Mistress of the Sun
Author: Sandra Gulland
Genre: Historical fiction
About Mistress of the Sun: The story of Louise de la Vallière, mistress of Louis XIV of France.
Review of Mistress of the Sun
Louise de la Vallière, known as Petite, grew up in the French countryside. Her father's death and her mother's remarriage took her to the court of the Duke of Orléans where she met Louis, King of France.
"Thank you." His fingers—which felt soft, not calloused at all—lightly brushed her wrist, sending a jolt through her. She thought of a line from the romance Nicole had been reading to the Princess: Adieu, my beloved. I know you not, and yet I know you. It did not seem like such nonsense to her now.
"My pleasure, Mademoiselle," he said. "You ride exceptionally well," he added, giving a salute.
"Thank you," Petite repeated, moving away, pulling the colt after her. Adieu, adieu—would she ever see him again? "The King is coming," she told him, as a warning.
"I know," he said. "He arrived a while ago."
"Oh!" she exclaimed, spurring her mount.
At the edge of the woods, she looked back. He was watching her.
...from page 118
The two fell in love but because of Louis's obligations as King, they could not marry. Instead, Petite became his mistress with all of the personal and societal challenges that entailed.
Looking at the cover of the book, my daughter asked if it was a bodice ripper. I, too, expected it to be historical romance but it was not. Although the love story between Petite and Louis was important, it simply provided context, a reason, for everything Petite did and for everything that happened to her. For the most part, there weren't passionate declarations of love and the few sex scenes were very discreet.
It had been a while since I'd read a book set this far back in history and I'd forgotten how easy it is to get lost in the time period. The castles and palaces, the clothing and food, the rules of society and belief systems; I find all of those things extremely interesting. Add to that the fact that this book was based on a true story and that most of the characters were based on real people and you've got a book that I found hard to put down.
There was a tremendous amount of historical detail but Gulland wove it seamlessly into the story and it was never overwhelming. There was a map of the Sun King's France in the edition I read, as well as an abbreviated family tree for the royal family. There was also a glossary at the back which I didn't realize until I was done. It didn't matter though because the words I didn't know were easily defined by the context.
I liked Petite. She came across as somewhat naive, an innocent girl caught in the complexities of life at court, torn between her love for Louis the man and her duty to Louis the King. In fact, Gulland managed to make all of the characters interesting, from the members of the court to the servants.
This book had everything from love and betrayal to grand parties and frightening medical practices. It was an excellent read and I recommend it.
Reviewed by Lynn Bornath on 30 June 2009.
- JK, Keepin' It Real Book Club, 13 April 2009
- “...worth reading for fans of French history...”
- Carla Nayland, 21 April 2009
- “...written in a leisurely style and portrays an enormous wealth of historical detail about seventeenth-century France in general and the Sun King's court in particular.”
- Amy, My Friend Amy, 5 May 2009
- “I highly recommend this captivating read.”
- Martina, She Read a Book, 5 September 2009
- “Gulland paints a story rich in detail and the amount of research she puts into her projects is second to none.”
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Added 30 June 2009.
Updated 30 March 2013.