Review: The Shadows of Versailles by Cathie Dunn

Dazzled by Versailles. Broken by tragedy. Consumed by revenge.

When Fleur de La Fontaine attends the court of King Louis XIV for the first time, she is soon besotted with handsome courtier, Philippe de Mortain. She dreams of married life away from her uncaring mother, but Philippe keeps a secret from her.

Nine months later, after the boy she has given birth to in a convent is whisked away, she flees to Paris where she mends gowns in the brothel of Madame Claudette, a woman who helps ‘fallen’ girls back on their feet.

Jacques de Montagnac investigates a spate of abducted children when his path crosses Fleur’s. He searches for her son, but the trail leads to a dead end – and a dreadful realisation.

Her boy’s suspected fate too much to bear, Fleur decides to avenge him. She visits the famous midwife, La Voisin, but it’s not the woman’s skills in childbirth that Fleur seeks.

La Voisin dabbles in poisons.

Will Fleur see her plan through? Or can she save herself from a tragic fate?

Delve into The Shadows of Versailles and enter the sinister world of potions, poisoners and black masses during the Affairs of the Poisons, a real event that stunned the court of the Sun King!

My Review

Anyone who has read about the court of Louis XIV knows it was a superficial, flashy, intense environment. Competition was fierce, the reward a nod from the king. Or who knows? This is the world our protagonist Fleur was thrust into by her acquisitive mother who hoped to marry her off. Instead she fell victim to that age-old seduction scheme with the inevitable consequences. Horrified, her mother sent her off to a convent to give birth, where the child was whisked away to whatever fate was arranged for it. Not a pretty future for baby or mother. But there was more to this unfortunate state of affairs than meets the eye. In this age of wickedness, black magic and poisons were the favorite playthings of many wealthy aristocrats, and Fleur found herself attracted to this alternative world. Enter Jacques, a dedicated operative with the French police, assigned to breaking up the underground racket of child-stealing and black masses. He saved Fleur from her mother’s plots and hid her among his prostitute friends, but he couldn’t save her from herself:

“You are seeking revenge, and you shall have it,” Marguerite said, her hand on Fleur’s. “Marianne is well-connected – much better than myself. She is a daughter of the famous Mancini family, a niece to the late cardinal. She will have ideas to help you. She is Italian!” The marquise nodded nonchalantly, her gaze meeting Fleur’s.

“Ah, so she is.” Fleur took a deep breath. She understood. And if that meant crossing Jacques’ path in the murky alleys of Saint Denis, so be it. She would deal with him. Revenge was more important than anything, even than friendship. She pressed Marguerite’s fingers gently. “I shall be fine.”

It was all so simple! No one saw anything wrong with seeking revenge and even murder; apparently it was all the rage. Fleur proved quite adept at this upper level of society, whose members were willing to help her because it amused them to do so. Could her revenge really be so tidy? I admit there were times in this novel I needed to suspend my disbelief, though overall the story was fun to read and it moved along quickly and effortlessly.

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Meet Cathie Dunn

Cathie Dunn writes historical fiction, mystery, and romance.

Cathie has been writing for over twenty years. She studied Creative Writing, with a focus on novel writing, which she now teaches in the south of France. She loves researching for her novels, delving into history books, and visiting castles and historic sites. Her stories have garnered awards and praise from reviewers and readers for their authentic description of the past.

Cathie is a member of the Historical Novel Society and the Alliance of Independent Authors.

After nearly two decades in Scotland, she now lives in the historic city of Carcassonne in the south of France with her husband, two cats and a rescue dog.

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