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Before Versailles: A Novel of Louis XIV

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Louis XIV is one of the best-known monarchs ever to grace the French throne. But what was he like as a young man—the man before Versailles?   After the death of his prime minister, Cardinal Mazarin, twenty-two-year-old Louis steps into governing France. He’s still a young man, but one who, as king, willfully takes everything he can get—including his brother’s wife. As the Louis XIV is one of the best-known monarchs ever to grace the French throne. But what was he like as a young man—the man before Versailles?   After the death of his prime minister, Cardinal Mazarin, twenty-two-year-old Louis steps into governing France. He’s still a young man, but one who, as king, willfully takes everything he can get—including his brother’s wife. As the love affair between Louis and Princess Henriette burns, it sets the kingdom on the road toward unmistakable scandal and conflict with the Vatican. Every woman wants him. He must face what he is willing to sacrifice for love. But there are other problems lurking outside the chateau of Fontainebleau: a boy in an iron mask has been seen in the woods, and the king’s finance minister, Nicolas Fouquet, has proven to be more powerful than Louis ever thought—a man who could make a great ally or become a dangerous foe . . . Meticulously researched and vividly brought to life by the gorgeous prose of Karleen Koen, Before Versailles dares to explore the forces that shaped an iconic king and determined the fate of an empire.


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Louis XIV is one of the best-known monarchs ever to grace the French throne. But what was he like as a young man—the man before Versailles?   After the death of his prime minister, Cardinal Mazarin, twenty-two-year-old Louis steps into governing France. He’s still a young man, but one who, as king, willfully takes everything he can get—including his brother’s wife. As the Louis XIV is one of the best-known monarchs ever to grace the French throne. But what was he like as a young man—the man before Versailles?   After the death of his prime minister, Cardinal Mazarin, twenty-two-year-old Louis steps into governing France. He’s still a young man, but one who, as king, willfully takes everything he can get—including his brother’s wife. As the love affair between Louis and Princess Henriette burns, it sets the kingdom on the road toward unmistakable scandal and conflict with the Vatican. Every woman wants him. He must face what he is willing to sacrifice for love. But there are other problems lurking outside the chateau of Fontainebleau: a boy in an iron mask has been seen in the woods, and the king’s finance minister, Nicolas Fouquet, has proven to be more powerful than Louis ever thought—a man who could make a great ally or become a dangerous foe . . . Meticulously researched and vividly brought to life by the gorgeous prose of Karleen Koen, Before Versailles dares to explore the forces that shaped an iconic king and determined the fate of an empire.

30 review for Before Versailles: A Novel of Louis XIV

  1. 5 out of 5

    ``Laurie Henderson

    I love , love, love Karleen Koen and I've read every one of her books. My only complaint about Koen is the long wait between her books. "Before Versailles" didn't disappoint me one bit I'm happy to say. I'd been putting off reading this one a long time due to the fact that once read it might be years before there would be a new book by her. The book began with a galloping pace and I was immediately drawn into the world of young King Louis XIV, the future Sun King. Prologue: Intelligent, virile, ha I love , love, love Karleen Koen and I've read every one of her books. My only complaint about Koen is the long wait between her books. "Before Versailles" didn't disappoint me one bit I'm happy to say. I'd been putting off reading this one a long time due to the fact that once read it might be years before there would be a new book by her. The book began with a galloping pace and I was immediately drawn into the world of young King Louis XIV, the future Sun King. Prologue: Intelligent, virile, handsome, a man who made himself master of all he surveyed, Louis XIV was the foremost figure of his age. His drive, cunning and determination to forge France into the premiere Kingdom of its time awed and frightened his fellow Kings. None of them could match him. He supported the arts and literature so thoroughly that France became a cultural beacon that shines to this day and by the time he died every court in Europe copied the manners and fashion of his. The language of France became the language of art, commerce, culture and diplomancy for several hundred years. His palace at Versailles is a national monument and was one of the wonders of the world in its time. From birth, war was his backdrop, and the nobility surrounding him as he grew to manhood were as proud as Lucifer and as trustworthy. The ambition of others were always faintly in the distance, or up close, naked fangs gleaming. Louis possessed a consummate skill in turning those ambitions to his own advantage and before he was 30, he had become the hard, graceful, prowling lion of all of Europe. There was a moment in his young life when he deliberately chose to grasp power. It was a moment when tenderness was still his - before time and pride closed him- a moment when his heart, like many a man's, yearned for something true Louis XIV came to the throne at the tender age of 6 and was rumored to be the child of Cardinal Richelieu, the chief minister of his father Louis XIII. His father and mother, Anne of Austria, didn't get along and the Queen did not become pregnant until she was in her 40's. Naturally there was a lot of gossip concerning this "miracle" birth of Louis and his younger brother Phillippe. Queen Anne was a very hands on mother, something rare in that time and she breast fed both of her adored children. During her regency she depended heavily upon Cardinal Mazarin in all affairs of state. Unfortunately affairs of state were very rocky as the nobility revolted against Mazarin and their Spanish Queen who were in charge of all affairs of state. Queen Anne was a lioness and fought to retain the throne for her young son. In his young years they were constantly on the move trying to escape from their enemies and the royal family even suffered periods of starvation. After years of revolt the rebellion was quelled and Mazarin and the Queen Anne continued to rule during Louis's minority. Upon the death of Mazarin Louis announced he would rule in his own name. Cardinal Mazarin had given Louis a practical education of how to rule France and Louis was confident in his own abilities. Once Louis took the reins of government into his hands he quickly realized that his finance minister, Fouquet, had an embarrassing amount of riches. Louis instructed Fouquet to began rebuilding the French navy and Fouquet blithely informed him that the treasury was empty and he would have to wait. Colbert, one of Mazarin's former ministers is entrusted by Louis to find the missing treasury funds. Colbert, a serious, nerdy, math genius is up to the task. His findings become very disturbing as Louis realizes Fouquet has his own private army and navy and his life is in danger. During the first 4 months of his reign Louis is facing threats from all sides. He has also fallen deeply in love with his brother's wife, Princess Henriette of England, and the little minx leads him on heartlessly. Watching Louis navaigate the many obstacles in his path was a real page turner for me and I think it will be the same for you should you decide to read this wonderful book that I've given 5 stars.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Naksed

