Reading Backwards

Book reviews by your favorite Git.

To Dance With Kings

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By Rosalind Laker
Out of print, but you can get it via Amazon.com. Or, you know, the library.
Rating: Bon.
Read: 2005 (March?)

I'm still not sure if I enjoyed this, but it's certainly worth talking about. To Dance With Kings is set in France, and begins with the founding of Versailles. Jeanne Dremont, a modest peasant woman living in the village of Versailles, struggles to give birth. Her husband labours for the construction of Louis XIV's magnificent new country getaway. Fate intervenes, however, when a pack of young noblemen come to find lodgings, as the rest of the Court has already filled up the standard establishments. Lead by (whatishisname?!) Roussau, the youths find Jeanne's labour amusing, and catcall while she gives birth to a baby girl. (Though a foreign concept today and to Jeanne, the queens of France would hardly have been surprised.) Rousseau is vastly amused, and proclaims that he shall name the child (Marguerite), and- she is so pretty- he will marry her one day! Jeanne latches onto this vow, sealed with the gift of a fan and gold, and raises the little girl for a courtly lifestyle. Rousseau, meanwhile, forgets about it completely.


And so the lowly Dremonts become entwined with Louis' court. The story spans five generations of daughters, and their rise and fall in fortune. There is certainly romance, but it also paints a realistic portrait of what life was truly like for women then. Marguerite struggles to establish herself as a fanmaker, wanting to stand alone before allowing some handsome nobleman to wed her. Her daughter, Jasmin, is spoiled by the success, but displeases powerful people at court and is exiled with a vicious abuser for a husband. She keeps her own daughter, Violette, away from this beast- only to have the girl resent her affluent mother and run away. There is heartbreak and strife, and little joy. At last the story comes full circle… with Violette's daughter, Rose, made a lady in waiting of none other than Marie Antoinette, a position that puts her very life in danger.

I did fall in love with much of it. I think it deserves a reread when I'm not feeling slightly stuffy-headed. Though it was stodgy in places, due to pacing, I can't say that spending less time on anything would make it better. Masses of historical detail were included without it seeming forced, and each step is entirely plausible.

…I would very much like to SLAP Violette, though. Very, very much…

Reccomended for those with much time, an appetite for historical fiction and intrigue, and patience.

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Written by Shen

June 12, 2005 at 2:46 am

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