stunned at the sanction of murder that was committed in the name of freedom. The seemingly simple title of French Revolution brings to me now a new found respect for those that lived, died or endured during the Revolution, such as young Marie Grosholz, and it is only through the magnificent storytelling via Michelle Moran from which I have achieved this. Brava to Michelle Moran for another job well done for a spectacular (heartwrenching and nerve wracking!) piece of work. P.S. The last book I read took over a week, this took two days.

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Filed under 2011 Releases, 2011 Reviews, France, French Revolution, Marie Antoinette, Michelle Moran

>Book Review: Madame de Stael the First Modern Woman by Francine du Plessix Gray, from Jennygirl

>Please welcome another review from Jennygirl of Jenny Loves to Read. She writes that this book was a biography of Madame de Stael who was an important figure in society during the French Revolution.

Madame de Stael: The First Modern Woman
Author: Francine du Plessix Gray
Publisher: Atlas & Co. (October 9, 2008)
Genre: Biography
Jennygirl’s Rating: 4/5

“A writer of scintillating style and resonant substance,” (Publishers Weekly), bestselling author Francine du Plessix Gray chronicles the incandescent life of the most celebrated woman of letters of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic era.

The daughter of the second most important man in France, Louis XVI’s Minister of Finances, Jacques Necker, Madame de Staël was born into a world of political and intellectual prominence. Later, she married Sweden’s ambassador to the French court, and for a span of twenty years, she held the limelight as a political figure and prolific writer. Despite a plain appearance, she was notoriously seductive and enjoyed whirlwind affairs with some of the most influential men of her time. She always attracted controversy, and was demonized by Napoleon for her forthrightness, the sheer power of her intellect, and the progressiveness of her salon, which was a hotbed for the expression of liberal ideals. The emperor exiled her, on and off, for the last fifteen years of her life.

Madame de Staël—force of nature, exuberant idealist, and ultimate
enthusiast—waged a lifelong struggle against all that was tyrannical, cynical,or passionless in her time, and left a legacy of enlightened liberalism that radiated throughout Europe during the nineteenth century.

Truth be told I picked this book up based on it’s cover. Yes, I do judge books by their covers…sometimes. It is a biography, and I have never had any luck with these. This one however, was well written and to the point.

The author doesn’t relate the entire early childhood. Just the parts necessary to the story, and her development as one of the greatest conversationalists of France. Madame de Stael had the most prominent salon in France. She entertained many prominent and important persons involved with the future of France, such as Tallyrand. de Stael was friends with those persons one needed to be friends with in the days of the revolution and the Terror. She also counted many royals and aristocrats among her friends. I guess you can say she straddled the political fence. de Stael was very involved in the politics of France, throughout her entire life actually, which includes the French Revolution to Napoleon’s empire.

Madame de Stael’s musings regarding the reasons behind the Terror, why and how it became so out of control, are very insightful. In my opinion, her arguments are logical and on point. Later, she goes toe to toe with Napoleon in her writings, and it’s quite comical to read what he has to say about her.

I guess I was really taken with this book, because I had never heard of Madame de Stael, and apparently her writings were very influential during her tumultuous times. Is it because history is written by men, thus this great woman was left out? I haven’t extensively studied the French Revolution or French history for that matter, however from what I read in this book, I can not believe I have never heard of de Stael before. Regardless of whether you agree with her tactics or views, it seems to me that de Stael truly loved her adopted France, and just wanted the best for her country and its people.

It should be noted, that her personal life was a quite a mess. The time and effort she put into French politics, could have been better spent on her family. However, due to her upbringing and other factors, this probably never occurred to her.

Overall, this book was a quick and easy read; it didn’t read like a biography to me. I found the book and it’s subject matter very fascinating. I would highly recommend this book. Madame de Stael was a fascinating women before her time, and she deserves her place in history.

I think I see some historical research in my future, with respect to women in history and the French Revolution.

