Thursday, April 24, 2014

Review & Giveaway: The Shadow Queen by Sandra Gulland (France Book Tours)

From the author of the beloved Josephine B. Trilogy, comes a spellbinding novel inspired by the true story of a young woman who rises from poverty to become confidante to the most powerful, provocative and dangerous woman in the 17th century French court: the mistress of the charismatic Sun King.

1660, Paris
Claudette’s life is like an ever-revolving stage set.  From an impoverished childhood wandering the French countryside with her family’s acting troupe, Claudette finally witnesses her mother’s astonishing rise to stardom in Parisian theaters. Working with playwrights Corneille, Molière and Racine, Claudette’s life is culturally rich, but like all in the theatrical world at the time, she’s socially scorned.
A series of chance encounters pull Claudette into the alluring orbit of Athénaïs de Montespan, mistress to Louis XIV and reigning “Shadow Queen.” Needing someone to safeguard her secrets, Athénaïs offers to hire Claudette as her personal attendant.
Enticed by the promise of riches and respectability, Claudette leaves the world of the theater only to find that court is very much like a stage, with outward shows of loyalty masking more devious intentions. This parallel is not lost on Athénaïs, who fears political enemies are plotting her ruin as young courtesans angle to take the coveted spot in the king’s bed.
Indeed, Claudette’s “reputable” new position is marked by spying, illicit trysts and titanic power struggles. As Athénaïs, becomes ever more desperate to hold onto the King’s favor, innocent love charms move into the realm of deadly Black Magic, and Claudette is forced to consider a move that will put her own life—and the family she loves so dearly—at risk.
Set against the gilded opulence of a newly-constructed Versailles and the blood-stained fields of the Franco-Dutch war, THE SHADOW QUEEN is a seductive, gripping novel about the lure of wealth, the illusion of power, and the increasingly uneasy relationship between two strong-willed women whose actions could shape the future of France.

Release date: April 8, 2014 at Doubleday (US) and HarperCollins (Canada)
Hardcover 336 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0385537520
click on banner for more stops on this tour

Sandra Gulland is a new author to me and I am grateful to be part of this tour.  One of the hazards of discovering a new-to-me author is that it causes my tbr pile to multiply, that is precisely what has happened here.

I adored The Shadow Queen right from the first page.  Since most of my HF reads usually takes place with the English court this was a nice change.

Focusing on a real historical figure, Claudette, it wasn't hard to sympathize with her.  I found her to be very likeable and her story felt real and believable.  Growing up as a tumbler she traveled with her parents and brother, until tragedy struck.  It was interesting to see how her journey brought her to be confidante to the King's mistress. The author has a writing style that I really liked, I was engaged throughout this book.  Though the book is titled The Shadow Queen most of it evolved around Claudette and her life, and I was fine with that.  The role of plays and entertainment showed a side of court life not usually written about.

This book will appeal to those that like HF taking place in France, also those about obscured figures in history and also those that love a great cover (which this one is).

Be sure to check out the authors website to find out about speaking engagements as she tours.  I am thrilled to be able to attend one in my area on the 25th of April.

Don't forget to enter to win a copy of this book.

 Sandra Gulland is the author of the Josephine B. Trilogy, internationally best-selling novels about Josephine Bonaparte which have been published in over seventeen countries. Her forth novel, Mistress of the Sun, set in the 17th-century court of the Sun King, was also a bestseller and published internationally.
Her most recent novel is 
The Shadow Queen, also set in the era of the Sun King, published in April of 2014 by HarperCollins in Canada and Doubleday in the U.S. 
See more on her website:
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  2. Thank you for this lovely review, Margaret. I will see you in Hamilton!

  3. Posted on Twitter -

  4. The 2nd book in the Outlander series, Dragonfly in Amber, is partially set in France. If you haven't read the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, I highly recommend it!

  5. thanks for your great review. glad you enjoyed the book and the writing so much. Sandra is doing the same to my TBR!! Emma

  6. I just finished In Falling Snow by Mary-Rose MacColl that mostly takes place at Royaumont Abbey just north of Paris during WWI. What a wonderful story of the brave women who founded a hospital there to aid the wounded.

    1. I have that book in my TBR pile already. There seems to be a lot more books out these days taking place in WWI now.

  7. What a captivating giveaway and post. A novel set in France which I enjoyed was Resistance. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  8. I absolutely love Sandra Gulland's writing, and this is a welcome addition to the reading list!

  9. I just started reading Chateau of Secrets by Melanie Dobson. That's the only one I can think of that I've read that's set in France

  10. Shared via twitter

  11. I tweeted.8:10 PM - 24 Apr 2014@DeniseDuvall2
    I just finished reading
    Death in the City of Light: The Serial Killer of Nazi-Occupied Paris
    King, David. It's a gruesome topic, but what was interesting about the book was, that although Paris was occupied by the Nazis,life continued. The underworld continued with their illegal activities, just as if it were still peacetime. The famous, Sartre, Picasso,and company still inhabited the city and although there was a curfew, the parties continued all night until the next day. They still painted, wrote plays and continued as during peacetime. Most interesting was these famous along with Prince Rainier attended the trial in person.

  12. I loved To Dance with Kings by Rosalind Laker.

    1. I have that book in my TBR pile, now I really want to get at it.