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Before Versailles: A Novel of Louis XIV    by Karleen Koen order for
Before Versailles
by Karleen Koen
Order:  USA  Can
Crown, 2011 (2011)
Hardcover, CD

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* *   Reviewed by Elizabeth Crowley

The bestselling author of Through a Glass Darkly and Now Face to Face has once again written an unforgettable novel. In her latest book, Karleen Koen has written about France's sun king, Louis XIV. Before Versailles begins when the splendid palace is simply an old hunting lodge used by previous monarchs. At twenty two, Louis has been crowned king after the death of his prime minister, Cardinal Mazarin. Louis' reign promises a new era, but when he begins finding messages mocking the Cardinal's well-known relationship with his mother, Louis must accept that he houses a traitor behind the beautiful walls of Fontainebleau.

Louis' charm and good looks win the hearts of his subjects, but his sister-in-law, Henriette, is the most beloved and sought after woman at court. Undeniably beautiful and captivating, Henriette has captured many hearts at Fontainebleau, including the king's. Louis and his brother's wife carry on a passionate love affair that is becoming harder to keep secret. But the Queen Mother realizes that a rift between the royal brothers could threaten the stability of the kingdom. While Queen Anne plots to put an end to the king's taboo affair with his brother's wife, Louis and Henriette concoct a ruse to convince the Queen Mother and the rest of court that their affair has ended. However, their harmless game has an outcome Henriette never expected.

While Henriette consumes Louis' heart, the state of his kingdom consume the king's time. Memories of France's civil war linger in the air, and the country's finances are in shambles. When Louis discovers his superintendent of finances has been stealing money from the crown for years, he realizes Cardinal Mazarin's corruption is alive and well at court. Still, Viscount Nicolas Fouquet is held in high regard by his mother and the people. Louis must tread carefully. But when news of a fortified island stocked with ships and weapons is linked to the superintendent, Louis must act quickly to save his kingdom from plunging into yet another civil war.

Before Versailles is full of secret love affairs and court intrigue. Karleen Koen has created an intricately researched novel with brilliantly written historical figures. Anyone who has read a Koen novel will know that Karleen Koen is a master at writing a love story. In the midst of tawdry affairs and political turmoil, Before Versailles delivers a beautifully written romance that will remind readers why they are Koen fans. This novel was worth the wait.

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