Reprinted with permission from Jennygirl of Jenny Loves to Read. If you would like to submit a review, please click this link for further information.


Filed under Book Reviews, French Revolution

>Q&A: For the King with Catherine Delors by Christy English

Still ongoing at this site is the Giveaway of For The King, enter here.
And now for an interview of the author of For the King, Catherine Delors, submitted by Christy English:

Years after our revolution, the French had one of their own…the lovely and knowledgeable Catherine Delors has written two novels that bring post-Revolutionary Paris to vivid life. First there was Mistress of the Revolution, and now we are lucky enough to have a chance to read Catherine’s latest novel, For the King.

Catherine has been kind enough to answer some questions for us about her novel and her process in writing it…

1. Catherine, thank you so much for being here today. Your first novel, Mistress of the Revolution, was set a few years before the events of your latest book, For the King. Is there any one thing that draws you back to this period of time again and again?

 While researching writing Mistress of the Revolution, I realized how important and relevant for us the French Revolution has remained, how many of the issues raised then are still current. I became familiar with the political moods, the ways of thinking of the times… And now I don’t want to leave the late 18th century!

2. Your fabulous new novel literally begins with a bang. Before the explosion meant to murder Napoleon rocks Paris, you spend the first chapter introducing us to the people who are soon to die. The portraits of these people, so beautifully yet unsentimentally drawn, captured my mind and touched my heart. What was it like to write about the deaths of so many innocents?

Thanks for saying this, Christy, because those deaths, in their random cruelty, touched my heart as well. In the novel, the names, the occupations of the victims, their circumstances, are taken from real people. I was moved in particular by the story of Captain Platel and his landlady. Ordinary people, returning home from a Christmas Eve celebration with friends. It was important for me to remember the victims. History is as much about regular Parisians as Napoléon.

3. Your protagonist, Roch Miquel, is the quintessential outsider. Did you choose to emphasize his place outside the Parisian power structure by making him a man from the Auvergne? Did you have other reasons also for choosing the Auvergne as his home province?

 Oh, yes, there is an excellent reason: my father’s family is from Auvergne, and I have a very strong connection to that remote and hauntingly beautiful province. Also in the late 18th century, and still much later, many in the Paris underclass came from Auvergne. They were despised, foreign-looking and foreign-sounding, generally despised, much like migrant workers nowadays. I wanted to pay homage to them, to their struggles, and hard-won successes.

4. I was struck by the beautifully written historical detail in your narrative. Reading For the King was like being set down in the center of post-Revolutionary Paris. The sights, the sounds, even the smells were vivid for me. How many years did it take you to research this novel? What were your methods?

 Thank you! There is simply no substitute for 18th century sources. Louis-Sébastien Mercier’s Le Tableau de Paris and Le Nouveau Paris are irreplaceable. Also, Nicolas-Edme Restif de la Bretonne provides a wealth of details in his 400 (yes, 400 or so!) novels. I also read and reread the works of a modern French historian, Arlette Farge, which are based on police reports. Those provide a candid, direct glimpse at the everyday lives of the poorest in Paris.
5. The title, For the King, comes to mean more and more to the reader as the story goes on. How did you come up with the title? At any point in your work, did you think to call this book by another name?

 Many other names! I probably forgot a few, but some I liked very much. I thought of Nivose, the month of the Revolutionary calendar during which the attack took place. To me the name, inspired by the snows of winter, is very evocative. Probably less so to many American readers, though… Also I liked Painters and Assassins. As I followed the records of the investigation, I was struck by how many painters cropped up in the real story. And finally I settled with my editor on For the King. I find that coming up with the title is always the hardest part of writing a novel.

6. Each character in your novel lives and breathes, even if they are only in sight for a page or two. These characters, so well drawn, add deeply to the richness of the setting of the city of Paris itself. Did these people live in your mind as vividly as they live on the page?

