Monday, February 29, 2016

Review: The Sisters of Versailles by Sally Christie

Sisters can be competitive. They can want what the other has. When it is something as harmless as a dress or a bauble, it's one thing but when it's something as personal as coveting your sister's royal lover, that's quite another. For the de Mailly-Nesle sisters, this sororal competition reached new levels. Four of the five sisters became, in turn (and sometimes even overlapping their turns), mistresses to King Louis XV, each one having a different effect on the King and on the court at Versailles. Sally Christie's captivating historical novel, The Sisters of Versailles, inspired by the true story of these sisters, imagines the power and machinations that accompanied their ascendances into the King's bed and their eventual eclipsing as Louis' favorites.

When Louis XV starts to tire of his queen, his advisors found it imperative to find him a mistress despite his initial Catholic guilt. The mistress that they found for him was Louise de Mailly-Nesle, a young woman at court whose own mother had had her own scandalous liasions and whose husband cared nothing at all for her personally nor for her residence in the King's bed. As the oldest of the Nesle sisters, it was through Louise and her connections at court that her younger sisters each, with the exception of Hortense, the family's beauty, came to hold sway in the King's bed as well. The sisters were very different in personality, ranging from constant and devoted to determined and manipulative, from to sweet and unthinking to scheming and savvy, and yet each one of them entranced the King in her own way, even if they have been reduced to a surprising but fascinating footnote in the history of the French monarchy.

Told in the first person by each of the five sisters, and in retrospect by Hortense, the one sister never to be the King's mistress, the narration also includes the seemingly innocuous letters that the sisters sent to one another over the years that a Nesle sister graced the bed of their monarch. Each sister is quite distinct and different, with very different reasons for being interested in the King, very different takes on morality, and different ways of approaching the complicated life at the court of Versailles. Christie has done a great job presenting the time period and the undercurrents at play in the court. The politics of the novel are sometimes a little bit light as its focus is more on the backstabbing and cunning deceit practiced by the Nesle sisters both towards each other and towards those who would oust them from their sovereign's favor. Those people around them who see these young women as a way to curry favor with Louis glide on and off the stage, doing their utmost to use the King's personal life to further their political ambitions and hopes. The novel is detailed, full of scandal and intrigue, brimming with betrayal and duplicity. It is a both a tale of the ultimate unimportance of the women who swirled around the King and an intriguing lesson in their momentary power. Perhaps this novel is enough to bring Louise, Pauline, Diane, Hortense, and Marie-Anne back into the forefront of history, to make them more than just a curiousity. In any case, it is a fast and fascinating read and bodes well for the next novel in the trilogy, the tale of the next royal mistress, one whose name history has not forgotten, Madame de Pompadour.

For more information about Sally Christie, take a look at her website. Check out the book's Good Reads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Lisa from TLC Book Tours.


  1. Sounds good, I might like this one.

  2. I can't imagine backstabbing my family like this ... I probably wouldn't have survived in the King's Court for very long!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour!

  3. Sounds very good.

    Thanks for your review.

  4. Now that you mention it, the Sisters of Versailles really was a quick read, which surprises me because it was like 440 pages. Once I opened the book and started reading though, I could not put it down. Loved this one!


I have had to disable the anonymous comment option to cut down on the spam and I apologize to those of you for whom this makes commenting a chore. I hope you'll still opt to leave me your thoughts. I love to hear what you think, especially so I know I'm not just whistling into the wind here at my computer.

Popular Posts