Book Tour Review: The Rivals of Versailles by Sally Christie

Tuesday, May 10, 2016
Title: The Rivals of Versailles
Author: Sally Christie
Genre: historical fiction
Series: Mistresses of Versailles #2
Pages: 448
Published: April 2016
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for review
Rating: 5/5

And you thought sisters were a thing to fear. In this compelling follow-up to Sally Christie's clever and absorbing debut, we meet none other than the Marquise de Pompadour, one of the greatest beauties of her generation and the first bourgeois mistress ever to grace the hallowed halls of Versailles.

I write this before her blood is even cold. She is dead, suddenly, from a high fever. The King is inconsolable, but the way is now clear.

The way is now clear.

The year is 1745. Marie-Anne, the youngest of the infamous Nesle sisters and King Louis XV's most beloved mistress, is gone, making room for the next Royal Favorite.

Enter Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, a stunningly beautiful girl from the middle classes. Fifteen years prior, a fortune teller had mapped out young Jeanne's destiny: she would become the lover of a king and the most powerful woman in the land. Eventually connections, luck, and a little scheming pave her way to Versailles and into the King's arms.

All too soon, conniving politicians and hopeful beauties seek to replace the bourgeois interloper with a more suitable mistress. As Jeanne, now the Marquise de Pompadour, takes on her many rivals - including a lustful lady-in-waiting; a precocious fourteen-year-old prostitute, and even a cousin of the notorious Nesle sisters - she helps the king give himself over to a life of luxury and depravity. Around them, war rages, discontent grows, and France inches ever closer to the Revolution.

Enigmatic beauty, social climber, actress, trendsetter, patron of the arts, spendthrift, whoremonger, friend, lover, foe. History books may say many things about the famous Marquise de Pompadour, but one thing is clear: for almost twenty years, she ruled France and the King's heart.

Told in Christie's witty and modern style, this second book in the Mistresses of Versailles trilogy will delight and entrance fans as it once again brings to life the world of eighteenth century Versailles in all its pride, pestilence and glory.
It is now two books and nearly a thousand pages in and Sally Christie has yet to disappoint with her entertaining historical series centered on some of the most scandalous women of ancien regime France and their unstable relationships with the country's notorious kings and dauphins. As she did with the Mailly-Nesle women in Sisters of Versailles before, Christie has shown a keen ability to render historical events with a fresh eye for detail and life, as well as an ability to craft engaging plotlines for these new versions of old familiar figures. Historical fans of this era or these people already know how this story will progress, but the author is clever and makes the getting to the expected inventive and new without sacrificing authenticity.

Here, Christie ably tackles the legend of the woman forever remembered as the Marquise de Pompadour,  with a few lesser mistresses in the mix. However libertine and endless the King's sexual appetites over the course of their relationship, it is Jeannette ("Reinette") Poisson who commands attention for the entire novel. This is her book, just as Louis was her king for the nearly twenty years she was at his side. Far long after the sexual aspect of their connection ended, she exerted control and influence in unexpected but smart ways throughout France. Christie creates identifiable, different voices and personalities for all four of the POV characters in The Rivals of Versailles as deftly as she did in Sisters, but Pompadour was a undoubtedly a woman who loomed large in life and who also does so in print. 

Louis XV remains the axis on which the story pivots, but it is the women who stand out in these books and who propel the plot(s) forward -- both literally and figuratively. Christie's version of Louis is capable of engendering sympathy and empathy upon occasion, but the book clearly showcases him in all his many vices and small virtues. Pompadour's passion weans and wanes as her understanding of her King grows and she sees him as more of a man and less of a God. Pompadour was a woman who would never have been satisfied with an ordinary life, as Christie shows here.  Despite her occasional disillusionment or eventual apathy with her position, the Marquise never relinquished her side by Louis until her death, and their bond changed France, for good or ill.

The more tertiary characters that come into play in Court politics and in Pompadour's fishbowl, from less official mistresses like vacuous Marie-Anne Nesle (a cousin of the King's favorite Nesle), avaricious Morphise, and unlucky Rosalie, to ministers like le duc de Richelieu and Pompadour's abbe friend Bernis, also come to life in their more limited appearances. The lesser mistresses have the advantage of POVs (though short ones) to build an impression, but latter two do so in the letters between the Marquise and each that pepper the narrative. Richelieu, especially, with his snide remarks and clever insults, makes for an interesting and smart enemy for the Marquise to contend with at Versailles or in Paris. 

The Rivals of Versailles is a strong followup to what was an already strong beginning of this series; one that gives voices to women usually sidelined by politics in their time and by history after. Sally Christie clearly knows her historical timelines but is also inventive enough to create new plotlines from old events and to render new, authentic versions of historical figures. Pompadour's life and motivations have each been dissected and discussed by friends and enemies numerous times since her early death at only 42 two and a half centuries ago, but Sally Christie's version of her feels fresh and right. Rivals ends, appropriately, with Jeanette's death, but Louis outlives his most influential mistress and went on to his most infamous... which has me keenly awaiting how Christie will tackle  Enemies of Versailles and Madame du Barry.

(ps. the author's website is fantastic and full of great info for fans of the series)

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Blog Tour Schedule

Sunday, May 1
Review at A Book Drunkard
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Monday, May 2
Review at Caroline Wilson Writes

Tuesday, May 3
Interview at The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, May 4
Review at To Read or Not to Read
Review at With Her Nose Stuck In A Book
Review, Guest Post, & Giveaway at History Undressed

Thursday, May 5
Review at Bookish

Friday, May 6
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective

Monday, May 9
Review at Book Lovers Paradise
Guest Post at

Tuesday, May 10
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews

Wednesday, May 11
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Thursday, May 12
Review at The Lit Bitch
Interview at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Friday, May 13
Review at

Sunday, May 15
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Review & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Obsession


  1. I've loved both of the books in this trilogy. Can't wait for the third one! And I agree with you; her website is fantastic!

    1. ahahah that was supposed to go here! Ohh Jessie...

  2. I am so excited for the Enemies of Versailles-- waiting for it is not going to be fun!


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