“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.
4 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2011