    In her historical fiction of the early days of the French King Louis XIV's reign, Karleen Koen cleverly weaves legend and historical fact of the era, including a jaunt with the Man in the Iron Mask, and a cameo by Musketeer D'Artagnan. Having grown up with multitudes of history lessons as well as fictionalized, anecdotal stories about the Sun King, having visited Vaux-Le-Vicomte and Versailles on school field trips, this was both a nostalgic and interesting read for me. This novel encompasses a In her historical fiction of the early days of the French King Louis XIV's reign, Karleen Koen cleverly weaves legend and historical fact of the era, including a jaunt with the Man in the Iron Mask, and a cameo by Musketeer D'Artagnan. Having grown up with multitudes of history lessons as well as fictionalized, anecdotal stories about the Sun King, having visited Vaux-Le-Vicomte and Versailles on school field trips, this was both a nostalgic and interesting read for me. This novel encompasses a dizzying multitude of main and side characters, crucial plots and minor subplots. The best part for me was the epic showdown between Nicolas Fouquet and Louis XIV after the popular and wily Superintendant of Finance made the tragic mistake of flaunting his excessive riches before God's Anointed at a legendary party at his chateau that I believe French people still talk about in awe four centuries later :) I think the author did a very good job of painting the intrigue-filled, poisonous atmosphere of the Court, a place that "swallows soft hearts as if they were oysters" and spins deceitful webs that end up strangling both the guilty and the innocent. In the end, I cannot help but make the comparison with Koen's previous novel, Through a glass darkly and find Before Versailles wanting. When the narrative is conducted by the King, it is at its most riveting. But the majority of the book is helmed by Louise de la Valliere, a rather obscure and pathetic historical figure whose fictional transformation into a Mary Sue do-gooder who makes the King fall in love with her because of her purity and goodness is not very plausible. I wanted to like it more but after the unforgettable, tragic, and captivating saga of Barbara Tamworth and Roger Devane, I am sorry to say I was left rather underwhelmed here.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Misfit

    Koen's latest book tackles a short period in the life of a young Louis XIV. Cardinal Mazarin is dead, and Louis is now in control of the government - a government seriously short of cash - although the Superintendent of Finances sure does have a pocketful of it. Louis is newly married to Maria Teresa of Spain, but at the moment he only has lust eyes for his brother's new wife, Henriette (sister to Charles II) and Henriette definitely reciprocates the lust feelings. Meantime Louise de La Vallière, Koen's latest book tackles a short period in the life of a young Louis XIV. Cardinal Mazarin is dead, and Louis is now in control of the government - a government seriously short of cash - although the Superintendent of Finances sure does have a pocketful of it. Louis is newly married to Maria Teresa of Spain, but at the moment he only has lust eyes for his brother's new wife, Henriette (sister to Charles II) and Henriette definitely reciprocates the lust feelings. Meantime Louise de La Vallière, one of Henriette's ladies in waiting, becomes involved in the mystery surrounding a young man whose face is hidden behind an iron mask. What, if any connection is this young boy to the royal family, and why is someone so desperate to keep his existence a secret? Yep, there's a whole lot more to it than that but I'll not spoil, although if you are familiar with it all you know where Louise's story goes from here... Despite a set of circumstances that promises a deliciously meaty, scandalous read, I found this rather underwhelming, especially coming from the author who gave us Through a Glass Darkly (on my all time favorites list). The characters were all rather flat and lifeless (even Philippe and de Guiche were not as hateable as they should be), and there was definitely not much chemistry between Louis and Louise. The repetitive sentences drove me seriously batty, "The handsome young king of France was hesitant before her. The handsome young king of France desired her. The handsome young king of France loved her." In the end, this isn't a bad book by any means, but it doesn't have the kind of punch Louis and his love life deserves. I have read the entire Musketeer series by Alexandre Dumas (part of which tells of the relationship between Louis and Louise as well as his own take on the Man in the Iron Mask), and I couldn't help comparing his take on the characters as opposed to Koen's, and Dumas definitely wins out. Library only, then buy it if you love it. Interested in trying the Dumas books? Here's the series in order and they are available free on Kindle. Can't speak for the quality of the translation on these so enter at your own risk (they are free after all), but if you're looking for a dead tree version I'd recommend the Oxford World's Classics Editions. The Three Musketeers, Twenty Years After, The Vicomte de Bragelonne, Louise de la Valliere and The Man in the Iron Mask.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Rio (Lynne)

    I was so excited to dive into this story of King Louis XIV. This story begins where Cardinal Mazarin dies and the young King begins governing France. Between love affairs "The King and his brother's wife and The King and Louise a lady of the court" you expect scandalous excitement. When the King's finance minister becomes corrupt and too powerful, you expect a page turner to see his downfall. Add in the mystery of The Man in The Iron Mask and this book should not have been put downable. So, why I was so excited to dive into this story of King Louis XIV. This story begins where Cardinal Mazarin dies and the young King begins governing France. Between love affairs "The King and his brother's wife and The King and Louise a lady of the court" you expect scandalous excitement. When the King's finance minister becomes corrupt and too powerful, you expect a page turner to see his downfall. Add in the mystery of The Man in The Iron Mask and this book should not have been put downable. So, why did this feel like a chore to read? The writing style simply bored me. The author never left me hanging or wanting more. I had no emotional connection to any of the characters. Each time I had to force myself just to pick this book up to read and at 315 pages I decided to skim to the end and bring an end to my suffering. It's always sad to me when the Author's Notes are more exciting than the actual book. I know my review is the anomaly here and I kept wondering what I was missing?

  5. 4 out of 5

    Heather C

    Prior to reading this novel I had no idea that this book was about the king who would be known as The Sun King – and to that end, I didn’t know anything about that man either! I had no idea what story I was walking in to, but I loved Dark Angels by Karleen Koen so I did not hesitate to jump on this one! The author made it easy for me to connect into this world because there were frequent references to King Charles II of England (the brother of one of the main characters) who I have read a lot ab Prior to reading this novel I had no idea that this book was about the king who would be known as The Sun King – and to that end, I didn’t know anything about that man either! I had no idea what story I was walking in to, but I loved Dark Angels by Karleen Koen so I did not hesitate to jump on this one! The author made it easy for me to connect into this world because there were frequent references to King Charles II of England (the brother of one of the main characters) who I have read a lot about and always enjoy. This world of Louis XIV is just as interesting as the court of Charles II! All of the intrigue and romance and craziness! The book started off a little slow for me and I think part of this was due to the frequent pauses to explain things that I didn’t feel needed to be elaborated on. For example: “And our little French dauphin” – the first son of the king was called the dauphin because three hundred years earlier a king of France had purchased huge territories that carried a hereditary title, taken from the dolphin on the coat of arms – “is going to teach you French” (pg. 32 of ARC). In the above scenario, while the information was interesting, it added nothing to the story and really broke up the flow. This stylistic feature appeared to die out after the first quarter or so of the book and the narrative really picked up from there. A stylistic choice that I didn’t mind as much but still felt was a little unnecessary, was the occasional reference of things that would happen in the future, beyond the scope of the book: “He couldn’t yet know the difference ten years would make, even five, couldn’t yet know the temptations that would be thrown at him...He could not know that one day this girl, turned to woman, would weep before him, and he wouldn’t feel a thing. But such was years away…” (pg 349 of ARC). While some of the writing style bothered me, I felt that the content of the story was wonderful. There was a large cast of characters but they were all well developed. Even the periphery characters were developed enough that you had a solid feeling about who they were and substantiated their motives. I also loved that there was a great character list at the beginning of the book because I certainly needed it from time to time – especially given my unfamiliarity with the French court. Koen also brings the mystery of the Man in the Iron Mask into play – and creates/supports a very believable scenario of who he may have been. Even this unknown character was well developed. I particularly enjoyed this plot line. I very much enjoyed this book and can’t wait to get the chance to read her other works that are on my shelf. The author has stated that Dark Angels is a sequel to Before Versailles and knowing this, I was hoping to see Alice (main character in Dark Angels) pop into the novel before its end, as she was part of Madame’s household. But alas, this was not to be – that would have made the ending more perfect for me. This book was received for review from the publisher - I was not compensated for my opinions and the above is my honest review.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Cher

