Unabridged Chick

I'm Audra, a 30-something married lesbian. I love interesting heroines, gorgeous prose, place as character, and the occasional werewolf.

Before Versailles: A Novel of Louis XIV

Before Versailles: A Novel of Louis XIV - Karleen Koen I understand now why Koen has such a devoted following. This deliciously huge novel has a fantastic cast, a fabulous setting, delicious intrigue, romance, and drama. Set during 1661, after Louis' prime minister Cardinal Mazarin died, the novel follows Louise, a lady-in-waiting for the stunning, energetic, and inspiring Madame Henriette -- the king's sister-in-law. Those who've read Dumas' The Man in the Iron Mask (or seen one of the films) will immediately notice one of the stories plot lines, but it is one of a few threads woven through the novel. Koen blends historical fact and historical legend to create an engrossing and bittersweet story about privilege, love, loyalty, and excess. I found I loved all the characters, heroes and villains alike, especially as the heroes and villains shifted and changed as the story went on. No one felt stock or cardboard flat which made the shimmering changes in loyalties feel realistic. I can't imagine what it would be like to live as a courtier at Fontainebleau but Koen's storytelling made it real for me -- and so, at moments, I wanted to be one of the ladies there and at other moments, I was so grateful I wasn't. I really enjoyed Koen's writing style; I would almost describe it as literary hist fic. She has her solid frame of historical detail that make up the bulk of her narrative -- but she punctuates a scene or moment with a lovely line or two that mixes presentiment and fact, poetry and prose. For me, it enhanced the general bittersweet tone to the story; we know what the characters don't: how Louis will change as he grows, how his court will change, the courtiers, the country. For anyone who wants a royal armchair escape, I recommend this one!