One for All

Written by Lillie Lainoff
Review by Valerie Adolph

Tania de Batz finds Paris of 1655 a place of exorbitant wealth and grinding poverty. Because of social unrest, the king is protected by the finest swordsmen, known as the Musketeers. Tania’s father had been a Musketeer and had trained her to be a fine fencer, but he has been murdered, and Tania is sent to Madame de Treville’s Academy for Wives. Apparently a school for grooming perfect wives for the aristocracy, in fact it trains a select few girls to become female Musketeers, accomplished fencers, and irresistible flirts using their skills to protect the king.

Not only is Tania new to Paris and to the skills of high society flirting, but she suffers from Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS for short). She becomes dizzy and nauseated frequently, making her training and deployment exceptionally difficult.

As we are whirled away into Parisian high society with Tania and her three friends under the watchful eye of the demanding Madame de Treville, we find treachery and deceit at many levels—and Tania is naïve and vulnerable. This absorbing story combines romance and adventure with information about the French monarchy, fencing, and one girl’s experience of living with POTS.

The author herself has grown up and faced life with POTS, and her experience is woven into every move Tania makes. This never becomes didactic; it simply adds to the tension. From the beginning, where Tania is dismissed as a young girl whose disability will prevent her making a good marriage, we feel for her struggles and her growing hopes as Madame gives her the confidence and skills to become an unbeatable swordswoman.

This is a successful blending of the roles of both personal struggle and persistence together with consistent and informed social support in overcoming a young person’s unusual challenges.