Saturday, April 1, 2017

Review: The Enemies of Versailles by Sally Christie

The Enemies of Versailles (The Mistresses of Versailles Trilogy, Book #3)
by Sally Christie
Release Date: March 21st 2017
2017 Atria Books
Kindle Edition; 416 Pages
ISBN: 978-1501103025
Genre: Fiction / Historical
Source: Review copy from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

3.5 / 5 Stars

Jeanne Becu, a woman of astounding beauty but humble birth, works her way from the grimy back streets of Paris to the palace of Versailles, where the aging King Louis XV has become a jaded and bitter old philanderer. Jeanne bursts into his life and, as the Comtesse du Barry, quickly becomes his official mistress.

After decades suffering the King's endless stream of Royal Favorites, the princesses of the Court have reached a breaking point. Horrified that he would bring the lowborn Comtesse du Barry into the hallowed halls of Versailles, Louis XV’s daughters, led by the indomitable Madame Adelaide, vow eternal enmity and enlist the young dauphiness Marie Antoinette in their fight against the new mistress. But as tensions rise and the French Revolution draws closer, a prostitute in the palace soon becomes the least of the nobility’s concerns.

My Thoughts
The Enemies of Versailles is the third book in The Mistresses of Versailles trilogy, and to be honest, it is my least favourite of the three books.  I did enjoy it however, but having enjoyed the first two in the trilogy so much, I just felt like there was something lacking in this one, although I still can't quite put my finger on what exactly it is; the writing was still superb, the characters were interesting, and the lead-up to the Revolution was fascinating.  Yet, there was still something missing.

 In the first two books of the series, there was an edge to the writing that made the stories more intense; as lovers to the King, the women were constantly fighting to keep him interested as well as fighting the bevy of courtiers who were trying to convince him to send them away.  I found this constant fighting and the ensuing disruption of politics to be quite fascinating; the intrigues, the politics, the infighting, the betrayals, and the constantly changing loyalties kept things so interesting.  And the scandals, told from the perspective of the women, were very suspenseful. I have a lot of knowledge of this time-period, and couldn't help but be impressed with the author's meticulous research and descriptions that were included throughout the stories.  In the third installment, the research was there as were the amazing descriptions, but it was the story that I think faltered a bit. Du Barry was a kind woman who used her wiles and charm at court, but wasn't interested in politics in the slightest.  Her main enemies were the daughters of the King and Marie-Antoinette, influenced by the daughters.  For whatever reason, the dispute between them lacked the same tension that was in previous books and seemed more childish and selfish rather than seeped in politics and intrigue - and much more boring to read about.  

The story was told in two different points of view, du Barry's and the King's daughter Adelaide, a person I rather disliked which made reading the story a bit more difficult.  There is only so many times you can read about her being a King's Daughter and that she should be above everyone before it gets rather old. I get that she considers herself important and why, but her constant internal dialogue about her self-importance made her seem petulant and selfish, not appealing at all.  She did change quite a bit towards the end of the book as her world crumbled around her, and I do admire her fortitude in surviving as she did so I definitely liked her a lot more towards the end - wish I had seen more of her personality earlier on rather than her grumbling.  Du Barry's chapters were more fun to read, but really lacked intrigue and suspense, unlike those of the Pompadour and the Nesle sisters, which were full of tension and suspense.  There were definitely some interesting historical events that were great to read about from du Barry's perspective, for example, the King's illness and death, but I would have preferred the tension and the betrayals.  

I did find it interesting to read about Marie-Antoinette as a secondary character and how du Barry and the daughters fought constantly for her loyalty and her sympathy.  That she was used as a tool in many an intrigue and faction is no secret, and you can't help but feel sorry for her, especially knowing what was going to happen to her.  I liked how she matured from child to woman, and helped those when things really went sour for her and her family - she was a tough woman, and I thought the author portrayed her character quite well.  To be honest, I am really hoping this author will write about her as she has a way of making historical characters come alive.  

The Enemies of Versailles as an okay book to read, but I really, really enjoyed the first two books in the series more than this one.  I thought it lacked the tension, intrigue, and suspense of her previous books, and I wasn't crazy about Adelaide or even about du Barry at times; I just didn't empathize with the characters as much in this one, and knowing most of them would die by the Guillotine, I should have been more sympathetic. But the author has a way of writing that makes you feel you are right there, and I could visualize myself at Versailles along with the characters.  Her descriptions of the time period are so vivid and I really enjoy them, something which shows the incredible amount of research she would have had to do for this trilogy.  I would love to see her tackle Marie-Antoinette's story next, or even Louis XIV, or Catherine de Medici.  But whatever she writes, I will read.  For anyone interested in this trilogy, although I would recommend starting with the first book, all three are stand-alones, so you could read this one first if you wished.