They do! Some, like Pépin the street urchin, are purely fictional. Others are directly inspired by their depositions, taken by the police after the attack, and preserved in the French archives. Police depositions may sound like dry, uninspiring material. Far from it, in fact. As I read on, I could listen to the witnesses’ voices, watch their facial expressions. This is particularly true of the deposition of Short Francis, with its mix of cunning and naivete.

7. Your novel begins with this quote from Napoleon: “From triumph to downfall, there is but one step. I have noted that, in the most momentous occasions, mere nothings have always decided the outcome of the greatest events.”
For the King is populated by the “mere nothings,” from Napoleon’s quote. More than anything besides Roch Miquel’s brains and courage, these “mere nothings” determine the events of the novel. Am I right in assuming that these smaller characters fascinated you as much as Roch Miquel himself?

 Quite right. So-called secondary characters deserve no less of the writer’s attention than the protagonists. They are the ones who give depth and complexity to a novel. And, from a purely selfish standpoint, often they are more fun to write too.

8. In your heart, are you a Royalist, a Jacobin, or a follower of Napoleon? Or perhaps some combination of all three?

 None of the above. A reader of Mistress of the Revolution wrote me that she liked the novel because I didn’t demonize anyone. I hope I managed the same here. I can sympathize with the followers of Louis XVIII, Robespierre and Napoléon alike. To me even the assassins are human.

9. For the King transported me to another time and place. What are you working on now? What is your next novel about, and when can we get our hands on it?

I am writing a prequel to Mistress of the Revolution, which focuses on the character of Hélène de Montserrat, Gabrielle’s elder sister. It is a thriller in the 18th century Gothic manner. The prequel is going slowly, though, because at the same time I am researching Jane Austen’s French connections for a fourth novel. As you see, I remain firmly grounded in my beloved 18th century!

Thank you so much for taking the time to be here with us, Catherine. I look forward to your next novel. Please visit Catherine at her website home,
or her wonderful blog,

For everyone who still needs to get their hands on For the King, please hit the link below…
To Order from Amazon:

To Order from B&N:

To Order from Indie Bound:

 Reprinted with Permission from author Christy English. Visit Christy’s site at

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Filed under Catherine Delors, Christy English, French Revolution, Interviews

>GIVEAWAY! Today’s New Release: FOR THE KING by Catherine Delors

>Most of you know of the Historical Fiction Bloggers Round Table site. They have already featured the author Catherine Delors with interviews and guest posts and reviews, and one of them is reprinted below.

To celebrate Catherine’s release day, HF-Connection is hosting a giveaway of this beautiful hardcover book! Interested? Read the review and see for yourself, and see the rules for the giveaway at the end of the post.

For the King by Catherine Delors
July 8th 2010 by Dutton Books
Amazon USA
Hardcover, 352 pages
isbn 9780525951742

The Reign of Terror has ended six years earlier, and Napoléon Bonaparte has seized power, but shifting political loyalties still tear apart families and lovers.

On Christmas Eve 1800, a bomb explores along Bonaparte’s route, narrowly missing him but striking dozens of bystanders. Chief Inspector Roch Miquel, a young policeman with a bright future and a beautiful mistress, must arrest the assassins before they attack again. Complicating Miquel’s investigation are the maneuverings of his superior, the redoubtable Fouché, the indiscretions of his own father, a former Jacobin, and two intriguing women.

For The King takes readers through the dark alleys and glittering salons of post-revolutionary Paris. It is a romantic thriller, a tale of love, betrayal and redemption.

I am not as historically in tune to French politics as I am with Tudor politics. With Catherine Delors’ newest novel that is focused on French politics, there is no preamble to the upheaval that France is facing after the pacification set in place by Bonaparte. The French Revolution had just ended and the novel begins in 1800 with a police officer called Roch Miguel who is investigating a bombing on the streets of  Paris that was a failed assassination attempt on Napoleon Bonaparte. There were several police agencies or ministries that were at odds with each other who were slightly hard to follow; along with who was Royalist, Jacobin or Chouan. If I had previously read a novel that dealt with the Republic and the aftermath of the French revolution I would probably have felt a bit less lost, but the writing of Catherine Delors pulled me through the story itself very quickly.

