Tuesday 28 June 2011

Review: Before Versailles - Karleen Koen

A novel of Louis XIV
Genre: Historical fiction
Pages: 400
Published: June 28th 2011 Crown

Before Versailles is the luscious, sweeping story of the young Louis XIV in his first year as king of France. Told in the alternating perspectives of the young king and his first love, the woman who would become his mistress, Karleen Koen's newest weaves a portrait of court and country in turmoil with the legends of this colorful period in history, including that of the mysterious man in the iron mask.

My thoughts:
The book is in a way not written from one POV. Sure Louise de Valliere is the main character for most of it but there is always someone else taking  her is his turn to say something, or to think something. It feels not like you follow one person but like you are some sort of ghost jumping around trying to see what is going on.

The book also takes place during a few months in 1661. Lois XIV is madly in love with his sister in law Henriette and they have a relationship. Her husband Phillippe is angry, but then he has former lovers too, male ones. Viscount Nicholas who takes care of the finances is spying on everyone and he will soon be thrown into jail. Louise comes to the court, all innocent and sweet and tries to hide the affair between the king and his sister in law. And then Louise and Louis fall in love. Lots more affairs going on and someone are sending the king notes questioning who his father is. That is what is going on in this book. It is a young court since the king is only 22. Everyone is happy and flirting with each other.

There is also another part of the book. The author takes in the story about the iron mask and makes Louise find out more about this. A nice little plot that goes well with everything. Especially since it brings light on the relationship between the Queen Mother and Mazarin.

I felt sorry for poor Louise when I later had a look at her fate. She loved the king and he just threw her to the side when he was finished with her. The book may end all happily but she was certainly not the last mistress he had. Especially horrible was how she was used as a decoy when he found a new woman. The power of kings. Still in this book he is a young king and in love. You can't fault him for that, and neither Louise who is young and impressionable.

Sometimes I did wonder if it was the way it was written that never made me totally fall for the book. I never seemed to get a hold of anyone. They slipped through my fingers.

This is a book for historical fiction fans out there, and especially those who enjoy the period.



I am guestreviewing over at Ex Libris
The picture book, Honestly red Riding hood was rotten :)

Come say hello and see everything she has in stored for this event


  1. Oh, that's frustrating when you can't quite get into a book due to the writing. :(

  2. Not my favorite era but I've read two books with that setting already this year. I'll keep this in mind.

  3. I like historical novels (although I'd be the first admit I've not read one for ages!) and I don't know a lot about French history - other than what little is seen in the Man in the Iron Mask films! I quite the sound of this though.

  4. I agree about the cover! But I would read ANYTHING by Karleen Koen no matter how horrible the cover. I loved the author's previous books - I have to get my hands on Before Versailles.

  5. I haven't yet read anything taking place during this era, so this book sounds really good to me.

  6. Hmm... like that historical era and let me only say that Louis XIV was not a fluffy bunny but I am not sure about the rest, especially the narration. I am fond of first-person narrations because they might make you feel the book and get to know their characters better. There might be several POVs but still...

    The cover is bland to say the least of it.

  7. I enjoy historical fiction and I do like that time period. I'll keep an eye out for it. Good honest review.

  8. I can't imagine living in this time period where you could just be cast aside when you'd served your purpose and there would be nothing you could actually object to because that's just how things worked. Crazy.

  9. Having read all of Phillipa Gregory's Tudor serious, I have become smitten with historical fiction ... I think I would give this a go :)

    ♥ Cat brideblu

  10. @Mystica
    Lol, it as a good bit

    It was like I was just standing outside and the Povs changed so quickly. Some were just a sentence from someone before someone else took over

    Oh you have? While I can't remember the last time I read a book in this setting

  11. @Mel
    Not one in ages?! Oh you poor girl, you need to remedy that. The soul needs historical fiction ;)
    I can't say I know much about that era either.

    I am glad to hear that her other two books are good too. Because she was a good writer and she did keep me entertained

    It was a new era for me too. Funny how I haven't stumbled upon it more

  12. @Ana
    Fluffy bunny he was not. he did some bad things already during these 4 months during his early reign so I get the big bad picture *coughs Louis is an ass*

    I like POVS that are 1st or 3rd, does not matter to me, I like when 2 or more peeps talk. Here it was like one person's POV, then one sentence from another and then a third gets a paragraph. Strange

    Then you definitely should keep an eye out

    It was horrible. there are historical records how she threw herself at his feet and cried and he just watched her with cold eyes ;( What a bastard.

