I first became a fan of Sandra Guilland — when I read her three novel series about Josephine Bonaparte, which were wonderful and highly recommended. This was also a quick and very enjoyable read, though not quite up to the same standard! Awarded four stars on Goodreads.
Although this book is advertised as being about the opulent French court of King Louis XIV and his mistress, Athenais de Montespan — both turn out to be more peripheral, though still important characters.
The central protagonist is another historical figure, Claude des Oeillets, who moves in and out of Parisien theatre in the 1600s. The rivalries between writers Pierre Corneille and Moliere, followed by the appearance of Racine— all of them vying for the king’s favor — make interesting reading.
Claude, who comes from a family of actors, eventually finds her way into Athenais’s service, where she is exposed to the brutal rivalries at the French Court. These are similar in many ways to her experience in the theatre, as is the competition among Louis’s various mistresses. It all makes for fascinating reading.
More about the author, Sandra Gulland.