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Reviewed by Vera Pereskokova
In The Enemies of Versailles, the conclusion to The Mistresses of Versailles trilogy, Louis XV’s wife and mistress – Marie Leszczyńska and Madame de Pompadour – have both passed away and the aging King is swept away by the stunningly beautiful Jeanne Becu. Jeanne is young and vivacious and the perfect antidote to the King who is beginning to feel the weight of his years. Unfortunately, her official name, Comtesse du Barry, a product of a convenient and quickly arranged marriage, is just a cover for her humble beginnings–beginnings that the entire Court is all too aware of. Raised by a single mother, Jeanne always desired the finer things in life and those desires led her into a life of prostitution at a young age. And while Madame de Pompadour – despised by many at Versailles – was many things, she was no prostitute.
The King’s unmarried daughters, and Madame Adelaide in particular, are fed up with their father’s lecherous way and determine to do everything in their power to get rid of their father’s new paramour. Virginal and devout, the princesses’ ways are not particularly grounded in reality, but they do manage – at least initially – to enlist the help of their nephew’s new wife and future Queen of France, Marie Antoinette. But with public discontent growing and the French Revolution quickly approaching, everyone at Versailles soon has much bigger things to worry about…
I’ve read both The Sisters of Versailles (about the Nelse sisters) and The Rivals of Versailles (about Madame de Pompadour) but I must say that The Enemies is by far my favorite installment in this series. And while Sally Christie does bring back some familiar faces in The Enemies, it easily stands alone–as do the first two books.
While The Enemies was full of the intrigue and gossip I’ve come to expect after reading The Sisters and The Rivals, there were also more political undertones and indirect social commentary given the proximity of the events to the French Revolution. It was fascinating to read about the complete lack of understanding the French Royalty and nobles had about the lives of anyone beyond their immediate circles. For example, to raise funds, most looked to levying additional taxes on the common people – who already had little to nothing left – instead of imposing any taxes on the wealthy. And most expressed disgust at the presence of a prostitute in their midst but did not stop to consider that for some women, there were no other avenues available. These attitudes definitely made me understand the inevitability of the French Revolution.
What I love about Sally Christie is her ability to write historical fiction that is grounded in facts yet extremely fun to read. The Enemies was a book I could enjoy for its historical value but also a guilty pleasure I could easily lose myself in on a beach. I can’t wait to see what Christie comes up with next!
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Atria Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.