Written to be a historical mystery, the focus of the story is the investigation of the bombing in the Rue Nicaise. Roch, the investigator, is the main protagonist and is portrayed as a strong man with morals, and gets put in a bad situation when his father, affectionately known as Old Miguel, is suddenly arrested. Was he arrested to spur Roch’s investigation in another direction? Between the several different factions of the police government it is hard to tell if Roch should trust anyone in the fearsome political times. And he has to move fast otherwise his father will meet a torturous fate meant for traitors.

Napoleon crossing the Alps (1800)~Jaques Louis David

One of the mentions in the novel is of a painter known as Jaques Louis David, who painted the famous portrait of Napoleon on the magnificent white horse. I loved how Delors included these small details of history into her novel which helped me experience France and their culture more than I ever have. And I took five years of French! Catherine Delors helped to reawaken in me the spirit of France for which I had fallen in love with long ago as a child. She surrounds the novel in historic details that really help shape the atmosphere and the turmoil of France at that time.

Catherine Delors’ previous novel, Mistress of the Revolution (2008), was written in memoir fashion telling of a Frenchwoman exiled in England. This new novel departs from that point of view as it is told in third person allowing for multiple views to be presented. Using this narrative allows the reader to get an entire circumspective view from all parties involved which is very helpful in this thriller/mystery setting. It also helps to lend a greater understanding of a complicated period of time that could easily befuddle the unaware reader, like I was at first.

I found the story to be fast paced and I felt empathy for the character of the investigator Roch Miguel, and Delors was subtle with the added romantic undercurrents that we are treated to. Some of the other characters shifted over time, becoming more ominous as the story wore on and the mystery of who was behind the attack unfolded. Although the reader knows the names of the three who are responsible for the attack from the very beginning, the unfolding of the multiple aspects that lead to the attack and their hopeful apprehension was expertly presented. Lovers of France and those eager to immerse themselves in its historic setting following the revolution will definitely love this book. I love the fact that Delors is focusing her next novel on another mystery setting and I will definitely be reading that one as well.

Reprinted with permission from The Burton Review.

Catherine Delors blog: Versailles and More
Catherine’s website.
Purchase Catherine’s books.

Giveaway Rules:
One hardcover of FOR THE KING to USA or Canada residents only.
Comment here with your email address.
+1 entry for tweeting or facebooking this post.
Good Luck!


Filed under 2010 Releases, Catherine Delors, French Revolution

>Lessons in French


Potential Lead Character?

And now we have Lessons in French…Just kidding. Not really. Actually, that would be pretty awesome. I envision the setting.. me and Rupert Penry-Jones being tutored in French.  No, scratch that. Rupert tutoring me in French. (Long pause.. meditation..)
Ah, I digress. After reading the new novel of Catherine Delors FOR THE KING, I wonder who would play the detective, the main protagonist, Roch Miguel, in the movie. Because of course there should at least be a BBC Masterpiece Classic movie of this. Would Rupert suffice? I should say so!! I wonder what Catherine feels about that?

Have you read any French Revolution inspired books lately? I have not read as many Frenchified reads as I have read Tudor reads. I got the awful word Frenchified from those Tudor reads actually, because it was the Englishmen who hated the way Anne Boleyn was so Frenchified. In my forced learning days, I chose French as a subject when I was twelve so that I could further relate to my beloved father. I studied five years of French; my father and I tossed around French phrases amongst each other, he wrote me sweet little French endearments for years afterwards, and I dreamt of Paris. The End.

