Saturday, June 16, 2012

Before Versailles, by Karleen Koen

Karleen Koen is to King Louis XIV what Philippa Gregory is to King Henry VIII. I found Koen to be a masterful storyteller, equal in all ways to Gregory, from her compelling plot full of twists and dark secrets, to the realistic characters that break your heart.

We meet Louis at age twenty-two, his young wife, a Spanish princess, newly pregnant with his future heir, both of them pure-hearted and not yet tarnished with scandal. During the four months depicted in the novel, Louis is tested at every front by his family, his friends, his enemies, and his heart. Among those at court, Louise is the lady of the king's brother's wife, and unlike most others, lacks ambition. Discarded by her family and with nothing but tender memories of her father teaching her to ride horseback, she has a talent for helping animals and hurt children. She unwittingly beguiles the king when, unsure of what else to do, she tells him of having stumbled upon, while out riding, a boy in an iron mask hidden away by monks who call the boy "your highness."

As I read the novel, I longed to be the goodhearted and beautiful Louise who attracts the King's heart and helps him uncover the mystery of the masked boy at a time when his kingdom is in great peril. I'm so sad the story is over and can't wait to read another book by this author!

I highly recommend this novel.