Monday, September 6, 2010

REVIEW: To Dance with Kings by Rosalind Laker

Description from Amazon: On a May morning in 1664, in the small village of Versailles, as hundreds of young aristocrats are coming to pay court to King Louis XIV, a peasant fan-maker gives birth to her first and only child, Marguerite. Determined to give her daughter a better life than the one she herself has lived, the young mother vows to break the newborn’s bonds of poverty and ensure that she fulfills her destiny—to dance with kings. Purely by chance, a drunken nobleman witnesses the birth and makes a reckless promise to return for Marguerite in seventeen years. With those fateful words, events are set into motion that will span three monarchies, affecting the lives of four generations of women.

Marguerite becomes part of the royal court of the Sun King, but her fairy-tale existence is torn out from under her by a change of political winds. Jasmin, Marguerite’s daughter, is born to the life of privilege her grandmother dreamed of, but tempts fate by daring to catch the eye of the king. Violette, Marguerite’s granddaughter, is drawn to the nefarious side of life among the nobles at Versailles. And Rose, Violette’s daughter, becomes a lady-in-waiting and confidante to Marie Antoinette. Through Rose, a love lost generations before will come full circle, even as the ground beneath Versailles begins to rumble with the chaos of the coming revolution.

This wonderful novel spans four generations of spunky women whose lives intertwine with the court of Versailles. First there was Marguerite who against all odds actually sees the plans her mother set for her come to fruition when the drunken nobleman, Augustin Roussier actually returns for her as promised following tragic circumstances. Their affection for each other blossoms into a deep love that lasts a life time, even if that love is ill-fated. Before they are parted, the union produces daughter Jasmin who grows up not wanting for anything. She develops a friendship with young Louis XV and gradually the two come to mean something more to each other but their romance is ill-fated too as Jasmin is seen as a threat due to her attachment to Louis and is forced into a cruel marriage. Jasmin is miserable but finally experience love in the person of Michel Balaine, a famed painter who is hired by her mother to paint her portrait. They know that after the paintings are done they must part and Jasmin is left to endure the cruel treatment of her sadistic husband, but it is not long that she learns she is pregnant with Michel’s child. Nine months later she gives birth to Violette but must hide her with a foster family so her husband does not find out. Violette grows up with infrequent visits from her mother and soon builds much animosity towards her. At 16 Violette meets a Captain of the Swiss Guard and runs away to Versailles. Jasmin is devastated but never gives up hope of finding her child. Many years later, Violette finds her and she reveals that she has been living at Versailles as one of the mistresses of Louis XV. She tells Jasmin that she is leaving, and has just had a baby that she wants Jasmin to care for as she can’t take the child with her. Jasmin agrees and names the child Rose. Rose grows up in a loving home and soon goes to court to wait on young Queen Marie Antoinette. It is here she meets the man of her dreams all while battling the danger of the French Revolution as it unfolds.

I loved this book! Each of the women was vastly different and faced decidedly different challenges in their lives but all exhibited an iron will that saw them through the worst of circumstances. I also loved how the story wove perfectly with the court of the Sun King, Louis the XIV, Louis the XV, and poor Louis XVI and his Queen Marie Antoinette who met their untimely end at the hands of the French Revolutionaries. I enjoyed seeing a picture of the people that were at the center of court life during the reign of these three kings.

All of the women were likable with the exception of Violette who was spoiled, self-centered, and arrogant . Still her story was an interesting element of the book, I just didn’t care for her. Also I was kind of miffed as to why Louis the XV would refuse to bring Jasmin out of banishment once her marriage to her hateful husband was through. A reason behind this was never given.

Besides the thoroughly unlikable Violette and that one area that puzzled me, I really enjoyed this spectacular novel of Versailles.

This book is from my own personal library


  1. I have often had this book recommended to me, I just haven't had the chance to read it yet. I loved the Golden Tulip by Laker - I would recommend that one. Great review.

  2. This is my favorite Laker book, followed closely by This Shining Land, which is different from her usual formula. I need to go back and read this now that I'm more familiar with the history.

  3. I've had this book for the longest time..and keep saying i'll read it soon. Looks like I better do it fast- sounds soo good! Thanks for the great review:)

  4. I am so glad you loved this book...I did too! I also recommend her book The Venetian Mask!

    Great review Holly!