Review: Before Versailles – Karleen Koen

A novel of Louis XIV
Genre: Historical fiction
Pages: 400
Published: June 28th 2011 Crown

Before Versailles is the luscious, sweeping story of the young Louis XIV in his first year as king of France. Told in the alternating perspectives of the young king and his first love, the woman who would become his mistress, Karleen Koen’s newest weaves a portrait of court and country in turmoil with the legends of this colorful period in history, including that of the mysterious man in the iron mask.

My thoughts:
The book is in a way not written from one POV. Sure Louise de Valliere is the main character for most of it but there is always someone else taking  her is his turn to say something, or to think something. It feels not like you follow one person but like you are some sort of ghost jumping around trying to see what is going on.

The book also takes place during a few months in 1661. Lois XIV is madly in love with his sister in law Henriette and they have a relationship. Her husband Phillippe is angry, but then he has former lovers too, male ones. Viscount Nicholas who takes care of the finances is spying on everyone and he will soon be thrown into jail. Louise comes to the court, all innocent and sweet and tries to hide the affair between the king and his sister in law. And then Louise and Louis fall in love. Lots more affairs going on and someone are sending the king notes questioning who his father is. That is what is going on in this book. It is a young court since the king is only 22. Everyone is happy and flirting with each other.

There is also another part of the book. The author takes in the story about the iron mask and makes Louise find out more about this. A nice little plot that goes well with everything. Especially since it brings light on the relationship between the Queen Mother and Mazarin.

I felt sorry for poor Louise when I later had a look at her fate. She loved the king and he just threw her to the side when he was finished with her. The book may end all happily but she was certainly not the last mistress he had. Especially horrible was how she was used as a decoy when he found a new woman. The power of kings. Still in this book he is a young king and in love. You can’t fault him for that, and neither Louise who is young and impressionable.

Sometimes I did wonder if it was the way it was written that never made me totally fall for the book. I never seemed to get a hold of anyone. They slipped through my fingers.

This is a book for historical fiction fans out there, and especially those who enjoy the period.



I am guestreviewing over at Ex Libris
The picture book, Honestly red Riding hood was rotten 🙂
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38 thoughts on “Review: Before Versailles – Karleen Koen

  1. Mel says:

    I like historical novels (although I'd be the first admit I've not read one for ages!) and I don't know a lot about French history – other than what little is seen in the Man in the Iron Mask films! I quite the sound of this though.

  2. Misha says:

    I agree about the cover! But I would read ANYTHING by Karleen Koen no matter how horrible the cover. I loved the author's previous books – I have to get my hands on Before Versailles.

  3. anachronist says:

    Hmm… like that historical era and let me only say that Louis XIV was not a fluffy bunny but I am not sure about the rest, especially the narration. I am fond of first-person narrations because they might make you feel the book and get to know their characters better. There might be several POVs but still…The cover is bland to say the least of it.

  4. Jenny says:

    I can't imagine living in this time period where you could just be cast aside when you'd served your purpose and there would be nothing you could actually object to because that's just how things worked. Crazy.

  5. Blodeuedd says:

    @MysticaLol, it as a good bit@ChrisIt was like I was just standing outside and the Povs changed so quickly. Some were just a sentence from someone before someone else took over@MaryOh you have? While I can't remember the last time I read a book in this setting

  6. Blodeuedd says:

    @MelNot one in ages?! Oh you poor girl, you need to remedy that. The soul needs historical fiction ;)I can't say I know much about that era either.@MishaI am glad to hear that her other two books are good too. Because she was a good writer and she did keep me entertained@AnnaIt was a new era for me too. Funny how I haven't stumbled upon it more

  7. Blodeuedd says:

    @AnaFluffy bunny he was not. he did some bad things already during these 4 months during his early reign so I get the big bad picture *coughs Louis is an ass*I like POVS that are 1st or 3rd, does not matter to me, I like when 2 or more peeps talk. Here it was like one person's POV, then one sentence from another and then a third gets a paragraph. Strange@LindaThen you definitely should keep an eye out@JennyIt was horrible. there are historical records how she threw herself at his feet and cried and he just watched her with cold eyes ;( What a bastard.@CatI love historical fiction and I would recommend it to everyone 😀

  8. Aurian says:

    I have read two of Karleen Koen's boek many many years ago, as they were translated into Dutch. And I did like them a lot. This one does not really appeal to me, but it sounds a bit like the Jean Plaidy books I also used to read.

  9. Carole Rae says:

    Oooooh, I really want to read this now. I was a little on the fence about it, because I wasn't quite sure what the book was about. Thanks for the grew review!

  10. Blodeuedd says:

    AurianWell if you have read and liked her work then I am sure you would enjoy this one tooCaroleIt's about lots of things 😀 Mostly about how young and happy everyone wanted to be before things got dark

  11. StephanieD says:

    Since the plot is so spicy, perhaps it is the way the novel was written that might have kept you from taking to the book. The potential is certainly there.

  12. Staci says:

    Not making a connection is a bad thing for me. I thought the cover was pretty cool but not sure that the time period and people involved have me interested enough to read it.

  13. Blodeuedd says:

    @AmusedAnd I haven't even read about it before! But yes some periods in time are very overdone *coughs Tudors*@StephI do think it was the way it was written. I mean it was good and kept me entertained but it also kept me at an arms length.@MelissaHistoricals? Oh I love them, just think of them as fantasy and you will do fine, lol.

  14. Blodeuedd says:

    @Melissa SwimI guess I just would have wanted more from one POV and not the myriad I got@StaciI do have to connect too, here it worked in a way when I didn't. But I do feel that if the time span had been longer it had been a problem

  15. Blodeuedd says:

    @MelissaIt was good and it kept me reading. I just felt like a butterfly, oh that doesn't make any sense at all, lol@DCI do recommend a bit more historical fiction :D@MRS QIt was actually my first book by her and I did not know he from before. But I did remember seeing another book of hers@CarrieI think the reason for me was the changing of POVS and never getting close. But hang in there and you will find out who he is

  16. Audra says:

    I'm reading this later this month and pretty excited — it's my first Koen and everyone raves about her. Her books are vaguely a series, if I understand her blog post correctly, so I wonder if that's why all the characters felt hard to know — it might be that you needed to read the other books? (I haven't read her other books yet, either, so we'll see if I have the same experience!)

  17. Shy says:

    I am pretty excited to hear about this book as I haven't read anything on this time period. Will definitely have to check it out!

  18. Blodeuedd says:

    AudraA series? I can't make sense of that, she spoke of some characters that are not in this book. Hm, did she mean that she will write another book so we get more from these peepsShyThen you should have a look and learn a bit more 😀

  19. Marg says:

    I have heard so many good things about Karleen Koen's books, but never read one, so this is going to be my gateway book into her writing.Hopefully I will manage to get lost in it a bit more than you did.

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