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Before Versailles
Cover of Before Versailles
Before Versailles
Before the History You Know...a Novel of Louis XIV
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"A grand yet intimate look at the Sun King, a tale rich with detail and action."—Library Journal (Starred Review, one of the best historical novels of the year)

Before Versailles transports you to a world of secret passions and plots, a world of duplicity and malice...a world that created one of the best–known monarchs to grace the French throne.

At the most decisive time in the young king's life, Louis XIV can taste the danger. His court teems with greed and corruption, the wrong woman draws him into a wrenching love affair, and a mysterious boy in an iron mask haunts the woods. The untried ruler is coming into his own in 1661, and Louis XIV must face what he is willing to sacrifice for honor and for love.

Meticulously researched and gorgeously brought to life by New York Times bestselling author Karleen Koen, Before Versailles offers up a sumptuous, authentic exploration of a time that forged a man into a king.

Praise for Before Versailles:

"In this magnificently written and researched novel, Karleen Koen brings to vibrant life the early years and loves of the future Sun King."—Jean M. Auel, author of The Clan of the Cave Bear and the Land of Painted Caves

"A baroque cornucopia spilling over with intrigue, passion, jealousy, ambition, and rich historical detail, Before Versailles offers a glittering glimpse of the crucial months that shaped Louis XIV into Europe's most powerful monarch."—Eleanor Herman, author of Sex with Kings

"A grand yet intimate look at the Sun King, a tale rich with detail and action."—Library Journal (Starred Review, one of the best historical novels of the year)

Before Versailles transports you to a world of secret passions and plots, a world of duplicity and malice...a world that created one of the best–known monarchs to grace the French throne.

At the most decisive time in the young king's life, Louis XIV can taste the danger. His court teems with greed and corruption, the wrong woman draws him into a wrenching love affair, and a mysterious boy in an iron mask haunts the woods. The untried ruler is coming into his own in 1661, and Louis XIV must face what he is willing to sacrifice for honor and for love.

Meticulously researched and gorgeously brought to life by New York Times bestselling author Karleen Koen, Before Versailles offers up a sumptuous, authentic exploration of a time that forged a man into a king.

Praise for Before Versailles:

"In this magnificently written and researched novel, Karleen Koen brings to vibrant life the early years and loves of the future Sun King."—Jean M. Auel, author of The Clan of the Cave Bear and the Land of Painted Caves

"A baroque cornucopia spilling over with intrigue, passion, jealousy, ambition, and rich historical detail, Before Versailles offers a glittering glimpse of the crucial months that shaped Louis XIV into Europe's most powerful monarch."—Eleanor Herman, author of Sex with Kings

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Excerpts-
  • From the book

    March 1661, France

    A young woman galloped headlong and recklessly down half-wild trails in the immense forest of Fontainebleau. Her fair hair had come loose from its pins, and she leaned low against her horse's neck and whispered the filly onward, as if she were being chased by murderers. It was said she possessed magic with horses, and the groom attempting to follow behind her believed it. She was like a picture he'd seen once-of a centaur, a creature of mythology, half man, half horse. The only souls to hear the sound of thudding hooves were birds, rabbits, foxes, in burrows or hollow logs or nests of green moss and twigs, all of which stayed hidden, out of sight and harm. The forest around them was wild, huge, one of France's glories. For centuries, kings had hunted under its majestic and ancient trees. It was said to be filled still with forest spirits, shy, sly, summer-like sylphs who blended into the leaves that would unfurl soon and blessed or cursed the humans impinging on their malachite- and emerald-hued domain.

    The horses galloped into a clearing in which a tree lay fallen. The young blond leaned forward in her sidesaddle and told her horse that the beast could do it, and the filly responded, sailing over the tree effortlessly. Afraid to take the dangerous jump, tired from their long gallop this day, the groom pulled hard on his reins, and the horse under him snorted and jerked its head and turned in circles, while the blond trotted her horse back to him. Her face was lovely, flushed, incandescent-the way it could be when she was this happy and carefree. Her name was Louise de la Baume le Blanc, and she was just on the cusp of ten and six, and she had no idea of it, but her life was about to change forever as certain stars finished their alignment.

