Review #54: Before Versailles

Before Versailles:

A Novel of Louis XIV


Karleen KOEN

460 pages

Publication:  June 28, 2011 – Crown


You may have noticed that lately, I’ve been getting reconciled with my Frenchness and have been reading more books related to France. This historical novel was very enjoyable, though for some reasons, it took me a while to read without having to go back and forth to the list of characters given at the beginning of the book. There are not that many characters though, and the relationships are rather easy.

I enjoyed the portrait of the hero, Louis XIV the Sun King, given here as during the first years of his reign. The focus is on the beginning of his asserting power, his support of the arts, and his sentimental life – that’s only the beginning, you can read on wikipedia (only on the French version – how funny, the English version does not have the lists!) the record number of his KNOWN mistresses and illegitimate children – impressive…

The characters sounded true to life, the topic was well researched, the descriptions beautiful – I have to add the castle of Vaux-le-Vicomte if ever I go back to France one day!

Louise de la Vallière was presented in a very positive light, probably true to life, though it is sometimes difficult to imagine that there were indeed in court people genuinely not interested in honor and money.

There was a good flow to the book. It started a bit slowly, but with suspense and quality getting better and better. There was an interesteing twist with the man in the iron mask.

I would say Koen is much much better than Philippa Gregory, but not as good as Michelle Moran – her Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution being so far the best Historical novel on France I have ever read, but wait, I’m soon going to discover Catherine Delors, as I won a free copy of For the King!

The author gave me the desire to read more about Louis XIV when I was done, so this is always a good point. Sounds like she may even write a novel on another mistress of the king’s mistresses: Madame de Montespan. I’m ready !


New York Times bestselling author Karleen Koen offers another delightful historical novel that will transport you to another time and place.

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. [Goodreads]


This is her self-presentation on Goodreads:

“My childhood was filled with glorious books, Little Women, Lad A Dog, Black Beauty, Little House on the Prairie, Caddie Woodlawn. They were as real to me as the life around me, a lower middle class one in a small oil refinery town in Texas. My grandfather, an invalid, was a huge fan of the writers Frank Slaughter, Frank Yerby, and Zane Grey. By the time I learned to read, I was sneaking his square, cheap (a dime, I think) paperbacks off and reading them. Pirates. Passion. History. It has never occurred to me to write anything but historicals, a kind of time travel into other minds, other lands, other eras, other cultures, other worlds. That’s what I wish for my readers, that my books take them far away into another place and time and that they enjoy themselves there and maybe even learn an interesting fact or two. ”
My blog:
My website:


“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 & The Land of Painted Caves

Before Versailles presents a grand yet intimate glimpse into the lifestyles of the rich and royal at the court of the young, virile King Louis XIV.  Words to describe the cast of characters cannot do them justice:  moral yet decadent; powerful yet endangered; larger than life yet completely human.  But there is an apt word to describe Karleen Koen’s latest novel:  Brilliant!”–Karen Harper, author of The Irish Princess

Before Versailles captivated me from start to finish! With exquisite finesse, Karleen Koen weaves history and myth into a sumptuous portrait of young Louis XIV, his intrigue-laden court, and the passionate, ambitious, often dangerous women who loved him.”–C.W. Gortner, author of The Last Queen and The Confessions of Catherine de Medici [amazon]


7 thoughts on “Review #54: Before Versailles

  1. Pingback: July 2011 Wrap Up « Words And Peace

  2. Pingback: GOOD BOOKS FOR YOUR WEEK-END 08/6-7 « Words And Peace

    • which Georgian book of hers would you recommend? I think she really did a great job in Before Versailles, including good research homework, though I admit it is not as high quality as for instance Michelle Moran in Madame Tussaud


  3. Pingback: Six degrees of separation: From Versailles to hacking | Words And Peace

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