    2.5 stars - It was alright, an average book. Had a very slow start, but the novel picked up in the later half. The author switches POVs too frequently which can make certain chapter transitions feel disjointed. As always, the author’s note at the end that explained what is known for sure vs what was fictional liberty, was appreciated. ------------------------------------------- First Sentence: A young woman galloped headlong and recklessly down half-wild trails in the immense forest of Fontaineble 2.5 stars - It was alright, an average book. Had a very slow start, but the novel picked up in the later half. The author switches POVs too frequently which can make certain chapter transitions feel disjointed. As always, the author’s note at the end that explained what is known for sure vs what was fictional liberty, was appreciated. ------------------------------------------- First Sentence: A young woman galloped headlong and recklessly down half-wild trails in the immense forest of Fontainebleau.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Blodeuedd Finland

    The book is in a way not written from one POV. Sure Louise de Valliere is the main character for most of it but there is always someone else taking her is his turn to say something, or to think something. It feels not like you follow one person but like you are some sort of ghost jumping around trying to see what is going on. The book also takes place during a few months in 1661. Lois XIV is madly in love with his sister in law Henriette and they have a relationship. Her husband Phillippe is angr The book is in a way not written from one POV. Sure Louise de Valliere is the main character for most of it but there is always someone else taking her is his turn to say something, or to think something. It feels not like you follow one person but like you are some sort of ghost jumping around trying to see what is going on. The book also takes place during a few months in 1661. Lois XIV is madly in love with his sister in law Henriette and they have a relationship. Her husband Phillippe is angry, but then he has former lovers too, male ones. Viscount Nicholas who takes care of the finances is spying on everyone and he will soon be thrown into jail. Louise comes to the court, all innocent and sweet and tries to hide the affair between the king and his sister in law. And then Louise and Louis fall in love. Lots more affairs going on and someone are sending the king notes questioning who his father is. That is what is going on in this book. It is a young court since the king is only 22. Everyone is happy and flirting with each other. There is also another part of the book. The author takes in the story about the iron mask and makes Louise find out more about this. A nice little plot that goes well with everything. Especially since it brings light on the relationship between the Queen Mother and Mazarin. I felt sorry for poor Louise when I later had a look at her fate. She loved the king and he just threw her to the side when he was finished with her. The book may end all happily but she was certainly not the last mistress he had. Especially horrible was how she was used as a decoy when he found a new woman. The power of kings. Still in this book he is a young king and in love. You can't fault him for that, and neither Louise who is young and impressionable. Sometimes I did wonder if it was the way it was written that never made me totalyl fall for the book. I never seemed to get a hold of anyone. They slipped through my fingers. This is a book for historical fiction fans out there, and especially those who enjoy the period.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    I love Koen’s writing in this novel. Her descriptions of the characters, setting, and time period are unparalled. I felt like I was at Fontainebleau. The romance between different characters is very sensual and sparks definitely fly. Even more than this, I really enjoyed the conspiracy. I wanted to find out who the boy in the iron mask was and who was writing the letters. Throughout it all, it was a great character study of the growth of Louis XIV from a boy king to an all-powerful King ruling o I love Koen’s writing in this novel. Her descriptions of the characters, setting, and time period are unparalled. I felt like I was at Fontainebleau. The romance between different characters is very sensual and sparks definitely fly. Even more than this, I really enjoyed the conspiracy. I wanted to find out who the boy in the iron mask was and who was writing the letters. Throughout it all, it was a great character study of the growth of Louis XIV from a boy king to an all-powerful King ruling on his own terms. I greatly enjoyed the journey. For the rest of my review, please check out my blog at: http://lauragerold.blogspot.com/2011/...

  9. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    It's hard for me, stopping a book. For years & years, I would force myself to finish any book I start reading. In the past few years, however, I have decided to give myself permission to stop after a certain point. Look, I only have so much time left. The average life expectancy of a woman my age is 85. That gives me 34 more reading years, assuming I keep my mind until the bitter end. If I read 100 books a year, then I only have time for 3400 out of the millions & millions of books out there. I It's hard for me, stopping a book. For years & years, I would force myself to finish any book I start reading. In the past few years, however, I have decided to give myself permission to stop after a certain point. Look, I only have so much time left. The average life expectancy of a woman my age is 85. That gives me 34 more reading years, assuming I keep my mind until the bitter end. If I read 100 books a year, then I only have time for 3400 out of the millions & millions of books out there. I need to choose wisely & not waste my time on mediocre reading. I was disappointed with this novel. I read almost half, thinking surely it would pick up steam. I mean, it's a great topic, one I find fascinating. I love reading about Charles II's little sister, Minette. What a crazy life she lead. That entire scene at the French court back then was so over the top. Koen references some of it. I especially liked the small bits about the Affair of the Poisons. Talk about an absolutely outrageous series of events there! Yet somehow Koen manages to make all of this outlandish behavior dull. It's like her special power, I guess. Finally, I didn't like the historical figure she chose to tell her story through. Ugh, Louise de La Valliere. Really? The most boring person at court is who she chooses as the protagonist? An author has her pick of exciting, memorable characters at court then, and she chooses Louise. She's always reminded me of another drippy royal mistress, Charles II's Louise de Kerouaille. I dunno, maybe I just don't like people named Louise, ha. Anyway, enough with this turgid, slow paced novel. If you want to read a good book about Louis XIV, try Nancy Mitford's The Sun King.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Teodelina

