The French Mistress: A Novel of the Duchess of Portsmouth and King Charles II by Susan Halloway Scott
Published by: Penguin Group
Published on: July 2009
Page Count: 400
Genre: Historical Fiction
Format: eBook read on my Kindle
Availability: paperback, eBook,
My Review Louise’s father was of noble birth, but his political affiliations caused him to lose favor with the French crown, diminishing the family finances and the opportunities available to his children. Scraping together the funds to create a modest wardrobe for her, they sent Louise to King Louis XIV’s court in hopes of her finding a husband that would advance her and provide opportunities for her family as well. Raised as a proper Catholic girl, she was a naive addition to the household of Henrietta, Duchess D’Orlean. Fortunately Louise finds the favor of her Madame, sister to King Charles II of England and sister-in-law to Louis XIV. This early placement in the French court links her to her destiny.
- This novel was the February selection of my Historical Fiction Lovers book club. I was excited to get an eBook copy of it because I’ve wanted to read Susan Holloway Scott for almost as long as I’ve started reading historical fiction.
- I enjoyed the juxtaposition between the monarchs and their respective courts.
- For more than half of the book, Louise holds on tightly to her virginity. Knowing that she is to become Charles II’s mistress from the very beginning, there was no question as to whether she would remain a virgin throughout the book. I think I was more impatient for her to give it up than the king was. This goes hand in hand with my other chief complaint – the novel’s focus.
- I would have preferred a novel about the Duchess D’Orlean or a novel about Louise and Charles II. This was a novel about Louise and Henrietta and then Louise and Charles. That is what made this novel seem long and why what would be the most interesting parts of Louise and Charles’ relationship were rushed through. Had this been a novel about Henrietta and Louise was a minor character, it would have been fantastic. Had this novel been about Charles and Louise’s relationship alone, it would have also been a great read. Instead, we got a play by play of Louise’s life with Henrietta and her last days as a virgin, but the political and emotional upheaval at the end of Charles’ life were told in retrospect. Even Louise’s family’s reaction to her move to England was spoken of as an afterthought. Those are the things that I would have cared to read about in more depth.
My Final Thoughts
Although The French Mistress was a missed opportunity for me from a historical standpoint, I enjoyed Scott’s writing overall. I would try another one of her novels. Have you enjoyed one of Scott’s novels? If so, which would you recommend?