The Sisters of Versailles

FINALLY! I broke my streak with war and nightmares. I really was not sure it was every going to end!

I have read dozens of books about Henry VIII and his scandalous court. Seemingly everyone has heard of his lustful boredom and endless pursuits. However, two centuries later, another king followed in his very sexed up shoes.

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King Louis XV of France–Louis the Beloved–ruled from 1710 to 1774. He was married to a Polish princess, but after seven years of marriage, he was becoming bored, and his advisers decided they needed to find a replacement close and quiet. According to Sally Christie in her new book The Sisters of Versailles, they found the perfect solution in Louise Nesle, serving as one of the Queen’s consorts.

However, because this is a scandal story, of course it doesn’t just stop there. There were five Nesle sisters. I’ll leave you to read what happens.

Christie’s historical fiction drips with so much sticky sweet scandal that you would think you were biting into a caramel apple (just keep it away from Diane, or she might snatch it from you). Every chapter holds a new drama–either a fight that is “not very sororal” according to the Nesle governess Zeilie, or littered with sexual innuendo so dirty even I couldn’t have come up with some of it. And that’s saying something. (I did make sure to take note of them…don’t you worry! clickFILEclick)

The Goodreads blurb states that these women have never before been written about in English, which devastates me, because I very much want to read more! Not that Sally Christie hasn’t done a fantastic job, because she has…but this is one of those sections of history I could get addicted to. It’s like a historical soap opera or reality show. Keeping Up with the Nesles. Now THAT is something I would watch! Oh man. Who do I talk to at HBO to do this?

Seriously though guys, if you like Philippa Gregory, Alison Weir, or Hilary Mantel…really any of the great scandal writers from Henry VIII’s court…you’re going to love this one. Same idea, different king. History really does repeat itself, doesn’t it?

 

Netgalley provided this ARC for an unbiased reviewReleases on September 1.

 

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Jade Dragon Mountain

When I looked at my TBR list the other day and realized that I am into my September ARCs already, I sat back onto my heels a bit. How are we already this late into the year? This weekend marked our one year anniversary in Dallas. We have been here for a WHOLE YEAR! What a ride it has been.

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I’ve had Jade Dragon Mountain in my queue for a long time…for some reason I received it way in advance. It felt strange to finally pick it up. This is Elsa Hart’s debut novel, and she has done a pretty decent job with it.

The story takes place in 1708 during the Qing Dynasty. Kangxi Emperor is passionate about astronomy and has calculated that an eclipse will be visible in Dayan. A festival is being prepared for his arrival. Li Du, an exile and imperial librarian, must visit his magistrate cousin on his way to Tibet, and arrives during the preparations. While he is there, a Jesuit priest is murdered, and Li Du sets out to find the killer before the emperor arrives.

Jade Dragon Mountain is part historical fiction, part Sherlockian mystery. I was fascinated by the Chinese lore and history–although most of the actual characters I think were made up, excepting the Emperor himself, the facts about the Jesuits and Kangxi’s fascination with astrology, all of that were real. A festival like this could have really happened. We are discussing this in my Coursera class–the art of historical fiction requires the author to stretch the truth just enough to convince the reader to believe the lie.

The mystery portion of the story was a bit of fun as well. It loops around and around, providing the bits of science and historical context, all while giving us a Sherlock/Watson kind of banter between Li Du and Hamza. Hamza is even a storyteller…which, hello, today he would TOTALLY be a blogger! *wink* Ok, maybe that part is a bit of a stretch, but I couldn’t help but make the jump. Fellow Johnlockers will understand.

Jade Dragon Mountain comes out September 1 and is bound to interest any fellow historical fiction lovers. It’s a great debut for Elsa Hart and I’ll be interesting to see what she comes up with next!

 

NetGalley provided this ARC for an unbiased review. Releases September 1.

 

Buy it Here:

Joseph Andrews

You know…there are just some reviews that I do not know how to write. I just sit here with my mouth open a little flabbergasted.

But, since I can’t move on to the next book until I review (kind of a cathartic/cleansing process), it must be done!

*wetdogshudder*

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When I think of England 1742, I do not think of comedy. I think of pomp and red coats and powdered wigs and tea. Very high brow, pinky in the air type stuff.

But, I suppose, every generation has their own form of entertainment…and Henry Fielding was apparently it. Unfortunately, it didn’t translate to well to “funny” in 2015. Socially on point, maybe. Funny, no.

I only got through Volume 1, but the book is basically about a footman who has committed to abstinence until marriage. What? Yep, apparently he took the same health class we did. However, all these slutty women (I’m using this term because it is how the book refers to them, not because I want to slut-shame.) keep throwing themselves at him. Something about his chastity makes them absolutely crazy.

At one point, a woman all but forces him to have sex with her because she absolutely does not believe he is a virgin. He is a man, and poor, so obviously he is promiscuous, right?

“I can’t see why her having no virtue should be a reason against my having any; or why, because I am a man, or because I am poor, my virtue must be subservient to her pleasures.”

The woman goes on to say, “I am out of patience.” And then continues to bully him into giving it up because she is SO superior to him. She strips him of his wages and position in her rage.

There are other similar instances, and all of them are supposed to be, as Fielding calls it, “burlesque,” or slapstick. They are meant to be comedic, and not serious. However, in today’s culture, I think it’s a great example of how sexual pressure can go either way. I realize it is fiction, but to have this example from 1742…it just stuck out at me as something to keep in mind.

One really obnoxious thing about this book are the characters’ names. Some are normal:  Joseph, Fanny, Pamela. But you know a character is going in the story for dramatic or comedic effect based on their name. People like Lady Booby, Madame Slipslop, and Constable Suckbribe. I WISH I were making this up. Constable SUCKBRIBE?! I mean…really. I guess that’s slapstick in 1742. Someone please write an SNL skit for this. Please.

I do feel like he spends more time explaining his book than actually having a book to explain. He gets sidetracked or something, I’m not sure. We’ll be in the middle of a scene, and it’ll be like “Squirrel! Oh, let me explain to you a thing.” And he’ll go on a tangent about the chapter headings. What?

Weirdest book ever. Ok, probably not. But it’s definitely up there. I’m not sure I have the brain cells necessary to try for Vol. 2, so I’m just going to list it and move on down the line.

Constable Suckbribe. Really? REALLY?!

Fulfills PopSugar #15:  A popular author’s first book

Fulfills Boxall #86