Guest Reviewer: Jean M. Auel on Before Versailles Jean M. Auel is an international phenomenon. Her
Earth's Children® series has sold more than 45 million copies worldwide and includes The Clan of the Cave Bear
, The Valley of Horses
, The Mammoth Hunters
, The Plains of Passage
, The Shelters of Stone, and The Land of Painted Caves. Her extensive research has earned her the respect of archaeologists and anthropologists around the world. She has honorary degrees from four universities and was honored by the French government's Ministry of Culture with the medal of an "Officer in the Order of Arts and Letters." She lives with her husband, Ray, in Oregon.
I’ve enjoyed Karleen Koen’s writing since I first read Through a Glass Darkly many years ago, so I was delighted to have the chance to read her latest, Before Versailles. Louis XIV is a fascinating monarch and Koen has rendered him perfectly in these pages: he’s smart, dashing, cunning, manipulative--everything one expects from a King, even one as young as twenty-two. Koen has wisely chosen a few months in 1661 during the early reign of Louis in which to tell this story; these are perhaps the most decisive months of his monarchy and she shows opposing forces pulling him in many directions as he makes his decisions, as well as his reasons for making them. I was intrigued by the lives of the women closest to him: Louise de la Baume le Blanc, the young beauty who is just learning the ways of the court when she is seduced by the King, and the gorgeous Princess Henriette, Louis’s brother’s wife who loves the taste of danger and isn’t above flirting (perhaps a bit too much!) with the receptive King. I loved reading about Louis’s mother--the lover of Louis’s former advisor Cardinal Mazarin--a profound influence in his political decisions. Karleen Koen leaves us wondering if she can be trusted? Koen also dramatically weaves in a scary and mysterious subplot involving a boy in an iron mask, a poor child who could ruin everything for the young and virile King.
Lush descriptions jump off the page and into the imagination and by the time you’ve finished, you’ll feel you’ve lived a few intimate months with these vivid characters. If you’ve not yet visited the chateau de Fontainebleau or seen the magnificent gardens of Versailles you’ll be planning your own tour de France soon after reading the last page, inspired by Karleen Koen's fascinating research and intriguing exploration of the young Louis and his entourage. I strongly encourage you to read Koen’s latest, Before Versailles.
Vive la France!
Jean M. Auel
"In this magnificently written and researched novel, Karleen Koen brings to vibrant life the early years and loves of the future Sun King."--Jean M. Auel author of The Clan of the Cave Bear
& The Land of Painted Caves
"A baroque cornucopia spilling over with intrigue, passion, jealousy, ambition, and rich historical detail, Before Versailles
offers a glittering glimpse of the crucial months that shaped Louis XIV into Europe's most powerful monarch."--Eleanor Herman, author of Sex with Kings
presents a grand yet intimate glimpse into the lifestyles of the rich and royal at the court of the young, virile King Louis XIV. Words to describe the cast of characters cannot do them justice: moral yet decadent; powerful yet endangered; larger than life yet completely human. But there is an apt word to describe Karleen Koen's latest novel: Brilliant!"--Karen Harper, author of The Irish Princess
captivated me from start to finish! With exquisite finesse, Karleen Koen weaves history and myth into a sumptuous portrait of young Louis XIV, his intrigue-laden court, and the passionate, ambitious, often dangerous women who loved him."--C.W. Gortner, author of The Last Queen
and The Confessions of Catherine de Medici
"Following solidly in the footsteps of Dumas, Koen (Dark Angels
) reveals independent-spirited Louise to be a modern heroine in period costume, and, with her focus on the time just before Louis becomes the unrivaled Sun King, she finds the era ripe for intrigue and romance, not to mention possible sequels."—Publishers Weekly
"[T]his is a powerful, rich telling of a few months in the life of King Louis XIV. How clever to pick these particular months when so much is changed. . . . It's enthralling, fascinating and wonderful story telling. Karleen Koen does it again. Can't go wrong reading anything of hers. Bravo!"—Romance Reviews
"Rich with detail and action..."--Library Journal,