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Mistress of the Revolution Hardcover – March 13, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Against the backdrop of the leadup to the French Revolution, Delors's mostly successful debut follows the life of Gabrielle de Montserrat, a feisty young woman forced by her meddling brother to forsake her commoner true love and marry the Baron de Peyre, a wealthy, older man. The baron is abusive and cruel, but the short-lived marriage produces a daughter before the baron dies. A widowed Gabrielle travels to Paris and enters the heady world of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, where, with a sparse inheritance and the responsibility of a young daughter, Gabrielle becomes the mistress of Count de Villers. Delors shines in her portrayal of the late 18th-century French women's world (she has a rougher time with the men), though the amount of political-historical detail covered overshadows the tragic love story that develops once Gabrielle reunites with her first love, Pierre-André Coffinhal, who is now a lawyer. The appearance of historical figures sometimes comes off awkwardly (as when Gabrielle meets Thomas Jefferson or has a private audience with Robespierre), and the ending is marred by a too-convenient and seemingly tossed-off twist. Nevertheless, the author ably captures the vagaries of French politics during turbulent times and creates a world inhabited by nicely developed and sympathetic characters. (Mar.)
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Cruelly deprived of her first love, poor but aristocratic noblewoman Gabrielle de Montserrat is married off to an abusive elderly baron. After her husband’s death, the young widow and her daughter are transported to Paris, where Gabrielle becomes entangled in the scandalous court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. The plot thickens when Gabrielle, now the mistress of Count de Villers, rekindles the passion with her former flame, a politically connected lawyer on the Revolutionary Tribunal. Positioning her would-be lovers against the tumultuous backdrop of the French Revolution, Delors does an admirable job of depicting the tension, confusion, and volatility of an era when one false move could mean the guillotine. --Margaret Flanagan
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Top Customer Reviews
Gabrielle is only eleven years old when her brother the Marquis de Castel takes her from the convent which is educating her and brings her to her family home and to her mother for the first time since she was born. Raised by country peasants and nuns, Gabrielle is kind and takes her mothers consent criticisms in stride along with her brother's increasingly strange attentions. But when she falls in love with a local man she sees a chance to escape.
But this is not in her cards. Gabrielle is married off to an older cousin who abuses her in his quest for an heir. Upon his death he leaves her and her daughter destitute and with no where to go until a kind friend reminds her of a distant relation in Paris. In the city of lights she flourishes but still needs a means to provide for herself and her daughter. Work is out because of her social status and marriage is out because of her lack of funds leaving her only one option-become a wealthy man's mistress.
But the time of the French revolution, the great terror is fast approaching and Paris is becoming a turbulent sea of politics. Can Gabrielle, a noble woman, a kept woman and a young mother survive the coming storm on her own? Or will she need to depend on the help of an old friend?
"Mistress of the Revolution" is a first person memoir type account of one woman's experience during the French Revolution. For a first novel it is charming and informative but at times seems a bit like a textbook on the rev. with a side story included. Very adult themes such as incest, spousal abuse, rape and of course all of the horrors of "the terror" make this a book not for people who can't take violence.
All in all I really enjoyed reading this book and sped right through it. But at times it seems the complex plot is secondary to the immense amount of info included on the causes and progress of the revolution. This could of course be attributed to Gabrielle herself-she is writing an informative memoir to give to someone-but at times it made me lose sight of the characters. In general though, the charming writing style and easy to understand historical information made up for the faults.
Four stars and I recommend keeping an eye on the author's future works.
The other reviewers will probably disagree with my review, but I like to give an honest opinion on what I read and my perspective will be somewhat different from the other reviewers on this page. The story is well written and the historical aspect is dead on. I was impressed with that aspect of Mistress of the Revolution. However, I thought the story was somewhat boring and I had a hard time getting into it. The first-person narrative didn't help. It somehow didn't work for me. Gabrielle's brother is disgusting and despicable, and there are other characters that will make you hate them here as well. The star-crossed romance between Gabrielle and Pierre-Andre is also kind of nice, and the backdrop of Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution is done well, but none of these things makes up for the fact that, as a whole, this novel is simply not engaging enough. Perhaps it is due to the fact that the historical aspect is more fascinating than the fictional part. To me, there's got to be a balance between the two. I hope Catherine Delors will learn to have a balance between the two in the near future. For now, her work is more of a miss than a hit.