Recently, I had the opportunity to read The Rivals of Versailles by Sally Christie thanks to an advanced reader copy from Atria Books. It’s the second book in the Mistresses of Versailles trilogy set to be released on April 5, 2016.
The first book in the Mistresses of Versailles trilogy followed the Nesle sisters in their affairs and intrigues with Louis XV of France, while this new second book follows the Marquise de Pompadour as she tries to hold onto her longstanding position as Louis XV’s official mistress. Younger girls might come and go from the king’s bed but the Marquise de Pompadour is determined that she should be his immovable rock. Along the way, she learns far more about herself as a woman and begins to question whether the inherently self-centered king and palace schemes are really worth it.
I found The Rivals of Versailles by Sally Christie to be a skillfully written novel that surpasses its predecessor, The Sister of Versailles. Christie does an excellent job of making the reader feel both the grandeur and the claustrophobia of being a woman living at Versailles. In addition, the intricacies of perception from person to person written through the lenses of their own life experiences are done in ways that I haven’t seen in other novels. Each person in life will view another person in a different way, which is something a lot of authors overlook in their storytelling. Whether a character is extremely naive or extremely clever and sly, Christie makes the reader believe it.
When it comes to novels that take place in royal palaces, writers can sometimes focus too much on the fantasy and the grandeur while forgetting to make the reader feel the fishbowl quality of life. By the time the Marquise de Pompadour begins feeling weary and trapped, I as the reader was feeling weary and trapped along with her. Quite often I found myself irritated and turned off by Louis XV but understanding why women had to bend over backwards to please him – sometimes literally. Women were disposable no matter how intelligent and worthwhile they were in his life. Men used women to push themselves further at Versailles. Christie wrote these truths with the ease of someone well-versed in Versailles history without making it in the least bit dry for the reader.
I gave this book a 4 out of 5 stars. I recommend this trilogy to anyone interested in women’s history.
You can preorder The Rivals of Versailles by Sally Christie now on Amazon or you can buy it on April 5, 2016.