    Since Through a Glass Darkly I have been hoping for Karleen Koen to devote an entire novel to Louis XIV (I am a passionate fan of the Sun King). And now here it is! The action of the novel is concentrated in a very short time, the few months that it took for the young Louis XIV to get rid of Nicolas Fouquet, the all-powerful superintendent of finances of France. In fact, the same period covered by Dumas in The Vicomte de Bragelonne. So, I was quite familiar with some of the scenes, which allowed Since Through a Glass Darkly I have been hoping for Karleen Koen to devote an entire novel to Louis XIV (I am a passionate fan of the Sun King). And now here it is! The action of the novel is concentrated in a very short time, the few months that it took for the young Louis XIV to get rid of Nicolas Fouquet, the all-powerful superintendent of finances of France. In fact, the same period covered by Dumas in The Vicomte de Bragelonne. So, I was quite familiar with some of the scenes, which allowed me to enjoy even more the treatment they are given here. There is also the story of the Man in the Iron Mask, revised and rewritten in a new – and quite touching – way. Focusing on such a short time frame, however, also has some disadvantages: the main one is that the author sometimes has to intervene directly to foreshadow the future; every time this happens you have something like a voiceover anticipating things the characters cannot yet know, so the POV swings and blurs. Some characters are well drawn. Others seem to be there just to advance the plot. Or was I just focusing my attention on my favourite characters? I liked Anne of Austria, Louis, his brother Philippe, and the latter's wife, Minette (Henrietta-Anne of England). I am quite a fan of Philippe, have always been, so I generally have no time for poor Minette. Still, I like the way she is presented here, I can almost understand her. The novel has good pace, and could easily be converted into a script. Overall, a pleasant book to read... and I hope for a sequel!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Bev

    I have been searching all summer for a book that would capture my interest enough to keep me up late reading, and I finally found one! Being a huge fan of Karleen Koen's other books, I had high hopes for this one, and it did not disappoint. This novel covers 4 months in the early reign of Louis XIV, when he was still trying to find his way as a monarch. He starts to come into his own as a leader, deciding whom to trust, what is best for his beloved France and where his true loyalties should lie. I have been searching all summer for a book that would capture my interest enough to keep me up late reading, and I finally found one! Being a huge fan of Karleen Koen's other books, I had high hopes for this one, and it did not disappoint. This novel covers 4 months in the early reign of Louis XIV, when he was still trying to find his way as a monarch. He starts to come into his own as a leader, deciding whom to trust, what is best for his beloved France and where his true loyalties should lie. We find out about his infatuation with his brother’s charming wife and, later, one of her maids of honor. We see how he deals with the boy in the iron mask and a powerful viscount who has spies watching his every move. It’s all quite enthralling, complete with intrigue, suspense and romance. This is historical fiction as I like it—the facts are all accurate, for the most part, but the telling is juicy and filled with the author’s ripe imagination of what the characters must have been thinking and feeling. At the end of the book, there is a hint that there might be more to come from Ms. Koen with regard to the fascinating story of Louis XIV. If that is true, I, for one, will be among the first in line to read it!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Caz

    Having recently read and reviewed a couple of novels set in or around Revolutionary France, it occurred to me that I’d like to learn some more about French history. I teach French, I speak French (fairly well) and I’ve spent a fair bit of time there in the last couple of years, and realised I knew relatively little about the history of this wonderful country on my doorstep, whose history is so entwined with that of Britain. So I asked those helpful people over at Goodreads for some recommendation Having recently read and reviewed a couple of novels set in or around Revolutionary France, it occurred to me that I’d like to learn some more about French history. I teach French, I speak French (fairly well) and I’ve spent a fair bit of time there in the last couple of years, and realised I knew relatively little about the history of this wonderful country on my doorstep, whose history is so entwined with that of Britain. So I asked those helpful people over at Goodreads for some recommendations, and Before Versailles was one of the titles suggested. The story takes place during four months of 1661, the year in which Louis XIV fully assumed the reins of kingship following the death of his trusted adviser Cardinal Mazarin (also widely held to have been Louis’ mother’s lover). There is a large list of dramatis personae at the front of the book giving details of who is related to whom, which it may be helpful to refer to at first (if you’re reading the print version – with the ebook, it’s not so easy!) because Koen sometimes refers to characters by their first names and sometimes by their title. This isn’t a huge problem – just something to be aware of if, like me, you were not familiar with all the different personages in the story. The author’s style is very easy to read; I found it very clear and quite refreshing in a way. All the characters – the majority of whom are historical figures – are clearly delineated, even the vast numbers of different ladies-in-waiting and other courtiers, and even though the PoV sometimes switches abruptly, I didn’t find it off-putting because I was so engrossed in the events being described. I absolutely loved all the plotting and intrigue surrounding the court. Spies are everywhere, corruption abounds and everyone (almost) is out for what he or she can get. It’s salacious and frequently immoral (or at the very least amoral) and utterly fascinating to read. There are two threads running throughout the novel – one relating to Louis’ distrust of the wealthy and powerful Viscount Nicolas Fouquet, who seeks to replace Mazarin as Chief Minister of France; and the other concerning the identity of a mysterious boy who wears an iron mask. Having read Dumas’ The Man in the Iron Mask a number of years ago, I enjoyed reading another version of this famous story. At twenty-two years of age, Louis is at his most heroic and charming. Something else I thought was very well handled was the way in which Louis undergoes a rite-of-passage, even in the short space of time in which the events of the book take place. At first, he is still somewhat impulsive and seems not quite ready for the huge responsibilities he has to shoulder; but by the end he is very much his own man and has emerged completely from the Cardinal's shadow. He is very handsome, and all the women of the court are a little in love with him; but even though kind and attentive to his wife, the Spanish Infanta Maria Teresa (who is expecting their first child), he is not in love with her. He becomes infatuated with his brother’s wife, Henriette (sister of Charles II), but soon after falls desperately in love with Louise de la Vallière. Louise is one of Henriette’s ladies – her family is not grand or rich and she is refreshingly innocent and unsullied by the excesses of the court. She does not want fame or fortune from the King and in fact, it is her simplicity and innate goodness that attract Louis. They become lovers, Louise insisting that their relationship must be kept a secret because she is at heart a well-bred, God-fearing young woman. We don’t see their relationship play out in this book as although Louise is one of the major viewpoints, this is essentially Louis’ story. I found it thoroughly engrossing and will certainly be seeking out more fiction based in and around this, one of the most glorious periods in French history.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    While this certainly can't be qualified as a BAD book, when I turned the last page and closed the cover (yes, I still read tree-books), I could only say "Well, that's over." Not sad, not desperate for the next chapter, just resigned. The story is interesting in a way - showing the first few months of the reign of the future Sun King of France, a crucial moment in Louis XIII's reign in which he made a definitive grab for power. At least, that's how the story ends. (Minor spoilers in next paragraph- While this certainly can't be qualified as a BAD book, when I turned the last page and closed the cover (yes, I still read tree-books), I could only say "Well, that's over." Not sad, not desperate for the next chapter, just resigned. The story is interesting in a way - showing the first few months of the reign of the future Sun King of France, a crucial moment in Louis XIII's reign in which he made a definitive grab for power. At least, that's how the story ends. (Minor spoilers in next paragraph- nothing you won't find on wikipedia) It begins differently, focusing on the experiences of a new young courtier, Louise and her role in "Madame's" household, as a maid of honor to the new sister-in-law of the king. Then, it looks like it will be a bit about an affair between Madame Henriette and Louis, shifts to a love affair between Louise and the King - briefly - and then ends with a power grab. (End spoilers) To top of the mish-mash that is the plot, there are several subplots involving other ladies of the court, other young courtiers, and servants, but NONE of them are resolved in any reasonable matter. It just feels like the book ENDS, almost like the author said, "Alright, end of chapter. Good enough. [Climactic plot point] has happened. Let's call it a day." I guess the confused storyline didn't help, and the confusion is exacerbated by the fact that Koen's writing style is about as clear as mud. As another reviewer has said, it's not uncommon for her to insert random I-researched-this-so-it's-going-into-the-book facts in the middle of conversations or ten-word sentences. Next, she'll switch point-of-view characters three times on one page, even when each paragraph starts with some internal dialogue. It's very jarring and more than once I had to go back to a paragraph several times to figure out the most irritating question a reader should never have to ask themselves more than once: "Whose head am I in now?" Ugh. Aggravating. I've heard rave reviews about her Through a Glass Darkly books, so I'm willing to give her another try, but to be honest, I found this book difficult to actually read, with all the rereading and double-checking POV characters. I guess if you want to read it, no review is going to stop you, but I will say that there are better writers out there. Not necessarily better authors, but definitely better writers.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Angelc

