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Mistress of the Revolution: A Novel Paperback – Bargain Price, March 3, 2009
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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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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 --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Top customer reviews
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whose first book was on France before and during the French Revolution.
But my fears were unfounded. I completely enjoyed the book.
Ms. Delors allows her heroine, Gabrielle to have flaws to make bad decisions
and to grow up. I believed her, I was enchanted by her. I found the other characters totally believeble and I just could not put the book down. I even brought it with me to doctor appointments.
Since it is an historical novel, and Ms. Delors does not take it for
granted that her audience knows French history so she explains the ancien regime as it was called before the revolution as well as takes us through the phases of the French Revolution through the story telling. By the time of the Revolution I was so disgusted with the aristocracy I was secretly rooting for the heads to roll. And I abhor violence.
There is also dramatic foreshadowing of things to come which I always enjoy.
After you read this one, read her second novel, a thriller during Napoleon's first year in power. Based on a real terrorist attack.
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.
I found myself really caring for the protagonist - Gabrielle is precocious and opinionated but smart enough to know to hold her tongue during times when education in a woman was either considered an outrageous flaw (among the nobility), or a definitive giveaway of her status as a ci-devant or ex-aristocrat (among the Revolutionaries). With undertones of the Revolution brewing, the rules of the game were changing every day and what was acceptable one day was unacceptable the next, so adaptability to the troubling times was an essential survival tool, as the slightest misstep could easily cost one's life. The way in which Robespierre and other Revolutionary leaders went about seeking out the blood of the aristocrats is reminiscent of the Salem witch hunts, or even of the Holocaust when Jews were hiding out in neighbors' basements to escape the Nazis. Gabrielle's character is the perfect lens through which to view the events as they unfold, as she has dealings with Aristos and Jacobins alike, which provides the reader with ample perspectives on the French Revolution.
In order to further explore the idea of the mistress, one must first recognize that back in 18th century France, there was no such thing as casual dating. As a woman, one was expected to marry for her family's benefit, which generally meant being auctioned off to the highest bidder. Indeed families literally did sell their daughters; most sealed the engagement deal with an ample dowery, a large sum of monetary goods that would "buy" the girl's place into her new family. If she was lucky there was a brief courtship period, then she was betrothed (engaged), and finally she was married into the family of her parents' choosing. Anything outside of this arrangement was considered scandalous and could easily lead to the lady's disgrace, as respectable women were expected to enter into their marriages virgins. Once a woman had successfully bore her husband a few heirs, in Court society it was sometimes acceptable for the woman to take a lover, as her husband had likely already been doing for years. It really depended on the particular relationship. But often times a widow had no choice; if she was bankrupt with little means at her husband's death, she might rely on the kindness and monetary support of a gentleman "protector" to look after her welfare as well as that of her now fatherless children.
The "kept woman" complex basically breaks down into two categories. First there is what we would today call a "girlfriend", a female engaging in a loving relationship with a man. The man in question may or may not already have a wife - the presence of a spouse really did not impede an 18th century man from taking a mistress. Aristocratic marriages were rarely love matches so extramarital affairs were common. The second category was essentially a high class courtesan, or in modern day equivocation, a woman with a sugar daddy. In some regards, either of these two situations liberated a woman and gave her independence, in another sense, she was less financially stable, as her suitor could decide to drop her at any moment and potentially leave her in dire straits. It was very risky to become a mistress, though it did allow for more personal freedoms than the role of "wife" afforded. Gabrielle has to decide which role is right for her, all the while navigating the rocky waters of this crucial turning point in France's history.