Impoverished and exiled to the French countryside after the overthrow of the English Crown, Frances Stuart survives merely by her blood-relation to the Stuart Royals. But in 1660, the Restoration of Stuart Monarchy in England returns her family to favor. Frances discards threadbare gowns and springs to gilded Fontainebleau Palace, where she soon catches King Louis XIV’s eye. But Frances is no ordinary court beauty, she has Stuart secrets to keep and people to protect. The king turns vengeful when she rejects his offer to become his Official Mistress. He banishes her to England with orders to seduce King Charles II and stop a war.
Armed in pearls and silk, Frances maneuvers through the political turbulence of Whitehall Palace, but still can’t afford to stir a scandal. Her tactic to inspire King Charles to greatness captivates him. He believes her love can make him an honest man and even chooses Frances to pose as Britannia for England’s coins. Frances survives the Great Fire, the Great Plague, and the debauchery of the Restoration Court, yet loses her heart to the very king she must control. Until she is forced to choose between love or war.
On the eve of England’s Glorious Revolution, James II forces Frances to decide whether to remain loyal to her Stuart heritage or, like England, make her stand for Liberty. Her portrait as Britannia is minted on every copper coin. There she remains for generations, an enduring symbol of Britain’s independent spirit and her own struggle for freedom.
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I read a ton of European Historical Fiction/Romance and general History but I have to admit, my reading experience with the Stuart era has been nil until the past year. What inspired me to delve into literature on King Charles I and II was a lovely blog I follow called The Seventeenth Century Lady. You can find all sorts of information on the 17th Century and “The Merry Monarch” on this historian’s/author’s website.
Girl on the Golden Coin was a rich and addictive story about Frances Stuart, a woman who became King Charles II’s biggest weakness. Marci Jefferson presents the fascinating Frances Stuart in a narrative rich with all the romantic suspense and scandal of a Harlequin Romance. The gloriously fleshed out historical atmosphere and fully realized characters kept me captivated beyond the page. There were a few surprising and sensuous gems of passion and romance embedded in this story, making for a very compelling read.
Below is an aria, Dido’s Lament, from a composition by Henry Purcell that became popular around the same time that Frances Stuart’s story begins. Patricia Petibon’s rendition of this aria and her music video are so haunting and perfect for what I imagined Frances to be feeling on the darker days of her tumultuous life. Frances Stuart was remembered; her face never being forgotten while it graced the Golden Coin.
I had a love/hate relationship with most of the historical characters in this novel. I could not make up my mind if I ”saw” Frances Stuart in a flattering light or not. I honestly feel on the fence about her after reading Girl on The Golden Coin. Frances basically let herself be used as a political-prostitute-pawn in a game between two Kings (Louis XIV and Charles II), but we see that she chose this path as the lesser of two evils. She could risk living her life in ruin and having disastrous family secrets exposed, or, betrayed by her beauty, she could play the game that many a king’s mistress before her had played and save her family from further scandal. I think I love the author even more for making me feel so conflicted about Frances Stuart.
What is admirable about Frances in this retelling of her life is that she wasn’t all beauty, but possessed intelligence and bravery. Frances Stuart was a victim of the era she lived in. She had to play the cards she was dealt and she played them well for the most part.
I liked how this book was formatted. I appreciated the map of France and England, and the list of characters before the story begins. This book is for the Stuart era laymen as well as the Stuart scholar. Rich historical detail and psychologically stimulating characters made Girl on the Golden Coin shine.
Here’s a fun and informative short video on The Stuart Era:
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