Today, I am happy to be a blog tour host with the Coffeepot Book Club for Cathie Dunn’s historical novel, The Shadows of Versailles. Here’s more about the book, tour, author, and an excerpt.
Book Title: The Shadows of Versailles * Series: An Affair of the Poisons, Book One * Author: Cathie Dunn * Publication Date: November 20th, 2020 * Publisher: Ocelot Press * Page Length: 251 (ebook) / 277 (pb) * Genre: historical fiction / mystery
Dazzled by Versailles. Broken by tragedy. Consumed by revenge.
When Fleur de La Fontaine attends the court of King Louis XIV for the first time, she is soon besotted with handsome courtier, Philippe de Mortain. She dreams of married life away from her uncaring mother, but Philippe keeps a secret from her.
Nine months later, after the boy she has given birth to in a convent is whisked away, she flees to Paris where she mends gowns in the brothel of Madame Claudette, a woman who helps ‘fallen’ girls back on their feet.
Jacques de Montagnac investigates a spate of abducted children when his path crosses Fleur’s. He searches for her son, but the trail leads to a dead end – and a dreadful realisation.
Her boy’s suspected fate too much to bear, Fleur decides to avenge him. She visits the famous midwife, La Voisin, but it’s not the woman’s skills in childbirth that Fleur seeks.
La Voisin dabbles in poisons.
Will Fleur see her plan through? Or can she save herself from a tragic fate?
Delve into The Shadows of Versailles and enter the sinister world of potions, poisoners and black masses during the Affairs of the Poisons, a real event that stunned the court of the Sun King!
EXCERPT From Chapter One:
Château de Versailles
The air was still as Blanchefleur de La Fontaine climbed from the coach with the help of a footman. His brow was glistening with sweat from standing in the full sunshine, likely for hours. After only a few moments in the sun’s glare, the powder on Fleur’s face, neck and décolleté made her skin itch, and her hands grew damp.
Mother was already waiting in the shade provided by a makeshift pavilion erected to keep those waiting in line cool. Tapping her closed fan into her left hand, she was looking Fleur up and down. Fleur groaned inwardly. Sophie de La Fontaine’s expectations always exceeded the harsh reality that their family hailed from only minor nobility. This meant they were never granted rooms at the Palace of Versailles where King Louis, the fourteenth of that name, held yet another of his famous events.
They had travelled from Paris and booked themselves into a nearby inn. At the palace, space was limited to the highest courtiers, not available to minor landowners like the La Fontaines.
Fleur knew the slight irked her mother greatly, but she was relieved. The thought of spending days and nights in the company of the nobles of the court seemed daunting. She’d heard the rumours!
Fleur thanked the footman with a nod and adjusted her skirts, relishing the soft whoosh of the water silks against her calves, sticky with sweat. Fighting the urge to scratch the skin beneath the lace of her sleeves, Fleur walked towards her mother. Nervously, under the icy stare, she eyed her décolleté, then her corset and her ruffed skirts. All was as it should be. So what did the woman object to now?
“Come here, closer.” Sophie, marquise de La Fontaine, waved her towards her, and Fleur obliged. Her mother ruffled the sleeves and pulled down her gown at the front, revealing more than a mere hint of Fleur’s breasts. “There’s not much to see here anyway, so we must show off whatever there is.”
Fleur shivered at the glint in her mother’s eyes. Quickly, she averted her gaze and fanned herself to dispel the heat in her rouge-painted cheeks. Everyone around them had seen what her mother had done. Some were grinning rudely, but others looked away. Fleur was certain it happened all the time. Mothers keen to parade their daughters like the chattels they were – a sure way to advertise a daughter to the large market of eligible young and not-so-young – men that flocked to court.
“Perfect. Now try not to spoil it, Blanchefleur.” Sophie turned and walked up the carpeted path lined on both sides with large flower pots arranged in the most spectacular way. The scent of roses was almost overpowering.
No doubt to make sure people don’t smell each other in this heat.
She almost snorted behind her fan and meekly followed her mother. To the far side, she saw how the renovations of the former hunting lodge progressed. Soon, Versailles would be like no other palace in France, or anywhere else, for that matter. Her mother talked of little else these days, mostly in the vain hope that an invitation to stay would come fluttering into their home. Fleur knew it was in vain.
Sophie waited for her to catch up, then she turned her head slightly. “Tonight’s programme is very exciting: musical recitals, a performance of Racine’s tragic Iphigénie, and spectacular fireworks! The gardens will delight you. His Majesty has created the most stunning setting, and it’s not completed yet. But first we head inside. We should make ourselves known to some of our acquaintances. It can’t do any harm.” Fleur didn’t like the look Sophie sent her. The combination of ambition and calculation sent shivers down her spine. “Come!”
As she trailed Mother through the richly decorated rooms, she was under no illusion. Sophie had brought her here to find her a husband. The richer the better, and ideally above a marquis. Fleur rolled her eyes, giggling when a handsome young man she was passing laughed out loud. Had he seen her gesture? She smiled.
“Blanchefleur!” Sophie’s polite façade couldn’t hide her cold eyes.
Fleur sent him an apologetic glance, then rushed after her mother, who was crossing yet another vast room where groups of lords and ladies were chatting.
About the Author:
Cathie Dunn writes historical fiction, mystery, and romance.
Cathie has been writing for over twenty years. She studied Creative Writing, with a focus on novel writing, which she now teaches in the south of France. She loves researching for her novels, delving into history books, and visiting castles and historic sites.
Her stories have garnered awards and praise from reviewers and readers for their authentic description of the past.
Cathie is a member of the Historical Novel Society and the Alliance of Independent Authors.
After nearly two decades in Scotland, she now lives in the historic city of Carcassonne in the south of France with her husband, two cats and a rescue dog.