Written by Laura L. Sullivan
Review by Michael I. Shoop

Spy. Seductress. Poisoner. Villainess. The untold story of the Countess de Winter, better known as Milady, the scheming femme fatale in Dumas’ The Three Musketeers, is cleverly revealed by Milady herself. Clarice is the only daughter of an ambitious English courtier, Lord Paget, and his French wife. She is rigorously educated by her mother in Yorkshire, equipped with the knowledge of herbs and poisons—and a slim dagger. Her father forces Clarice to leave her home and her childhood friend, Denys, to be tutored in the seductive arts by Lady Mary Villiers. While in training, Clarice becomes enthralled with Mary’s son, handsome George Villiers, and both participate in the plot to oust King James I’s current favorite and replace him with George. Clarice is betrayed and demoralized by George, then banished by her father to the Convent of St. Ursula in France, where she befriends another inmate, Connie (aka Constance Bonacieux). After a series of adventures and revelations, including a stunning admission from her mother and being branded a thief, she embarks on a brief marriage with the Comte de la Fere. But once that idyll is shattered, Clarice makes the desperate decision to be an agent for France, which ultimately sets her on a vengeful collision course with George (now the Duke of Buckingham), and threatens all she holds dear.

Setting the action between 1615 and 1628 in England and France, Sullivan, with witty dialogue, a fast pace, and rich detail, deftly juggles her plotlines, weaving in events and characters from the original classic, creating a riveting chronicle of court intrigue, swashbuckling adventure, and danger. In unmasking Milady’s multiple personas, she reveals the true Milady, for whom her motto, Un pour tous (“One for all”) meant everything.