The Shadows of Versailles by Cathie Dunn
Book Review

Publication Date: November 20th, 2020
Publisher: Ocelot Press
Series: An Affair of the Poisons, Book One
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!

My Thoughts

The Shadows of Versailles is set during the Affair of the Poisons, a time under King Louis IV's reign when France was scandalised by a series of murders involving poisoning and witchcraft linked to the aristocracy.

Seventeen-year-old, convent educated, Fleur de La Fontaine is brought to the Palace of Versailles by her cruel and selfish mother, Sophie, to catch the eye of a rich aristocrat. Fleur is repulsed by the men Sophie introduces her to, but falls instantly in love when she meets the handsome and young courtier Philippe de Mortain. Ignoring her mother's warnings, she continues to encourage Philippe. When she discovers his betrayal, heartbroken she confesses to her mother that she is pregnant. Fleur is immediately sent to a convent to await the birth and subsequent marriage to a much older and lecherous man of her mother's choosing.

Jacques de Montagnac, agent for Gabriel Nicholas de La Reynie, the Lieutenant General of the newly formed police force, is currently investigating the disappearance of children rumoured to be used as black mass sacrifices. His surveillance of a local priest, Abbé Guibourg, leads him to the convent of the Carmelites where he meets a distraught Fleur, who asks for his help to escape and find out what happened to her son. His daring rescue bid succeeds and he hides her in a brothel in one of the poorer quarters of Paris. Here, Fleur recovers from the birth and the harsh treatment of the nuns. Despite adjusting to her new life, she never forgets the child that was taken from her or Jacques' promise to discover what became of him.

Curiousity takes her to the public execution of the Marquise de Brinvilliers, the notorious poisoner. Witnessing her brutal end, Fleur vows to never trust a man again, no matter how charming and trustworthy, and vengeance against those who have done her harm.

While Jacques continues his investigation, Fleur decides to leave the security of the brothel and return to the society she was forced to abandon. She makes some very influential friends with entrée into the inner circle of the king, who are willng to help her acquire the means to bring her plans to fruition.

The Shadows of Versailles is the grim tale of an innocent young woman whose anticipation of a bright and happy future is dashed by the self-seeking designs of a cruel and unfeeling mother. Although Fleur meets some kindhearted and helpful people, such as Jacques and his friends, her desire for revenge draws her into the sphere of some very immoral characters. The depiction of "La Voisin" the French fortune teller and purveyor of poisons and magic potions, is especially chilling.

This novel did not take the direction I expected it to, which pleased me no end as it made for a more satisfying, although tragic, story. While what happened to Fleur was horrendous and her reaction understandable, it was still difficult to see her corrupted by her own desire for revenge.

The Shadows of Versailles is a great start to a new series. If you like mysteries with dark undertones, then give this a try. You won't be disappointed.

Where to Purchase

Amazon AUAmazon CAAmazon UKAmazon USUniversal Link (Amazon)

Meet 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.

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