The Wardrobe Mistress is a historical fiction about a sixteen-year-old undertirewoman who works for Marie Antoinette. I was excited about the concept since this period of French history is fascinating with how it’s full of intrigue and excitement. I mean come on, there are riots, guillotines, and sweeping historical change. This wasn’t one of my favorite historical reads of the year, but it was decent. I’d give this 3.5 stars and recommend it to fans of French Revolution stories. Below I will explain what didn’t work in this book for me. However, after reading this book I’m thirsting for more stories about the time period, so give me recommendations if you have any.
Here’s the description of the book:
It’s Giselle Aubry’s first time at court in Versailles. At sixteen, she is one of Marie Antoinette’s newest undertirewomen, and in awe of the glamorous queen and her opulent palace life. A budding designer, it’s a dream come true to work with the beautiful fabrics and jewels in the queen’s wardrobe. But every few weeks she returns home to visit her family in the Parisian countryside where rumors of revolution are growing stronger.
From her position working in the royal household, Giselle is poised to see both sides of the revolutionary tensions erupting throughout Paris. When her uncle, a retired member of the secret du roi, a spy ring that worked for the old King, Louis XV, suggests that she casually report the Queen s actions back to him as a game, she leaps at the chance. Spying seems like an adventure and an exciting way to privately support the revolution taking the countryside by storm. She also enjoys using her insight from Versailles in lively debates with Leon Gauvain, the handsome and idealistic revolutionary who courts her.
But as the revolution continues to gain momentum, and Giselle grows closer to the Queen, becoming one of the few trusted servants, she finds herself dangerously torn. Violence is escalating; she must choose where her loyalty truly lies, or risk losing everything…maybe even her head.
This book ended up being very different from what I expected. Giselle is middle class and isn’t as touched by the revolution as the poor. In fact in the beginning she finds the queen beautiful and imitates her mannerisms even though no one else likes Marie Antoinette. With it being a novel about Marie, I expected her to get more screen time and to get a deeper look into her decisions. I was disappointed with how shallow the exploration of the queen was. Giselle loves to describe the queen’s appearance, but I wanted to look deeper into her character.
As I said before there is a lot of excitement during this revolution, and unfortunately it felt like a lot of it happened off screen, including the storming of the Bastille. A lot of events were explained to Giselle instead of readers experiencing them through Giselle. If I didn’t already know about the historical events, I would have failed to grasp how important they were with the way the book presented them. Giselle kept mentioning how she is seeing history in the making, which felt like a weak way of trying to explain how important the events were.
The plot of the queen trying to escape Paris then returning as the revolution continued felt like the plot points got put on hold once Giselle’s romance struggles started. To me I wasn’t fond of the romance in this book. It felt forced as did the break up. Her spying for her uncle felt like it was only there to explain what everything could mean and bored me. Once Giselle left the queen’s employ, I found my interest disappearing fast.
There aren’t enough historicals with young adult characters out there, but if you are looking for a book for a teen this could be a good choice if the teen is into this period of French history. With that said, those who already know the historical events will likely appreciate it more than those new to the history. Really I’d only recommend this as a read to those who love reading about Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution.