Mistress of the Sun by Sandra Gulland is wonderful piece of historical fiction set in the 17th Century of the Sun King, King Louis XIV’s court. I’ve been very lucky lately to read some exceptional historical novels and Mistress of the Sun is yet another one.
The novel is really a journey through Louise de la Valliere’s life although she was known to most as ‘Petite’. The story starts with Petite as a young girl of six years old. Petite is a bit of a tomboy, much preferring to ride horses and hunt then to sit and do needlework. One day in particular she is off with her father on a day trip and she sees a wild woman on a horse. This scene is beautifully written and one of my favorites…
- ‘A Romany woman in a crimson gown flashes by, standing on the back of a cantering horse. Her crown of turkey feathers quivers under the burning summer sun. “The Wild Woman!” announces the showman, flourishing a black hat. The crowd cheers as the lathered horse picks up speed. It tosses its big head, throwing off gobs of sweat and spittle. Its tail streams, and its hooves pound the dust. The Wild Woman puts out her hands, her diaphanous skirts billowing out behind her. Slowly, she raises her arms to the cloudless sky and shrieks a piercing war cry. A pale girl—barely tall enough to see over the rails—watches transfixed, imagining her own thin arms outstretched, her own feet planted on a horse’s broad back. She presses her hands to her cheeks in wonder. Oh, the wind!’ (pg 3, Mistress of the Sun by Sandra Gulland)
Later Petite spots a beautiful white horse who she begs her father to buy as this is the horse she’s been dreaming of. He’s wild though and named Diablo as he’s said to have the Devil in him. Try as they might nobody seems able to get anywhere near Diablo. Petite takes it upon herself to try some old fashioned Bone Magic (which she knows is a sin) to see if she can’t tame him. She succeeds but at what cost?
Petite’s mother soon puts her in a convent and Petite finds that she really likes it there. It’s peaceful and she’s content and would like to continue in the religious life. However, this isn’t meant to be and instead Petite finds herself as a waiting maid to Princess Marguerite, a girl of higher nobility than herself. Later after Marguerite marries, Petite moves to the King’s court. He notices her and shortly thereafter she becomes his mistress.
The story then takes us into the beautiful and often treacherous world of the Court. As the King says, ‘At Court, nothing is as it appears. We all wear masks.’ (pg 197, Mistress of the Sun by Sandra Gulland). As for Petite, she wasn’t prepared for this world in any way. I don’t think she was ever meant for a life such as it was at Court. She wasn’t devious and she wasn’t exceptionally beautiful but she loved Louis~not the King~but Louis the man; to her they were two different people. Petite struggles with the sin she knows she’s committing and also with all the ways of Court ~ such as the King having more than one mistress. This isn’t Petite’s way.
I loved this novel and would highly recommend it to those who like historical fiction and even those who haven’t read any~this novel is easily read. I even had a few laugh out loud moments when reading about certain ideas they had back in the 17th Century in regards to how to prevent pregnancies or ‘plucking a rose’ meant needing to use the washroom. I liked that I got to learn a bit about a King I had not yet encountered in my reading and I loved learning about Petite. She is a very likeable character in her vulnerability and the fact that she seemed so real. She had real fears and a high moral standard despite where she found herself in life. In the end Petite stayed true to herself and what was best for her~she was truly admirable.
I have to thank Sandra for having me along on her Blog Tour. I’ve got the Josephine B. trilogy on my shelf and look forward to reading it soon. As for Mistress of the Sun, I read it in a matter of days. It’s one of those novels where you just find yourself so entranced by the story you are unable to stop reading until the last page is turned. Make sure and pop into Sandra’s website here to learn more about her and her novels. You can buy Mistress of the Sun here in the US and here in Canada.
Please join me tomorrow when Sandra will be here with a guest post and I will be sharing a wonderful copy of this book with a lucky reader!