Fast forward eons later, I retain not much knowledge of those five years of learning, other than basic vocabulary words and those sweet endearments (which of course are priceless). Even in my mind, instead of thinking in English, what time is it, I think “quelle heure est-il?” and instead of saying to my daughter ‘Why?’ I ask “Pourquoi?”. Silly idiosyncrasies like that is what five years of French has done for me. Of course, the most fantastic thing has been the fact that I got to share that special something with my father, who is now my guardian angel in heaven.

So what actual France themed reads are out there? Let’s see.. of course there are the two novels by the beautiful Catherine Delors:
Mistress of the Revolution (2009) which has an astonishingly short synopsis considering the manuscript was longer than War and Peace: “An impoverished noblewoman, Gabrielle de Montserrat is only fifteen when she meets her first love, a commoner named Pierre-André Coffinhal. But her brother forbids their union, forcing her instead to marry an aging, wealthy cousin.
Widowed and a mother before the age of twenty, Gabrielle arrives at the court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette in time to be swept up in the emerging turbulence—and to encounter the man she never expected to see again. Determined and independent, she strives to find her own freedom— as the Revolution takes an ever more violent turn.”

For The King (2010) “The Reign of Terror has ended, and Napoléon Bonaparte has seized power, but shifting political loyalties still tear apart families and lovers. On Christmas Eve 1800, a bomb explodes along Bonaparte’s route, narrowly missing him but striking dozens of bystanders. Chief Inspector Roch Miquel, a young policeman with a bright future and a beautiful mistress, must arrest the assassins before they attack again. Complicating Miquel’s investigation are the maneuverings of his superior, the redoubtable Fouché, the indiscretions of his own father, a former Jacobin, and two intriguing women.

Based on real events and characters and rich with historical detail, For the King takes readers through the dark alleys and glittering salons of post-revolutionary Paris and is a timeless epic of love, betrayal, and redemption.” (Read my review here; enter for the giveaway).

And onwards to some more France reads of which most are on my shelf, sitting prettily, as they must, since they mostly include the fashionable Marie Antoinette..

The Queen’s Dollmaker by Christine Trent  (read my review)
Abundance: A Novel of Marie Antoinette by Sena Jeter Naslund
The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette by Carolly Erickson
Marie Antoinette: The Journey by Antonia Frasier
Marie Antoinette: The Last Queen of France by Evelyne Lever
Annette Vallon: A Novel of The French Revolution by James Tipton.. Comes highly recommended from blogger buddy Arleigh at (her review)
Napoleon: The Path to Power by Philip G. Dwyer
Fatal Purity: Robespierre & The French Revolution by Ruth Scurr
The Glass-Blowers by Daphne DuMaurier
The Diamond: A Novel by Julie Baumgold (another favorite of Arleigh’s, her review)
Flaunting, Extravagant Queen by Jean Plaidy
The Road to Compiegne by Jean Plaidy
Louis the Well Beloved by Jean Plaidy
The Queen’s Confession by Jean Plaidy
The Queen of Diamonds by Jean Plaidy.. Also a favorite of Arleigh, read her review at the Plaidy website she and Lucy contribute to, Royal Intrigue. Arleigh says you can’t go wrong with a Plaidy!

And another one of our favorite bloggers Lucy at Enchanted by Josephine (see Lucy’s Gulland posts here) totally swears by Sandra Gulland’s books, the trilogy of novels based on the life of Josephine Bonaparte: The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B.; Tales of Passion, Tales of Woe; The Last Great Dance on Earth. Arleigh says that ‘the trilogy is REALLY good’ and Lucy says ‘Gulland is by far the best on Jo.’

What of these books have you read? I hope to get to read these soon, and I really need to read another Jean Plaidy novel so I would probably start with one of hers.

For those of you interested in the rest of the posts at The Round Table, you can see the full calendar here.
Here at The Burton Review we have the review with the giveaway, and the guest post from the author herself. But there are giveaways at all of the blogs, so go hunting for the treasure!


Filed under Catherine Delors, France, French Revolution, HF Bloggers Round Table, Napoleon

>Author Guest Post by Catherine Delors.. HFBRT Event!


