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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » The French Mistress: A Novel of the Duchess of Portsmouth and King Charles II » User review

"I would love one king so that I might please another."

  • Jul 19, 2009
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Holloway Scott makes a valiant effort to rehabilitate one of the most reviled courtesans of Charles II of England's Restoration court. An innocent when first sent to the French court of Louis XIV, Louise de Keroualle cuts her teeth on political intrigue as lady-in-waiting to Charles' sister, Henriette-Anne, wife of the cruel Duc d' Orleans. Louise becomes an integral part of a critical intrigue of the era: a secret treaty between France and England. Louise styles herself "the secret cause of the secret treaty". Adept at adjusting to political expedience and personal aggrandizement, de Keroualle bears witness to the indignities suffered by her mistress, developing an attachment to King Charles from afar. After the duchess d'Orleans' tragic- and suspicious- death, Louise is sent by the French monarch to Charles's court, there to insinuate herself into his life and serve as a vital link between the two kings.

Holloway Scott introduces her protagonist as a young, impressionable girl, loyal to her mistress and shocked by the debauchery of the French court, rivaled only by Charles' hedonistic court in an age of libertines, political opportunists and extravagant spending. Her first lesson: trust no one but yourself. From a penniless lady-in-waiting to the intimate of kings, Louise propels herself through beauty, wit and guile into a position that is virtually unassailable, one of the randy Restoration king's most beloved paramours until his death, when she is credited with guiding him back to the True Religion, Louis's most fond aspiration. De Keroualle is nothing if not inventive, her beauty guaranteeing interest, then a gradual seduction and legitimate love affair with the king even though the sophisticated Charles realizes Louise is an agent of the French monarch: "Now I will grant that innocence is relative and mine was worn and tattered indeed."

The most compelling aspect of this fictional recreation is the kabuki theater enacted by two kings whose secret treaty pours much-needed funds into English coffers. Certainly, Louise benefits from the secret payments, secure in her exquisite rooms as England reels with an impending war with the Dutch and Parliament determines to keep their king Protestant in spite of his fascination with all things French. Outliving her beloved by fifty years, the intrepid de Keroualle fulfills a long-ago prophecy, "prized by two kings, a duchess in my own right and mother to a duke". Yet for all her cleverness, the acquisitive Louise fails to spark this reader's imagination in contrast to the king's other notable paramours, lacking the voluptuous passion of the fertile Barbara Castlemaine or the bawdy humor of stage actress Nell Gwyn. Surrounded by powerful men, liaison between kings, Louise de Keroualle teases, manipulates and instigates, victim of a plot to defame her, yet firmly entrenched in the affections of the charismatic, hedonistic Charles Stuart. Luan Gaines/ 2009.
The French Mistress

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More The French Mistress: A Novel o... reviews
review by . May 22, 2010
Susan Holloway Scott is another author whose works I have become addicted to recently. The period that covers the reign of King Charles II (1630-1685) has only recently become interesting to me. For some reason the Jacobite era - and that of King Charles I have not yet found interest in my reading choices. King Charles II, however, seems like he was a very interesting fellow - albeit a notorious womanizer who kept so many mistresses that I can't imagine how he didn't lose count! The author has written …
About the reviewer
Luan Gaines ()
Ranked #109
An artist/writer, I have traveled the world, walked on the moon and learned the complicated language of humanity, the enormity of the universe... all through the written word. My first passport was a … more
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About this book

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From the author of The King’s Favorite—a new novel based on a dazzling and decadent true story of Restoration England.

The daughter of a poor nobleman, Louise leaves the French countryside for the court of King Louis XIV, where she must not only please the tastes of the jaded king, but serve as a spy for France. With few friends, many rivals, and ever-shifting loyalties, Louise learns the perils of her new role. Yet she is too ambitious to be a pawn in the intrigues of others. With the promise of riches, power, and even the love of a king, Louise creates her own destiny in a dance of intrigue between two monarchs—and two countries.

About the Author
Susan Holloway Scott, a graduate of Brown University, is the author of more than thirty historical novels and novellas.
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ISBN-10: 0451226941
ISBN-13: 978-0451226945
Author: Susan Holloway Scott
Publisher: NAL Trade

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