Before Versailles: A Novel of Louis XIV – by Karleen Koen – independent book review – Historical Fiction (France)

I originally read this book two years ago and just listened to it again, this time as a book on tape. It’s wonderful historical fiction and probably paints the best picture of court intrigue during the time of French King Louis XIV of any book I’ve read.  Awarded four stars on Goodreads

The book covers four pivotal months in Louis’s reign, when he is 22 and eager to assume complete power after growing up under the shadow of his mother, Anne of Austria, and Cardinal Mazarin, who has recently died when the book begins.

Louis’s queen, Maria Theresa of Spain, is expecting their first child, and he becomes infatuated with his brother’s new wife, Henriette, and the mystery of the man in the iron mask is about to unfold. The book also covers the early days of Louis’s love affair with Louise de la Valliere, who is the clear heroine of the book in my mind.


But what’s wonderfully described is the environment of deceit that surrounds the King, as people try relentlessly to gain royal favor. Friends, relatives, even confessors — very few can be trusted. The side stories of the building of Vaux-le-Vicomte and the fall of finance minister Nicolas Fouquet are both delicious. The reader gets the clear sense of how lonely it truly is to be a king.

More about the author, Karleen Koen