As part of the Round Table event this week, Catherine has obliged us and fashioned many many guest posts for us at The Round Table. What a sweetheart she is to take her time and compose all of these original essays, we all very much appreciate the dedication she has to her work. Let it not go to waste, please leave a comment letting her know you were here. Without further ado, here is Catherine and her newest guest post:

FOR THE KING: Meet the Assassins

Let us begin with Joseph de Limoëlan, the head of the conspiracy to assassinate Napoléon Bonaparte in Paris. He was 34 years of age at the time of the attack, a tall, handsome man with blue eyes and dark hair, gold-rimmed spectacles and an aristocratic air. After years spent as a Chouan, a royalist insurgent, he is the one who planned to detonate the bomb, placed on a horse-drawn cart, in the midst of a busy street. All the busier that evening because people wanted to see Napoléon Bonaparte’s carriage on its way to the Opera. It was also Christmas Eve, the shops and cafés were still open, and many were headed for the houses of friends to celebrate the holiday.

That did not give pause to Limoëlan, though he had to know that the collateral damage would be atrocious. There were dozens of casualties, and so many houses were blown up that the street itself was later condemned and destroyed in its entirety. Limoëlan himself had found a little street vendor, a girl by the name of Marianne Peusol, to hold the bridle of the horse that drew the carriage. He had to know that the child, closest to the bomb, was sure to die.

The man was the coldest of cold-blooded killers. Yet he was engaged to a young lady, a friend of his sisters, and every clue I found pointed to an attachment that was mutual, and very deep. I also found out that his father and several of his relatives, prominent members of the nobility of Brittany, had been guillotined in Paris a few years earlier as royalist conspirators. That is no excuse, of course, but it puts Limoëlan’s hate for the city and its inhabitants in perspective.

Pierre de Saint-Régent, who was Limoëlan’s second in command, was no less interesting. He was also a nobleman from Brittany, though from a minor and impoverished family. His pointed nose gave his face the look of a ferret, and he did not have the elegant manners of his comrade. Hardened by years of combat, first in the Royal Navy before the Revolution, and later in the royalist insurgency, he was the one who actually lit the fuse that detonated the bomb.

Nevertheless, in the days that led to the attack, Saint-Régent took great pains, and great risks, to purchase a pug, and order a sterling silver dog collar to present to his “lady.” Who was she? The real investigation never uncovered her identity, but trust a historical novelist to fill in the blanks… Of course the lady in question is one of the fictional characters of FOR THE KING.

The third assassin, François Carbon, nicknamed Le Petit François, Short Francis, is quite a different sort of character. I discovered someone totally repulsive, physically and morally. Squat, fat, abusive, vulgar, garish in his dress, and yet fancying himself a great favorite with the ladies… Also a Chouan, Carbon accompanied Limoëlan to Paris as his valet and jack-of-all-trades, and he helped the two other men drive the cart on which sat the bomb to Rue Nicaise. Comical as he may seem at times, he too was a killer. I could not find any portrait of him, though he is easy to picture from the descriptions of witnesses.

“How to” manuals purporting to teach the craft of writing warn the would-be novelist to stay clear of characters devoid of any nuance. But in this case I couldn’t help it: the real François Carbon was as I describe him in FOR THE KING. And actually some readers tell me they found him totally compelling, repellent as he is.

Thanks so much to Catherine for writing such a fun historical novel that was steeped in mystery with even a bit of romance! Read my review of the book here, and enter for your chance to win your very own hardcover of FOR THE KING, which is available for purchase July 6, 2010.

For the rest of the Events of the Historical Fiction Bloggers Round Table group, please visit the Calendar of Events page where you will find all the links to other posts. There are many opportunities to win the gorgeous book as well.


Filed under 2010 Releases, Author Interviews, Author Post, Catherine Delors, France, French Revolution, HF Bloggers Round Table