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.
Hardcover 336 pages
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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: www.sandragulland.com
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