Time for some historical fiction recommendations. The topic we are focusing on today is fiction surrounding King Louis XIV of France, also known as the Sun King. Louis is a fascinating historical figure. He’s the king who built Versailles and turned France into a fashion leader as well as many other achievements. There’s even a show called Versailles that can be found on Netflix about him. Behind every king is sweet juicy drama and with Louis the drama came from all his mistresses. He had several including taking an interest in his sister-in-law for a time. The books I’m recommending focus on his mistresses.
The portrayal of Louis is a little different in each book. Some take the stance that he truly loved his mistresses, while others not so much. Even in nonfiction historians debate on how much he loved the women in his life. At times he comes across as quite the romantic character while at other times it can be easy to hate him with how he treated some of his mistresses.
Now, for the books. the first one I have to recommend comes early in the king’s life and follows the story of his first love, Marie Mancini. The king also took her sister as his lover before Marie. Enchantress of Paris by Marci Jefferson is one of my favorite books about the court of King Louis.
The alignment of the stars at Marie Mancini’s birth warned that although she would be gifted at divination, she was destined to disgrace her family. Ignoring the dark warnings of his sister and astrologers, Cardinal Mazarin brings his niece to the French court, where the forbidden occult arts thrive in secret. In France, Marie learns her uncle has become the power behind the throne by using her sister Olympia to hold the Sun King, Louis XIV, in thrall.
Desperate to avoid her mother’s dying wish that she spend her life in a convent, Marie burns her grimoire, trading Italian superstitions for polite sophistication. But as her star rises, King Louis becomes enchanted by Marie’s charm. Sensing a chance to grasp even greater glory, Cardinal Mazarin pits the sisters against each other, showering Marie with diamonds and silks in exchange for bending King Louis to his will.
Disgusted by Mazarin’s ruthlessness, Marie rebels. She sacrifices everything, but exposing Mazarin’s deepest secret threatens to tear France apart. When even King Louis’s love fails to protect Marie, she must summon her forbidden powers of divination to shield her family, protect France, and help the Sun King fulfill his destiny.
The next book follows the story of a woman who almost became Louis’s mistress then became King Charles II’s mistress instead. This is another book by Marci Jefferson.
Impoverished and exiled to the French countryside after the overthrow of the English Crown, Frances Stuart survives merely by her blood-relation to the Stuart Royals. But in 1660, the Restoration of Stuart Monarchy in England returns her family to favor. Frances discards threadbare gowns and springs to gilded Fontainebleau Palace, where she soon catches King Louis XIV’s eye. But Frances is no ordinary court beauty, she has Stuart secrets to keep and people to protect. The king turns vengeful when she rejects his offer to become his Official Mistress. He banishes her to England with orders to seduce King Charles II and stop a war.
Armed in pearls and silk, Frances maneuvers through the political turbulence of Whitehall Palace, but still can’t afford to stir a scandal. Her tactic to inspire King Charles to greatness captivates him. He believes her love can make him an honest man and even chooses Frances to pose as Britannia for England’s coins. Frances survives the Great Fire, the Great Plague, and the debauchery of the Restoration Court, yet loses her heart to the very king she must control. Until she is forced to choose between love or war.
On the eve of England’s Glorious Revolution, James II forces Frances to decide whether to remain loyal to her Stuart heritage or, like England, make her stand for Liberty. Her portrait as Britannia is minted on every copper coin. There she remains for generations, an enduring symbol of Britain’s independent spirit and her own struggle for freedom.
And lastly a book about yet a different mistress, Mistress of the Sun by Sandra Gulland. This one is my least favorite out of the group, but a decent read for those interested in Louis’s Mistress Louise La Vallière. An interesting fact about Louise is she lost her position as official mistress to one of her friends. She stayed at court in hopes of regaining her position until she finally left for a convent. Originally she stole the king’s attention away from his sister-in-law. The stallion thread was a little odd for my tastes, but I enjoyed the peek into Louise’s reign as mistress.
Set against the magnificent decadence of the seventeenth-century French court, Mistress of the Sun begins when the eccentric young Louise falls in love with a wild white stallion
and uses ancient dark magic to tame him. This one desperate action of her youth shadows her throughout her life, changing it in ways she could never imagine.
Unmarriageable, and too poor to join a convent, Louise enters the court of the Sun King as a maid of honor, where the King is captivated by her athleticism and her striking grace. As their love unfolds, Louise bears Louis four children, is made a duchess, and reigns unrivaled as his official mistress until dangerous intrigue threatens her position at court, her place in Louis’s heart, and even her life. Louise must decide where she can best find the peace and fulfillment her souls has longed for, and which she has traveled so far to find.
A riveting love story with a captivating mystery at its heart, Mistress of the Sun resurrects a fascinating female figure from the shadows of history and illuminates both the power of true and perfect love and the rash actions we take to capture and tame it.