    3.5 Stars There is a lot going on in this book! There's almost not enough time to even grasp everything. I can see this being the next historical series on cable. There's enough scandal and drama in this book for at least three or four seasons. I really liked Louise from the start. She was so genuinely caring. I might have enjoyed the book more if it had really narrowed its focus down to Louise at court. But there were so many other storylines going on as well, I found myself waiting until Louise 3.5 Stars There is a lot going on in this book! There's almost not enough time to even grasp everything. I can see this being the next historical series on cable. There's enough scandal and drama in this book for at least three or four seasons. I really liked Louise from the start. She was so genuinely caring. I might have enjoyed the book more if it had really narrowed its focus down to Louise at court. But there were so many other storylines going on as well, I found myself waiting until Louise showed up again. I was so intrigued by the bits and pieces of story about the man (boy) in the iron mask. I've always been interested in that story, but again, I didn't feel like there was really enough about his story. I was anxiously reading page after page awaiting the next bit of his story to develop. I liked that the book was scandalous but it never took things too far. The scandal never got too graphic. The descriptions of court and the exquisite fashions were described in great detail. This is a very interesting book if you have the time and energy to invest in so many different stories at once. ARC sent by publisher in exchange for honest review reviewed for http://inthehammockblog.blogspot.com

  15. 4 out of 5

    Laura Tenfingers

    Before Versailles tells the story of a year in the early part of Louis XIV's reign. We hear a bit about the political climate but mostly it's about love affairs and loyalties in his Court. I would not recommend this book. It's somewhat YA but in a bad way and is not at all informative. A five minute read of Wikipedia is way more educational. This was a disappointment, but the biggest problem was that the characters are depicted in completely absurd, unrealistic and sexist ways. Louis is 22 years Before Versailles tells the story of a year in the early part of Louis XIV's reign. We hear a bit about the political climate but mostly it's about love affairs and loyalties in his Court. I would not recommend this book. It's somewhat YA but in a bad way and is not at all informative. A five minute read of Wikipedia is way more educational. This was a disappointment, but the biggest problem was that the characters are depicted in completely absurd, unrealistic and sexist ways. Louis is 22 years old and has grown up in the most licentious court in the land but is portrayed as an early-adolescent innocent who is confused about who he loves and how to go about having his way with them. And the innocent flower he sets his sights on is so happy to be deflowerd by him that even if one night was all she got she would cherish the memory and be blissfully happy and satisfied for the rest of her life. She literally told us this. Does the author really think this is a sensible thing people will want to imagine? Who was she imagining was her audience? I hope my daughters aren't reading this stuff, setting themselves up to be disrespected and be grateful for it. Stay away.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Denise

    Set over the course of four months in the summer of 1661, Before Versailles: A Novel of Louis XIV gives a tantalizing glimpse of life in the court of a young Louis XIV, aged just 22 at this time and only beginning to grow into the immense power he will eventually wield as the absolute monarch he is most remembered as. The novel delves into the lives, loves and intrigues not only of Louis himself, but also those surrounding him, juggling a large cast of characters and various plot threads without Set over the course of four months in the summer of 1661, Before Versailles: A Novel of Louis XIV gives a tantalizing glimpse of life in the court of a young Louis XIV, aged just 22 at this time and only beginning to grow into the immense power he will eventually wield as the absolute monarch he is most remembered as. The novel delves into the lives, loves and intrigues not only of Louis himself, but also those surrounding him, juggling a large cast of characters and various plot threads without any of them becoming boring or confusing. In addition to actual historical occurense, Karleen Koen also weaves the legend of the man (or rather boy at this time) in the iron mask into her story for an additonal bit of mystery and intrigue. All in all I found this to be an immensely enjoyable historical novel and am looking forward to discovering more of the author's works.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Roderick

    Louise de la Baume le Blanc is an innocent young maid of honor in the household of the infamous Monsiuer and Madame--let me stop here, because if I get on a tangent about this book, I won't stop. Mrs. Koen never disappoints. After having been able to speak to her personally about writing techniques and various other things this book became all the more enjoyable! Definitely a great read. Louise de la Baume le Blanc is an innocent young maid of honor in the household of the infamous Monsiuer and Madame--let me stop here, because if I get on a tangent about this book, I won't stop. Mrs. Koen never disappoints. After having been able to speak to her personally about writing techniques and various other things this book became all the more enjoyable! Definitely a great read.

  18. 5 out of 5

    artsy-bookworm

    This novel sweeps you into the world of the French Court. Readers look on as rumors and rivalries tear apart the aristocracy from the inside. I loved this novel immensely. I'm a history nerd and I like a good romance from time to time and this had both. My two favorite elements were definitely the dialogue and the descriptive writing style. Koen did an excellent job of making sure readers were immersed in the time period and there was certainly an authenticity to everything shown through the way This novel sweeps you into the world of the French Court. Readers look on as rumors and rivalries tear apart the aristocracy from the inside. I loved this novel immensely. I'm a history nerd and I like a good romance from time to time and this had both. My two favorite elements were definitely the dialogue and the descriptive writing style. Koen did an excellent job of making sure readers were immersed in the time period and there was certainly an authenticity to everything shown through the way the characters spoke and acted. It's a bit of a long read but I recommend this book if you enjoy historical fiction, romance, drama, and mystery.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Carrie

    I LOVED this book! After the second chapter I could not put it down. It's filled with love, lust, intrigue, gossip, bribes, promises, power, you name it! It takes place over a 4-month period but it's the beginning of Louis the 14th reign so it's a critical time for France. I felt part of my favorite place in history for a time. I LOVED this book! After the second chapter I could not put it down. It's filled with love, lust, intrigue, gossip, bribes, promises, power, you name it! It takes place over a 4-month period but it's the beginning of Louis the 14th reign so it's a critical time for France. I felt part of my favorite place in history for a time.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Marlene

    Originally published at Book Lovers Inc There are two types of historical fiction. The first is the type where the main characters are nearly all fictional, but the story takes place in a historic setting. Before Versailles is the other kind. Nearly all of the characters are historic figures, but the author is using fiction in an attempt to explain events that set the stage for major forces in history. She is trying to breathe life into people we know only as royal portraits, or autocratic archet Originally published at Book Lovers Inc There are two types of historical fiction. The first is the type where the main characters are nearly all fictional, but the story takes place in a historic setting. Before Versailles is the other kind. Nearly all of the characters are historic figures, but the author is using fiction in an attempt to explain events that set the stage for major forces in history. She is trying to breathe life into people we know only as royal portraits, or autocratic archetypes. She's also trying to make the motives that she ascribes to her royal characters fit with recorded history. But we'll never know. All we know is what came after. Louis XIV of France is remembered as "The Sun King". The historical quip attached to his name is the autocratic dictum "L'État, c'est moi" ("I am the state") although there's no proof he actually said it. But he did establish an absolute monarchy in France, one that was only brought down by the French Revolution. But Karleen Koen's Louis, in 1661, has not yet started down the road of absolutism. He is 22, and he is king. But far from being an absolute ruler, he is himself bound by the ministers who really run his country. The greatest of whom, Cardinal Jules Mazarin, has just died. Leaving Louis a window in which he might seize power. And does. The mix of history and fiction often catches the reader by surprise. The lieutenant in charge of Louis' Musketeers (and yes, there really were Musketeers) is Charles D'Artagnan. The fictional hero of Dumas' tales is based on the factual man who led Louis XIV's personal guard detail. While the novel takes place over a mere six month span, it attempts two sweeping arcs. One is a personal story, as Louis, married to a Spanish princess entirely too much like his mother, falls hopelessly in love first with his sparkling sister-in-law, and then with one of her ladies-in-waiting. The second story is more complex, and much more intriguing. It is an attempt to describe the maneuvering that might have taken place to bring the complete reins of power into Louis' hands. And in the middle of the personal intrigues and the financial and ministerial machinations, the author introduced the story of the boy in the iron mask. Verdict: The best way to describe this book is that the story is dense. There is so much going on, and the author tried very hard, perhaps too hard, to make everything fit into the historic events, instead of just telling a story. As a consequence, it felt as if I got bogged down in the names and details, because there seemed to be a need to fit everyone in, and not every single one of the characters was necessary for telling the story. They were there in history, but they didn't forward the plot of the novel. Before Versailles might have worked better if it had focused on just the love story, or just the political potboiler, instead of trying to fit everything into a single book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jean V. Naggar Literary

    Houston Chronicle picked BEFORE VERSAILLES for their 2011 Texas Titles List! “Rich with detail and action...History tells us Louis took mistresses and became the textbook example of an absolute monarch, but getting there is marvelous great fun...With a handsome ruler as charismatic as Britain’s Henry Tudor, this focused retelling of the emergence of the Sun King will attract fans of the English king as well as Francophiles.” --Library Journal, starred review, named one of Best Historical Fiction Houston Chronicle picked BEFORE VERSAILLES for their 2011 Texas Titles List! “Rich with detail and action...History tells us Louis took mistresses and became the textbook example of an absolute monarch, but getting there is marvelous great fun...With a handsome ruler as charismatic as Britain’s Henry Tudor, this focused retelling of the emergence of the Sun King will attract fans of the English king as well as Francophiles.” --Library Journal, starred review, named one of Best Historical Fiction Books for 2011 “Before Versailles is a feast for the senses. Readers will be swept back to the 1660’s. The atmosphere is electrifying, the liaisons are exhilarating, and the conversations and friendships are endlessly entertaining. I was absorbed into the story on page one and couldn’t put it down. I found myself skimming ahead just to see what happened next as well as researching online to see what happened to the characters in real life!” --San Francisco Book Review “Following solidly in the footsteps of Dumas, Koen reveals independent-spirited Louise to be a modern heroine in period costume...[Koen] finds the era ripe for intrigue and romance, not to mention possible sequels.” --Publishers Weekly “Period detail and costumes abound throughout this lively royal romp.” --Booklist “Koen has created an intricately researched novel with brilliantly written historical figures...In the midst of tawdry affairs and political turmoil, Before Versailles delivers a beautifully written romance. --BookLoons.com “I absolutely adored the ending.” --Burton Book Review Blog “In this magnificently written and researched novel, Karleen Koen brings to vibrant life the early years and loves of the future Sun King.” --Jean M. Auel, New York Times bestselling author of The Clan of the Cave Bear and The Land of Painted Caves "Before Versailles captivated me from start to finish! With exquisite finesse, Karleen Koen weaves history and myth into a sumptuous portrait of young Louis XIV, his intrigue-laden court, and the passionate, ambitious, often dangerous women who loved him." --C.W. Gortner, author of The Confessions of Catherine de Medici “A cornucopia spilling over with intrigue, passion, jealousy, ambition, and rich historical detail, Before Versailles offers a glittering glimpse of the crucial months that shaped Louis XIV into Europe's most powerful monarch.” --Eleanor Herman, author of Mistress of the Vatican “Before Versailles presents a grand yet intimate glimpse into the lifestyles of the rich and royal at the court of the young, virile King Louis XIV. Words to describe the cast of characters cannot do them justice: moral yet decadent; powerful yet endangered; larger than life yet completely human. But there is an apt word to describe Karleen Koen's latest novel: Brilliant!” --Karen Harper, author of The Irish Princess

