Marci Jefferson's ENCHANTRESS OF PARIS, just released from Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press, addresses a glaring need in the panoply of historical fiction: novels set during the seventeenth century, and more specifically, in France. The French Revolution and two World Wars draw the lion's share of interest from authors and readers interested in France; huge swaths of fascinating history from earlier eras remain virtually untouched. Tapping into this treasure trove, Jefferson reanimates the personalities and intrigue of the court of Louis XIV, the Sun King. With an energetic, skillful flair, she examines the relationship between Marie Mancini, the defiant niece of the powerful Cardinal Mazarin, and young Louis, who wishes, despite all expectations, to marry her. Based on Marie's own memoirs, Jefferson's captivating novel sparkles like the diamonds that grace the beautiful Mazarinette's neck.
One of five daughters of Cardinal Mazarin's sister, Marie has spent most of her life secluded in convents in order to protect her family's political and social aspirations from the threat she embodies. Born under an evil star, she is predicted to disgrace her family in a way no woman had ever done before. Summoned to the palace bid farewell to her dying mother, Marie catches the eye of the serious young king, whose face mirrors her own loneliness. She wins Louis away from her sister Olympia, his current mistress, and by promising to bend the king to her uncle's will, gains her freedom from the convent. Marie's fierce love inspires Louis with a confidence he has never felt; she encourages him to escape his dependence on Mazarin and act as king in his own right. Disgusted by Mazarin's brazen abuse of power and threatened by his unrestrained hostility, Marie searches for ways to thwart her uncle's designs. Mazarin's political hopes center on a peace treaty with Spain that requires Louis to marry the Spanish princess. Desperate to save her future, Marie searches for proof of the long-ago affair between Mazarin and the queen mother that resulted in Louis's birth, and turns to the very black arts that prophesied her downfall. Will her efforts assure her marriage to the king or force her to forsake him? Dare Louis ignore the needs of his nation to satisfy the desires of his heart?
Although at times the focus on the royal romance threatens to overwhelm the novel's plot, the intriguingly unfamiliar history and strong characterizations counter this danger. By examining the early years of Louis's reign, Jefferson humanizes a king who later came to epitomize the absolute monarch, revealing a tender vulnerability that succumbs to both Mazarin's control and Marie's influence. By embracing the possibility that Louis is in fact Mazarin's son, a theory recently suggested by historians, Jefferson provides a motivation for Mazarin's scheming and the means for his undoing. Finally, by casting Marie as a "Mazarinette," one of the bevy of sisters and cousins the Cardinal exploits to further his own schemes, Jefferson cleverly justifies Marie's audacious behavior. Nieces of an exceptional man, the Mazarinettes all exhibit extraordinary tendencies and lead unconventional lives. Marie's boldness, unusual in a young woman of that era, rings true in the context of her family and her upbringing. Forced to rely on no one but herself if she hopes to change her destiny, Marie inspires Louis to look within for the courage he needs to transform from obedient son to authentic king--and make her his bride in the process.
In the vein of 2014's GIRL ON THE GOLD COIN (several of whose characters make cameo appearances here), ENCHANTRESS OF PARIS spotlights a strong, spirited woman who rebels against those who would sacrifice her for their own gain, a woman who, determined to direct the course of her own life, stands to alter the course of a nation. Shining light into the darkest corners of the Sun King's glittering court, ENCHANTRESS OF PARIS examines whether love, grit and will can indeed revise what is written in the stars.
To celebrate the publication of ENCHANTRESS OF PARIS, St. Martin's Press is providing one hardback copy for giveaway. To enter the drawing, leave a comment with a contact email address by 9 pm Pacific Standard Time on August 18, 2015. Winner's name, chosen at random, will be posted August 20. Entrants must reside in the continental US. Good luck!
Be sure to return tomorrow for an interview with Marci about Marie and the history behind the novel.
MARCI JEFFERSON graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University’s Medical College as a Registered Nurse. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society and lives in Indiana with her husband and children. This is her second novel. You can learn more about Marci and her books at her website. ENCHANTRESS OF PARIS can be ordered from all the usual outlets.