    "You ride better than a man, miss," said the groom.

    "What a day we've had. So wonderful." She dropped the reins and put her hands to her hair, fallen from its many pins onto her shoulders.

    "Ow-w-w," came a long, low yowl from the woods around them.

    Startled, both Louise and the groom turned in their saddles. From between trees whose trunks were the size of Egyptian obelisks, a boy appeared. Waving his arms, breath growling rasps in his lungs, he howled like some demon in a church passion play.

    The howls took their breath away, but so did what was upon the boy's face: an iron mask, its visage grim and terrible, with holes for sight and a raised impression for the nose. Dark hair fell through leather straps to cascade down the sides of the child's head. Only his mouth, where a string of slobber hung, was visible, and his continuing cries sent shivers down the spines of both Louise and the groom. He ran straight toward Louise, and her horse laid back its ears, reared, danced backward, and she fell.

    From atop the other horse, the groom began to hit at the boy with a riding crop, lashing at thin arms and shoulders, and the boy staggered, holding up his hands to protect himself.

    "Get away from here! Brigand! Thief! Murderer!" Circling around the boy, the groom hit him everywhere: soft neck, thin shoulders, long arms, bare hands. The boy howled louder and ran toward trees behind them. The groom jumped down from his saddle to Louise, who hadn't moved since her body hit the ground.

    "Miss! Oh please, miss!" he cried.

    Now others ran into the clearing. The groom cursed himself for letting her ride so far from the château. Were they in danger? What was happening? Who was this now? A band of thieves? Decent people pursuing a mad, nearly grown boy? What? Then he saw that one was a soldier, a musketeer, wearing the colors of the great and powerful...

About the Author-
  • Karleen Koen is interested in history, particularly women's place in it. Love and hate, gender issues, and spiritual quests are themes she explores in her fiction. She lives in Houston and is also the author of Dark Angels and Now Face to Face. Her blog, called Writing Life, is at www.wordpress.karleenkoen.com.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    March 7, 2011
    It's good to be the king, but also lonely and dangerous, according to Koen's lively historical about Louis XIV's efforts to establish himself as a model monarch. The novel begins in 1661, when Cardinal Mazarin's death leaves the superintendent of finance, Nicolas Fouquet, chomping at the bit to take over the most powerful job in France. Unfortunately for him, 22-year-old Louis relies on self-taught Jean-Baptiste Colbert rather than self-serving Fouquet, taking on royal cash-flow problems, civil strife, and international and bedroom politics, only to discover the greatest threat comes from within his own family. Meanwhile, 16-year-old Louise de la Baume le Blanc tries to keep the honor in maid-of-honor, not an easy task when serving Henriette d'Orleans, though Louise is far more interested in a mysterious boy in an iron mask. Thinking about Henriette, Louis comes across Louise. Thinking about the boy, Louise comes across Louis. The rest is history. Following solidly in the footsteps of Dumas, Koen (Dark Angels) reveals independent-spirited Louise to be a modern heroine in period costume, and, with her focus on the time just before Louis becomes the unrivaled Sun King, she finds the era ripe for intrigue and romance, not to mention possible sequels.

  • Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell "A book for the lovers of French history. Love, lust, betrayal and intrigue.
    "
  • Celtic Lady's Reviews " I have been a fan of Karleen Koen for many years since I read the first book Through a Glass Darkly and she did not disappoint me with this book. A historical fiction novel that will appeal to readers who love the genre. I thoroughly enjoyed it. "
  • Found Not Lost "I read this book on sunny afternoons during the summer with a tall glass of iced tea while I sat under the tree in the backyard. And once in a while, when the breeze blows I can almost imagine myself transported to Versailles as vividly described as it is in the book. The description of the characters and their setting is so colorful that I easily got lost in that world, immersed in the intrigues and machinations of court life. Just my kind of book for a summer escape!"
  • Thoughts from Lady Tess "This book is a veritable feast for anyone interested in 17th century France and its star, Louis XIV. "
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Before Versailles
Before Versailles
Before the History You Know...a Novel of Louis XIV
Karleen Koen
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