Synopsis: Fraught with conspiracy and passion, the Sun King’s opulent court is brought to vivid life in this captivating tale about a woman whose love was more powerful than magic.
The alignment of the stars at Marie Mancini’s birth warned that although she would be gifted at divination, she was destined to disgrace her family. Ignoring the dark warnings of his sister and astrologers, Cardinal Mazarin brings his niece to the French court, where the forbidden occult arts thrive in secret. In France, Marie learns her uncle has become the power behind the throne by using her sister Olympia to hold the Sun King, Louis XIV, in thrall.
Desperate to avoid her mother’s dying wish that she spend her life in a convent, Marie burns her grimoire, trading Italian superstitions for polite sophistication. But as her star rises, King Louis becomes enchanted by Marie’s charm. Sensing a chance to grasp even greater glory, Cardinal Mazarin pits the sisters against each other, showering Marie with diamonds and silks in exchange for bending King Louis to his will.
Disgusted by Mazarin’s ruthlessness, Marie rebels. She sacrifices everything, but exposing Mazarin’s deepest secret threatens to tear France apart. When even King Louis’s love fails to protect Marie, she must summon her forbidden powers of divination to shield her family, protect France, and help the Sun King fulfill his destiny.
Well, as you guys know, I was looking so forward to this book. Sadly, I have no credit card and I don’t live near a bookstore (the horror!), so I entered every contest I could find in order to get this; that didn’t work either. Fortunately, I get to plug my local library and give their e-book borrowing system a shoutout because I was able to borrow it. I was surprised they had it so quickly, but i decided not to question it, I just went with it and very happily borrowed it. (Always be sure to check your library, guys!)
It goes without saying, since I read this in one night, how I felt about it. Ms, Jefferson is a very gifted storyteller and I was delighted to be brought to the Sun King’s court. It is sometimes hard to envision the grandeur, but that was done here. I fell in love with her style of writing with her first novel, ‘The Girl on the Golden Coin’ and I’ve been eagerly awaiting this one. I was not disappointed at all. Well, I was disappointed when I got to the last page. You always hope for more; however, good things come to those who wait, or at least that’s what my great-grandmother used to tell me, God rest her soul. Patience has never been my strong suit.
Now, most of us have heard of the Sun King and his illustrious reign over France. In fact, he was the longest reigning monarch of Europe, reigning at 72 years and 110 days. I was surprised to read that at first, he really wasn’t in charge of anything. Okay, let me rephrase, he was four when he came to the throne, so obviously the Queen was his regent until he came of age; but when he was old enough to reign on his own, he was almost like a puppet king; his strings controlled by his mother and by the Cardinal Mazarin. This is something Marie Mancini, Mazarin’s niece who has been in a convent, discovers as she gets to know him and makes her personal mission to change. She sees the greatness within him and encourages him. Given that he is considered one of France’s greatest monarchs, I like to think her influence helped him realise it.
“He must be convinced subtly, and that will take time. But when I’m ready to tell the king what I know, it will shake the very foundations of Paris.”
Marie Mancini wasn’t supposed to be part of the illustrious French court as she was supposedly born under a “bad star”, in fact, Marie’s mother on her deathbed urged Cardinal Mazarin to send her to a convent because she would bring disgrace to the whole family. However, fate had other plans. Marie never went back to the convent after her mother’s death, she was made a part of court since her sister, Olympia (the King’s mistress), ends up pregnant and needs to be married. The Cardinal urges Marie to take her sister’s place and that she does, albeit hesitantly as it means she would be working as an agent of her uncle. Marie steals the King’s heart and tries her damndest to make him realise that it is he who rules, not the Cardinal.
I liked their relationship; it was sweet and tender. I truly believe that Marie was the great love of the King’s life and he was hers. Unlike Olympia, Marie did not give in and sleep with him straight away and as the book progressed, you see that the feelings are genuine and that they deepen.
It seems strange to me that I had never heard of Marie before since there are countless letters and mentions of her in books written by her contemporaries. That she very nearly became Queen of France says how the King felt about her. Their love story was sweet and I really was rooting for them, but of course…well…you know what I’m going to say here. No Spoilers!
The descriptions are rich, the characters exceptionally well rounded. I admit, I found the twirling of Cardinal Mazarin’s moustache amusing; it usually meant something was going down. Mostly I just wanted to reach into the book and kick him in the…well, you know. He was a foul character, but this says a great deal about Ms. Jefferson’s writing that you feel so strongly. Marie, though naive at first, is a quick learner and grows into a strong woman. I really enjoyed seeing her transformation and her story.
Keep your eyes open, by the way, Frances Stuart may or may not have made an appearance in the book. 😉
Years after graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University, immersing herself in a Quality Assurance nursing career, and then having children, Marci realized she’d neglected her passion for history and writing. She began traveling, writing along the way, delving into various bits of history that caught her fancy. The plot for GIRL ON THE GOLDEN COIN evolved slowly after a trip to London, where she first learned about the Stuart royals. Marci is a member of the Historical Novel Society. She resides in the Midwest with her husband, making hair-bows for their daughter, trying not to step on their son’s Legos, and teaching a tiny Pacific Parrotlet to talk.