Shadow Queen ~ Sandra Gulland

shadowqueenFrom the author of the beloved Josephine B. Trilogy comes a spellbinding novel inspired by the true story of a young woman who rises from poverty to become confidante to the most powerful, provocative, and dangerous woman in the seventeenth century French Court:  the mistress of the charismatic Sun King.

1660, Paris and Claudette’s life is like an ever-revolving stage set.  Following an impoverished childhood spent wandering the French countryside with her family’s acting troupe, she finally witnesses her mother’s astonishing rise to stardom in Parisian theatres.  Working with playwrights Corneille, Moliere, and Racine, Claudette leads a culturally rich life, but like all in the theatrical world at the time, she’s socially scorned.  A series of chance encounters pulls Claudette into the alluring orbit of Athenais de Montespan, mistress of Louis XIV and reigning “Shadow Queen”.  Needing someone to safeguard her secrets, Athenais offers to hire Claudette as her personal attendant.

Enticed by the promise of riches and respectability, Claudette leaves the world of the  theatre only to find that Court is very much like a stage, with outward shows of loyalty masking more devious intentions.  This parallel is not lost on Athenais, who fears political enemies are plotting her ruin as young courtesans angle to take the coveted spot in the King’s bed.  Indeed, her new position is marked by spying, illicit trysts, and titanic power struggles.

Set against the gilded opulence of a newly constructed Versailles and the Parisian cut-throat “War of the Theatres,” The Shadow Queen is a seductive, gripping novel about the lure of wealth, this illusion of power, and the increasingly uneasy relationship between two strong willed women whose actions could shape the future of France.

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