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lucy

    I especiallly love this period of French history and with Louis XIV as my absolute favourite king, it was easy for me to dive head first into Before Versailles. First of all let me say that the research in this book must have been of the most meticulous! The juicy parts and descriptions that entail mystery and kept me fascinated were impeccable in accuracy. I loved reading about palace life and the very details of day to day- the glamour, the splendour of this time- truly sweeps you off your fee I especiallly love this period of French history and with Louis XIV as my absolute favourite king, it was easy for me to dive head first into Before Versailles. First of all let me say that the research in this book must have been of the most meticulous! The juicy parts and descriptions that entail mystery and kept me fascinated were impeccable in accuracy. I loved reading about palace life and the very details of day to day- the glamour, the splendour of this time- truly sweeps you off your feet. Koen is master at doing this in Before Versailles. Having read loads of history on this fabulous king, I must say that such a detailed look at the period and events in his life (taking place over only a few months!)- was practically like having been there myself-true indulgence! So much detail (history buffs and lovers of all that is French will be in heaven:) There is so much to this book; an iron-masked boy; mystery, intrigue and somewhat of a love triangle. About that- there’s just something I had a little trouble with; Henriette’s character portrayal. Let’s just say that I’m more used to reading about her kindness and some frivolity- yes of course...but for the most part she is the darling of this period. It's really her husband that history rather portrays as being the all-around awful one with a deceiving and warped mind along with kinky male preferences. So I had some adjusting to do when it came to reading of Henriette as a little on the scandalous side. But since the book is so well researched, I will attribute this all-time party girl portrayal on the fact that the story takes place in such a brief time span. I should also mention that there were most tender and very touching moments where I got teary more than once.. So, not only is this book an absolute extravaganza into French history in all of its glory, the other thing that is for sure; Before Versailles has made me fall in love with Louis XIV even more! Awhile back I read Koen’s: Dark Angels and was absolutely enthralled by it- Well- apparently Before Versailles is its prequel. So, if you can, try to read both of these (I’m going to reread Dark Angels again for sure!) Talk about a mega dose of delicious Louis XIV. Excellent!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne

    "Her face was lovely, flushed, incandescent - the way it could be when she was this happy and carefree. Her name was Louise de la Baume le Blanc, and she was just on the cusp of ten and six, and she had no idea of it, but her life was about to change forever as certain stars finished their alignment." Karleen Koen's latest novel takes us back to the days of a young Louis XIV of France, later considered the country's great monarch. The sun shone on France during his rule - he encouraged the arts, "Her face was lovely, flushed, incandescent - the way it could be when she was this happy and carefree. Her name was Louise de la Baume le Blanc, and she was just on the cusp of ten and six, and she had no idea of it, but her life was about to change forever as certain stars finished their alignment." Karleen Koen's latest novel takes us back to the days of a young Louis XIV of France, later considered the country's great monarch. The sun shone on France during his rule - he encouraged the arts, architecture, science and commerce. Everything he touched seemed to sparkle - thus Louis XIV was called the Sun King. What shaped this young king to become a great ruler? Koen takes history and also weaves within it a bit of the unknown. The result is a wonderful tale of love, conspiracy and intrigue. It's no secret that I'm a fan of Karleen Koen. I've enjoyed her past novels and Before Versailles was every bit as good. The heroine, Louise de la Baume le Blanc, is a young lady in waiting in the household of the King's sister-in-law. Louise was a real-life person, who eventually became the King's mistress and mother to many of his children. The one thing I loved about this book was how many areas caught my interest and I found myself reading further background information about the characters and the events. For instance, the man in the iron mask becomes an integral part of this novel. I wondered whether Koen was integrating the Alexander Dumas story into her own. Upon researching further, I found that there was evidence of a man imprisoned with a mask, and he was actually mentioned in a letter from Louise's mistress, Henriette. There has been much speculation about the identity of this man, and the beauty of historical fiction is that the author has the freedom to lend her own interpretation here. I realize some readers are offended when authors take license with the unknown, but Koen weaves a tale that is not only plausible, it is exciting. Many thanks to Crown Publishing, for sending me a review copy! I loved Before Versailles and highly recommend it. It's definitely a must read for lovers of historical fiction.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Deborah Sloan

    Capturing the court of King Louis XIV in it's entirety is no easy task, but Karleen Koen and Crown Press Publishers have done just that including all the court intrigues whispered about for centuries in just 4 short months of his reign as a young King. Before the greatness of Versailles was established. What could inspire this King and his court to such building extremes and opulence. A young king just beginning to find himself, to understand power and the responsibility his position requires. Wi Capturing the court of King Louis XIV in it's entirety is no easy task, but Karleen Koen and Crown Press Publishers have done just that including all the court intrigues whispered about for centuries in just 4 short months of his reign as a young King. Before the greatness of Versailles was established. What could inspire this King and his court to such building extremes and opulence. A young king just beginning to find himself, to understand power and the responsibility his position requires. With a Queen mother, a Queen wife, a Prince brother and his wife, courtesans, musketeers, a powerful Viscount collecting everyone's secrets and due favors for his own purposes, a young boy secreted away in a mask and hidden from him for years; it's enough to make a young king seek solace where he can find it. Solace comes when the king finds a love of innocence without the need of requiring favors as all others in his court asked of him. Of course every Monarchy has it's hidden secrets among those in court, but finding the person who is sending King Louis vile threatening notes is foremost in his mind. Who of all those that surround him can a king truly trust? As an avid reader and one who loves history I found reading Before Versailles by Karleen Koen a virtual imagery come to mind while reading each detail. I could picture the countryside as full of light and life as if I were there, and the opulence of fabrics detailed as if I could reach out and touch them. Still it's the passions of the people of France that I am most drawn to understand. I highly recommend reading Before Versailles by Karleen Koen at your first opportunity. Available June 28, 2011 at a bookstore near you or online. Review Copy provided for review purposes. All opinions are those of Baba's Farm Life.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Audra (Unabridged Chick)

