by Chantal Thomas
Page Count: 336
How got: free copy from NetGalley for review
Why read: interesting time period and the subject of children used as marriage pawns in international politics
Philippe d’Orléans, the regent of France, has a gangrenous heart–the result of a life of debauchery, alcohol, power, and flattery. One morning in 1721, he has a brilliant idea to further appease his thirst for power: he decides to marry eleven-year-old Louis the XV to the daughter of Philippe V of Spain, who is only four. This, Orléans hopes, will tie his kingdom to Spain’s. But it could also have a more duplicitous effect: were Louis XV to die without begetting an heir–the likeliness of which is greatly increased by having a child—Orléans himself would finally be king. In exchange, Orléans tosses his own daughter into the bargain, the 12-year-old Mlle de Montpensier, who will marry the Prince of Asturias, the inheritor of the Spanish throne.
The Spanish court enthusiastically agrees and arrangements are quickly made. The two nations trade their princesses in a grand ceremony in 1722, making bonds that should end the historical conflict between them. Of course, nothing turns out as expected. In a novel that reads like a fairy tale, Chantal Thomas chronicles a time in French history when children were not children, but pawns in an adult’s game.
Star Rating - 2 Stars
The author’s careful attention to detail and the amount of research she did is very evident right off the bat. The lush descriptions of Georgian court life and the extravagant world of the nobility comes to vivid reality. I could almost hear the rustle of silk and clink of jewels in real life.
I really enjoyed the subject matter explored in the book. Not only the lives of royals in the Georgian era, always a fascinating subject of historical fiction lovers. The way that royal children were utilized as commodities to obtain peace and power was also an enthralling subject. The author does a great job of making the reader feel for these youngsters as they’re thrust into a world they’re not prepared for and roles that seem daunting.
Yet, I think this book has a severe identity crisis that kills the work overall. At times this book would read as a historical fiction and at others it would read as a non-fiction. Alternately, the reader would get into the character’s heads and explore their motivations. And then the next paragraph we would be given dates, facts, and figures interspersed with snatches of primary material. More than once I was thrown from the narrative as we flip flopped from book style to book style so that by the end, I just really wanted the book to be over with.
So while there is some interesting material explored within and in vibrant, life-like detail, this book ultimately fails for me as its flipping between book styles. I actually finished the book in disgust, wishing it would make up its mind on fiction or non-fiction. So maybe read if you’re really hard up for reading material, but I wouldn't go out of your way to find this one.
Note: Book received for free from publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.