Thursday, September 13, 2012

Before Versailles by Karleen Koen

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.

Review:

When you pick up one of Karleen Koen's novels, be prepared to be immersed in rich storytelling, lush descriptions, and enthralling characters. BEFORE VERSAILLES is a novel about the rise of King Louis XIV of France with its decadent court, convoluted routines and traditions, and sumptuous surroundings. 

Behind such a lush backdrop, life is not as easy as it seems. Civil war, ambitious men and women, and malicious dangers lurk in life and death power plays. True life characters such as Anne of Austria and Catherine of Monaco are brought to life with vivid depiction.

At the heart of the story is Louise de la Baume le Blanc who comes to court as a naive, shy maid of honor. Soon, she finds herself embroidered in court intrigues. When she accidently comes across a boy wearing an iron mask, she has no idea that her desire to uncover his identity will set her on a course that will shock the country and upset the royal court.

Rich descriptions of clothing and d├ęcor at the illustrious Fountainbleu provide a vivid feast as the reader progresses through the novel. There is a large cast of characters, and plenty of conflict to hold the reader’s interest. Musketeers, royal and noble persons, cardinals, drama, mystery, and love are blended together in this story of epic proportions that will keep readers highly entertained for hours.