The Wardrobe Mistress: A Novel of Marie Antoinette: A Review

Giselle Aubry hopes that her position as undertirewomen to Marie Antoinette will help her achieve her dream of designing opulent dresses. The tedium of the day-to-day work of dressing the queen and maintaining her wardrobe is mitigated by living in Versailles while she works and being so close to the grandness and beauty of the palace.

Within the palace the nobles are aware of the growing unrest among France’s poor. But unlike the queen, most of them lack even the most basic sympathy or even understanding of the political unrest.

Ambitions aside, Giselle is eager for more adventure so she jumps at her uncle’s suggestion that she begin reporting on the queen’s movements. Working for her uncle, a retired spy from Louis XV’s secret du roi, Giselle thinks she has found a grand game. But she soon realizes that the stakes are higher than she could have imagined.

Torn between her growing affection and loyalty for the queen and her undeniable attraction to a young revolutionary, Giselle will have to make difficult choices to protect her heart . . . and maybe even her head in The Wardrobe Mistress: A Novel of Marie Antoinette (2017) by Meghan Masterson.

The Wardrobe Mistress is Masteron’s debut novel.

Through Giselle’s first person narration Masterson creates an evocative vision of revolutionary era France. Despite demonstrably thorough research to set the scene, The Wardrobe Mistress fails to fully immerse readers into the setting thanks to dialogue that, while stilted, fails to feel authentic.

With her position above the working class but beneath the nobility Giselle has the chance to have a uniquely nuanced view of the revolution as it unfolds. Unfortunately Giselle’s guileless narration still manages to frame many aspects of the story as a strict binary between good and bad. The story’s focus on Giselle also limits the scope of the plot and relegates many key moments (notably the Flight to Varennes) are related to readers in lengthy recounts between characters.

The Wardrobe Mistress is an entertaining introduction to this turbulent moment in history. Recommended for readers eager to try historical fiction for the first time or those interested in the time period who enjoy their history with a healthy dose of romance on the side.

Possible Pairings: Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, A Place of Great Safety by Hilary Mantel, Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution by Michelle Moran, The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown

*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration*

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A Little in Love: A (Rapid Fire) Review

A Little in Love by Susan Fletcher (2015)

A Little in Love by Susan FletcherA Little in Love is a retelling of Les Miserables which focuses on Eponine’s story. In reading this book I discovered that, despite seeing the musical in college, I had retained very little of the story. Worse, I realized I had very little interest in reading a new retelling.

In retrospect this should have been obvious to me, but A Little in Love is not a fun story. One might even go as far as to say that it was, well, miserable. Eponine has a hard life which Fletcher aptly fleshes out in this story. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t enough to hold my attention.

The characters, particularly Eponine’s cruel parents, came across as thinly-drawn caricatures while the story lacked much forward momentum and demanded little investment from me as a reader. The writing also felt stilted with florid descriptions to no particular purpose.

I could see this appealing to fans of Hugo’s original novel or the musical. It would also work well for readers who enjoy reading sad stories. For me, however, this one largely missed the mark.

*An advance copy of this book was acquire from the publisher for review consideration at BEA 2015*

Faces of the Dead: A Review

Faces of the Dead by Suzanne WeynMarie-Therese Charlotte is the Child of France despite never setting foot outside the palace. As the daughter of Louis the XVI and Marie Antoinette, Marie-Therese lives a life of luxury and isolation save for her dear friend Ernestine.

When the two girls realize they are strikingly similar in appearance, Marie-Therese hatches a plan to see the real Paris once and for all. But what Marie-Therese sees outside the palace is a shock. People are hungry and angry at the royal family. There is talk of revolution everywhere. After befriending a boy she meets in Paris, Marie-Therese is no longer sure who is right or even what to believe.

But as revolution rages and the Terror cuts a bloody path through Paris, Marie-Therese will be forced into hiding while Ernestine holds the princess’ place as a captive. Taking refuge with Henri at a well-known wax exhibit, Marie-Therese will learn that she is not the only one in Paris with a secret. Even the wax figures themeselves may be hiding something in Faces of the Dead (2014) by Suzanne Weyn.

Weyn delivers a powerhouse novel with high appeal and lots of action in a slim and easy to read volume. Although Marie-Therese often comes across as immature and naive, it generally makes sense in the context of the story and her origins.

A supernatural twist with wax figures and historical characters add a fun layer to this story as Weyn draws out real details to fantastical conclusions. Although the romantic element here is not always the most convincing, Faces of the Dead remains a solid story that serves as a fine introduction to both voodoo and the French Revolution.

An author’s note at the end of the story separates fact from fiction and highlights the real figures from history who feature in the story for further reading options.

*A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review consideration*