    I love historical fiction and I would recommend it to everyone :D

  13. I have read two of Karleen Koen's boek many many years ago, as they were translated into Dutch. And I did like them a lot.
    This one does not really appeal to me, but it sounds a bit like the Jean Plaidy books I also used to read.

  14. Oooooh, I really want to read this now. I was a little on the fence about it, because I wasn't quite sure what the book was about. Thanks for the grew review!

  15. Aurian
    Well if you have read and liked her work then I am sure you would enjoy this one too

    It's about lots of things :D Mostly about how young and happy everyone wanted to be before things got dark

  16. I do love historical fiction but sometimes I feel this time period can be a little over done. This one sounds pretty good though!

  17. Since the plot is so spicy, perhaps it is the way the novel was written that might have kept you from taking to the book. The potential is certainly there.

  18. Sound like a nice read. But for some reason I have a hard time getting into these reads. But I like this review, makes me want to try again. :) Thanks!

  19. The premise is great, but not grasping the characters would bug me. Fab honest review :)

  20. Not making a connection is a bad thing for me. I thought the cover was pretty cool but not sure that the time period and people involved have me interested enough to read it.

  21. @Amused
    And I haven't even read about it before! But yes some periods in time are very overdone *coughs Tudors*

    I do think it was the way it was written. I mean it was good and kept me entertained but it also kept me at an arms length.

    Historicals? Oh I love them, just think of them as fantasy and you will do fine, lol.

  22. @Melissa Swim
    I guess I just would have wanted more from one POV and not the myriad I got

    I do have to connect too, here it worked in a way when I didn't. But I do feel that if the time span had been longer it had been a problem

  23. I don't think this is for me.. I mean I really want to be engaged with the characters in a historical book. Ah, but it still looked as though it had potential.

  24. Historical fiction is a bit off my reading radar, but this sounds like it might be worth checking out.

  25. I think the alternative perspectives would give me a hard time getting into the story. I haven't heard of this author either.

  26. Awesome review!! I am reading this one now. It is hard to get into for some reason and it's going really slow for me. Right now i'm wanting there to be more about the iron mask plot.

  27. @Melissa
    It was good and it kept me reading. I just felt like a butterfly, oh that doesn't make any sense at all, lol

    I do recommend a bit more historical fiction :D

    @MRS Q
    It was actually my first book by her and I did not know he from before. But I did remember seeing another book of hers

    I think the reason for me was the changing of POVS and never getting close. But hang in there and you will find out who he is

  28. I'm reading this later this month and pretty excited -- it's my first Koen and everyone raves about her. Her books are vaguely a series, if I understand her blog post correctly, so I wonder if that's why all the characters felt hard to know -- it might be that you needed to read the other books? (I haven't read her other books yet, either, so we'll see if I have the same experience!)

  29. I am pretty excited to hear about this book as I haven't read anything on this time period. Will definitely have to check it out!

  30. Audra
    A series? I can't make sense of that, she spoke of some characters that are not in this book. Hm, did she mean that she will write another book so we get more from these peeps

    Then you should have a look and learn a bit more :D

  31. Well this sounds like it has a lot of family drama! Brothers sharing wives and all. Some girls have all the luck.


  32. Quite the bawdy court then huh? I read two other books by Koen; one great one not so great. I will try this one out. Thanks B!

  33. Misha
    Lol, I doubt the neglected other wife saw it like that ;)

    If you do then enjoy :D And oh yes that court, all about pleasure

  34. I have heard so many good things about Karleen Koen's books, but never read one, so this is going to be my gateway book into her writing.

    Hopefully I will manage to get lost in it a bit more than you did.

  35. Marg
    It was good, but sometimes I just do not loose myself. But then historical fiction is good enough to stand on its own feet :)

  36. Not an era I usually read about but maybe I should try this.

  37. Elysium
    I hope you do :) And yay that you are back



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