By Honor Bound
This historical romance spans thirty-three years, climaxing in 1793 during the Terror. Instead of the expected aristocratic-love-in-the-shadow-of-the-guillotine story, the author presents a romance between servants. Honneure Mansart, an orphaned servant from the provinces, is dazzled by Versailles when she obtains a place as caretaker of Marie Antoinette’s pet dogs. She and her foster brother Philippe, a groom, are happy serving the kind and generous Dauphine, and plan to wed. When Louis XV becomes interested in Honneure, the machinations of Madame du Barry’s jealous servant Olivia results in Honneure’s exile to a loveless marriage in a distant province. When she does return to court, she and Philippe are reunited, but their happiness is threatened by the looming Revolution, especially when a secret about Honneure’s parentage is revealed. Will loyalty to the Queen doom her and Philippe?
The emphasis is on the romance; the landmark Revolutionary events take place mostly offstage. There are a few awkward conversation-as-exposition passages, and Marie Antoinette is depicted as an almost faultless, misunderstood saint. The novelty of the servants’ perspective and the satisfying romance overrode those reservations, and I enjoyed the book. An epilogue listing the fates of the historical characters is provided.