Enchantress of Paris by Marci Jefferson Review + GIVEAWAY!!!Enchantress of Paris by Marci Jefferson
Published by St. Martin's Press, Thomas Dunne Books on August 4, 2015
Pages: 336
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
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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.

Check out my PSYCHOLOGICAL ANALYSIS of Marci Jefferson HERE, and don’t forget to ENTER to WIN a finished copy of the Enchantress of Paris at the end of the review!

“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.”

COULD ANYONE ASK FOR ANYTHING MORE IN AN HISTORICAL NOVEL?!

Versailles Palace GardensVersailles Hall of Mirrorsversailles_water_terrace

Some opulent scenery from King Louis XIV’s Versailles Palace

I loved Marci Jefferson’s Girl on the Golden Coin which focuses on Frances Stuart so I already had high expectations for Enchantress of Paris. BUT FOR THE LOVE OF LOUIS, this book surpassed my expectations a hundred fold.

As a musician, I sometimes come across a book that reads like music to me. Full of the kind of lyricism and glorious texture that sweeps me up with all the verve and passion of a symphony piece. There’s the side of my brain that wanted to stop and dissect the anatomy of this novel. What makes it so magical and pitch perfect?  But the side of my brain that prefers to be swept up in such a composition won.

Marie Mancini, The King’s Mistress                                                                           Louis XIV, The Sun King

Marie Mancini, the Sun King's MistressKing Louis XIV

Gah! Is there anything more satisfying for a Historical Fiction lover or Historian than being introduced to a Historical Figure that you didn’t even know existed?! I knew nothing about Marie Mancini before the Enchantress of Paris and now I want to know EVERYTHING about her. Marie is the kind of hypnotic female protagonist that will be haunting the halls of your brain for weeks to come after reading this novel. She is clever and strong, defiant and demanding- all the things that make a captivating heroine.

Marci Jefferson’s storytelling is a full sensory experience. I swear, it’s like Marci tapped into some kind of ”powers that be” to craft such a rich and fascinating story. The mysticism that infuses Marie’s narrative was such an unexpected dimension to this story and added such an exciting and exotic feel to this European tale. Every aspect of the culture of the time period is touched upon in the Enchantress of Paris, and I adore Marci for giving some great historical detail about Jean-Baptiste Lully, the Sun King’s personal composer and  court musician.

Here’s an entertaining scene from the film about King Louis XIV, Le Roi Danse, featuring a Soprano singing an aria written by Lully:

As I’ve come to expect from Marci’s writing, the world building and characterization are equally brilliant and transcendent. The balance between historical detail and narrative is perfect. The ill-fated romance between Marie and Louis XIV was engrossing and infuriating at the same time- such a perfect combination. Marci really knows how to stir the blood with intimate scenes and clandestine dalliances.

We could hardly see so far from the lights of the palais. But we sensed each other and fell into each other’s arms.

“Did you come here to read the heavens?” he asked.

I glanced up and searched for the constellation Virgo, the virgin. But she had not yet ascended to the early spring sky. Instead I saw a shooting star sweep across the heavens. A sign of change? I chose to believe it meant we would overcome the odds. “You know I came for you.”

He ran a hand inside my cloak, feeling my satins. “You’ll be cold in this.”

“Not with the Sun King to warm me.”

“Look at us, forced to meet in the dark. What will happen to us, Marie.”

“You will shine, ” I whispered, “and darkness will flee.”

There, under stars tossed like silver against a velvet sky, our lips met.

Lets just face it. Marci Jefferson was born to write Historical Fiction. With the face of an angel and the brain of a she-devil, Marci Jefferson has made me a mega-fan with her second novel. I can’t wait to eat read the pages of the next thing she writes.

For your viewing pleasure, here’s an entertaining montage from the film Les Roi Danse featuring the best dance numbers in the film. (LOL)

Aaaand, just for fun:

If you are the type of reader who likes to listen to soundtracks with their novels, try Patricia Petibon’s French Baroque Arias which features music from Lully and other artists of the period.

 

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Girl on the Golden Coin by Marci JeffersonGirl on the Golden Coin by Marci Jefferson
Published by St. Martin's Press, Thomas Dunne Books on February 11, 2014
Pages: 336
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
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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.

Are you a fan of Historical Fiction? Then join me and others in the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge!

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.

Frances Stuart gracing the Britannia.
Frances Stuart gracing the Britannia.

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.

King Charles II and Frances Stuart.
King Charles II and 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:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8Ho76_rk4g

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