Orsolya's Reviews > The French Mistress

The French Mistress by Susan Holloway Scott
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May 06, 2014

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bookshelves: historical-fiction, mistresses-royalty, charles-ii, library-2
Read from May 03 to 05, 2014

The legacy of King Charles II is one which includes many mistresses and a parade of bastard children. Each mistress brought a unique upbringing and personality to the royal table; allowing modern-day supporters to choose a ‘favorite’. Having previously focused on both Nell Gwynne and Barbara Villiers; Susan Holloway Scott turns to Louise de Keroualle in, “The French Mistress: A Novel of the Duchess of Portsmouth and King Charles II”.

“The French Mistress” is guilty of initial pages best described as slow and uneventful, with too much ‘talking’ versus ‘living’. Scott follow a strong, “As you know, Bob”-style to discuss the historical environment which is great in terms of the “The French Mistress” having strong period credibility; but the plot seems nonexistent and drags. In line with this historical context, however, Scott’s prose is beautiful with its literary sensibilities and accuracy in the speech styles of the era. The imagery is vivid, colorful, and natural.

The first portion of “The French Mistress” focuses on the time Louise spent in the French Court as a lady in Minette’s household (the sister of Charles II). Being that there aren’t many books available on either Louise or Minette; it is quite refreshing to have a strong focus on their roles. The problem with this is that Louise does not have much to add to the story. Thus, she instead always happens to overhear conversations or be “in the right place, at the right time” to infiltrate both personal and political information. Not only is this unbelievable, but it also becomes tedious. Plus, Louise’s characterization is too apologetic with a portrayal of an angelic maiden (albeit, one who speaks of herself in pure conceit and compliment).

As expected, “The French Mistress” picks up pace when Charles II is introduced, on approximately page 130. At this point, the story begins to have more substance and excitement while Louise finally begins to fill out and show some personality; therefore, growing more of a connection with the reader. It is also interesting to experience Louise’s views, as she was a side-character in Scott’s other novels depicting the mistresses of Charles II.

Despite a better story with the entrance of Charles; “The French Mistress” still doesn’t fair much better. Simply, the novel is somewhat boring and nothing of note or interest plays out. There seems to be no point or build-up and therefore no anticipation or suspense. “The French Mistress” isn’t terrible; it is just not compelling enough.

Equally disappointing, is Scott’s exclusion of any focus on the interaction between the many mistresses of Charles II. This is usually the ‘juicy’ highlight in the novels on the subject but it is mostly absent in “The French Mistress” with the exception of a few cases (which aren’t even wholly accurate). On the other hand, Scott arcs Louise to become greedier and more spoiled both in material goods and mannerisms showing the behaviors Louise was known for.

The concluding chapters of “The French Mistress” are overly rushed. So much so, in fact, that one chapter to the next progresses the story by almost a decade. The ending is also abrupt, leaving unanswered questions and not enough emotion. As usual with Scott, her ‘Author’s Note’ is more in-depth than her novel.

“The French Mistress” lacks a proper growth/arc, maintains a slow pace, doesn’t have much of a point, and employs no climax. Yet, it is refreshing to read the viewpoint of Louise de Keroualle outside of her usual stereotype. Although “The French Mistress” isn’t riveting; it isn’t horrible and is suggested for those readers interested in Charles II, his mistresses, and Restoration England.
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Reading Progress

05/03/2014 marked as: currently-reading
05/03/2014 page 74
18.0% "Not as fluffy as I suspected. The author's books are hit or miss so we shall see how it turns out." 3 comments
05/06/2014 marked as: read
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Comments (showing 1-17 of 17) (17 new)

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Misfit I couldn't agree with you more. Been a while, but I didn't care for the first person narrative and how it was handled.

Orsolya Yeah, I saw your review and have to agree with all your points. I felt the same way. Bummer.

Misfit That was the first book by this author I'd read. Probably not going to be another one.

message 4: by Orsolya (last edited May 06, 2014 10:19AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Orsolya I enjoyed "Duchess" and "Royal Harlot". I even own "Royal Harlot". The Nell Gwynne one wasn't to my liking either, though.

Misfit Maybe one day. Are the other books in first person as well? That's not a favorite, especially when the authors box their characters into a corner.

Orsolya Yeah, they are. They are all similar in that sense. I know that style isn't for everyone. I can handle it if it is well-done but it wasn't in this one.

Misfit First person narratives are dicey, and can really drag a book down if not done right.

Orsolya I agree. Especially when it stresses the, "As you know Bob" style and "overhearing" information.

Misfit Orsolya wrote: "I agree. Especially when it stresses the, "As you know Bob" style and "overhearing" information."

I do love that phrase and a big thanks to Susan Higginbotham for giving it to us :)

Orsolya It's a keeper! I couldn't describe the method any better!

Misfit Susan has a great sense of humor.

Lyn (Readinghearts) So - I am getting the impression that even at three stars this one isn't really worth tracking down?

Rio (Lynne) This author is hit or miss. I loved the Royal Harlot and her book on Sarah Churchill, but the others were neh.

Orsolya Lyn: it is worth tracking down if you are interested in the topic. It isn't terrible and there are worse HF novels across the board. It just won't change your life.

Orsolya I agree, Lynne. I still have to read the one about the court of James. All I have left.

Lyn (Readinghearts) Thanks, I'll put it on my "if I run across it" list.

Orsolya readinghearts (Lyn M) wrote: "Thanks, I'll put it on my "if I run across it" list."

Yeah, it doesn't require haste.

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