    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, b 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!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Scandal, drama and intrigue; those are the main three elements of Before Versailles. It had some mystery to it as well and I love mysteries so I really liked the mystery element of Before Versailles. I thought that Before Versailles was really interesting as I didn’t know much about King Louis XIV or French history so now I feel a lot more knowledgeable on the subject. I like reading historical novels that are set in reality for that reason. It’s based in truth so I like to read through and searc Scandal, drama and intrigue; those are the main three elements of Before Versailles. It had some mystery to it as well and I love mysteries so I really liked the mystery element of Before Versailles. I thought that Before Versailles was really interesting as I didn’t know much about King Louis XIV or French history so now I feel a lot more knowledgeable on the subject. I like reading historical novels that are set in reality for that reason. It’s based in truth so I like to read through and search bits on the internet to learn a bit more about the time and the people. Before Versailles wasn’t really what I had expected. I’m not sure what I expected it to be but it was definitely very interesting. There was so much going on in Before Versailles that there was barely ever a dull moment. There were so many colourful characters that I had strong feelings about quite a few of them. In other words, some were really likeable and then some were definitely bad. I did have a few favourites. I definitely liked Louise, she just seemed very sweet and down to earth which is the kind of character I like. Before Versailles provides some very interesting insight into Louis XIV for a few months of his life; as well as a few other prominent people at the time. If you like French history and are looking for something with a bit of drama and a lot of scandal then I think you will enjoy Before Versailles.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Patty

    Most history buffs know of Louis XIV. His reign shines through French history for his control of the throne and his love of art. This book tells the tale of his beginnings; before he became known as The Sun King. It covers only 4 months of his life - the first four months of his reign before he converted Versailles to the magnificent palace it is today. He is coming into himself as a king and as a leader of men. His mentor Cardinal Mazarin has died and his brother has just married a woman who has Most history buffs know of Louis XIV. His reign shines through French history for his control of the throne and his love of art. This book tells the tale of his beginnings; before he became known as The Sun King. It covers only 4 months of his life - the first four months of his reign before he converted Versailles to the magnificent palace it is today. He is coming into himself as a king and as a leader of men. His mentor Cardinal Mazarin has died and his brother has just married a woman who has enthralled the court. Louis finds himself a bit enthralled as well. It was very interesting to read a story of Louis before he came into his own. Ms. Koen writes a tale that brings us into a young king's life as he tries to learn whom to trust. Her writing brings the court to life. The characters were fully realized and I find myself still thinking about them a week after I finished the book. I researched the main players and Ms. Koen did not stray from established history but there is nothing dusty or old in her telling. We feel the love and lust of young King Louis as he first falls for his sister in law and then for her maid of Honor Louise. We feel his uncertainty as he matches wits with the powerful Viscount Nicolas, the finance minister who seems to have connections to everyone at court. This book covers a short period in history but it tells a dramatic and fascinating story.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Annette

    This story of Louis XIV, one of the greatest monarchs of Europe, who led France to its glory and made it a cultural inspiration, is concentrated on four months of his life between May 1661 and September 1661. It is set at the palace of Fontainebleau, when the prime minister, Cardinal Mazarin, dies and a twenty-two year-old Louis steps into governing France. During this short period of time, three main plots take place: a love affair with his brother’s wife, appearance of a boy in an iron mask, a This story of Louis XIV, one of the greatest monarchs of Europe, who led France to its glory and made it a cultural inspiration, is concentrated on four months of his life between May 1661 and September 1661. It is set at the palace of Fontainebleau, when the prime minister, Cardinal Mazarin, dies and a twenty-two year-old Louis steps into governing France. During this short period of time, three main plots take place: a love affair with his brother’s wife, appearance of a boy in an iron mask, and scheming of king’s finance minister, Nicolas Fouquet. The story is an explosion of many characters and events. It is quite overwhelming. I didn't care about every move or breath that was made or taken at the court or the story of every lady-in-waiting. I’d rather have more to the story in terms of linear way (longer period of time) than around it (short period and lots involving it). The four-month story on 458 pages doesn’t have much essence. There is a lot of swish and wish of young ladies. Nevertheless, some tiny parts were interesting, but most of them were quite drawn out and boring. As a result this story didn’t hold together for me. I was so looking forward to reading about one of the most interesting characters of French history. Unfortunately, I’m very disappointed not only by the fact that the author choice such a short period, but also by her style of writing. It is very boring.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kimber

    From the time of his grandfather, Louis XVI's France has been ruled by incredibly powerful men. Men who are not the King. Cardinal Richelieu had the spiritual well-being, as well as the national treasury, tightly held in his crimson velvet-clad fist. His protégé, Cardinal Mazarin, followed in his mentor's footprints in all but one thing. This particular cardinal had the love of the Queen. Now Mazarin has died, the Dowager Queen Regent is devastated and Louis, the Fourteenth of his name, has a ch From the time of his grandfather, Louis XVI's France has been ruled by incredibly powerful men. Men who are not the King. Cardinal Richelieu had the spiritual well-being, as well as the national treasury, tightly held in his crimson velvet-clad fist. His protégé, Cardinal Mazarin, followed in his mentor's footprints in all but one thing. This particular cardinal had the love of the Queen. Now Mazarin has died, the Dowager Queen Regent is devastated and Louis, the Fourteenth of his name, has a chance to have everything he ever wanted - absolute power, great respect and true love. The only people standing in his way are the Viscount Nicholas (who plans to take over for Mazarin), his emotional, weakling of a brother and his own, timid Queen. This is the story of the four months after Mazarin's death. Four months where Louis must either give in to his physical longing for his brother's wife and the pressure from Viscount Nicholas to make his life easier and letting the man rule his kingdom, or standing up, trusting a select few and establishing an absolute monarchy that would be the envy of every other country in the realm. Did I mention that there have been sightings of a Man in an Iron Mask close to Fontainebleau?

  30. 4 out of 5

    Daenel

    I remember taking French History when I was in college and being totally smitten with the story of Louis XIV, there was just so much decadence. Have you seen pictures of Versailles? The pompadours and powders, oui! And, dude, what was up with the man in the iron mask? That’s probably one of the most enduring legends from the reign of Louis XIV and still there are no definitive answers about the who or why… Meticulously researched, this book has everything ~ mystery, intrigue, romance, lust, polit I remember taking French History when I was in college and being totally smitten with the story of Louis XIV, there was just so much decadence. Have you seen pictures of Versailles? The pompadours and powders, oui! And, dude, what was up with the man in the iron mask? That’s probably one of the most enduring legends from the reign of Louis XIV and still there are no definitive answers about the who or why… Meticulously researched, this book has everything ~ mystery, intrigue, romance, lust, politics ~ too bad I couldn’t keep it all straight. The cast of characters is way too large and, even with the guide at the front of the book, it was hard to keep track of who did what with whom and how they were related to the king. But I don’t necessarily fault Koen, I think the confusion is probably reminiscent of the confusion of the court itself. Seriously, during a time when even your own brother may be plotting against you, how can there not be a bit of discombobulation? I’d recommend this book for someone who has a decent grasp of French history or is at least more than casually familiar with the story of the Sun King. As for me, I simply couldn’t get in to this book.

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