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Before Versailles: Before the History You Know... a Novel of Louis XIV

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  2,601 ratings  ·  312 reviews
"A grand yet intimate look at the Sun King, a tale rich with detail and action."--Library Journal (Starred Review, one of the best historical novels of the year)

Before Versailles transports you to a world of secret passions and plots, a world of duplicity and malice...a world that created one of the best-known monarchs to grace the French throne.

At the most
Paperback, 373 pages
Published September 1st 2012 by Sourcebooks Landmark (first published June 28th 2011)
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Average rating 3.80  · 
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 ·  2,601 ratings  ·  312 reviews

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In her historical fiction of the early days of the French King Louis XIV's reign, Karleen Koen cleverly weaves legend and historical fact of the era, including a jaunt with the Man in the Iron Mask, and a cameo by Musketeer D'Artagnan. Having grown up with multitudes of history lessons as well as fictionalized, anecdotal stories about the Sun King, having visited Vaux-Le-Vicomte and Versailles on school field trips, this was both a nostalgic and interesting read for me.

This novel encompasses a
Koen's latest book tackles a short period in the life of a young Louis XIV. Cardinal Mazarin is dead, and Louis is now in control of the government - a government seriously short of cash - although the Superintendent of Finances sure does have a pocketful of it. Louis is newly married to Maria Teresa of Spain, but at the moment he only has lust eyes for his brother's new wife, Henriette (sister to Charles II) and Henriette definitely reciprocates the lust feelings.

Meantime Louise de La Valli
``Laurie Henderson
I love , love, love Karleen Koen and I've read every one of her books. My only complaint about Koen is the long wait between her books.

"Before Versailles" didn't disappoint me one bit I'm happy to say. I'd been putting off reading this one a long time due to the fact that once read it might be years before there would be a new book by her.

The book began with a galloping pace and I was immediately drawn into the world of young King Louis XIV, the future Sun King.


Rio (Lynne)
I was so excited to dive into this story of King Louis XIV. This story begins where Cardinal Mazarin dies and the young King begins governing France. Between love affairs "The King and his brother's wife and The King and Louise a lady of the court" you expect scandalous excitement. When the King's finance minister becomes corrupt and too powerful, you expect a page turner to see his downfall. Add in the mystery of The Man in The Iron Mask and this book should not have been put downable. So, why ...more
Heather C
Prior to reading this novel I had no idea that this book was about the king who would be known as The Sun King – and to that end, I didn’t know anything about that man either! I had no idea what story I was walking in to, but I loved Dark Angels by Karleen Koen so I did not hesitate to jump on this one! The author made it easy for me to connect into this world because there were frequent references to King Charles II of England (the brother of one of the main characters) who I have read a lot ab ...more
Cheeky Cher
2.5 stars - It was alright, an average book.

Had a very slow start, but the novel picked up in the later half. The author switches POVs too frequently which can make certain chapter transitions feel disjointed. As always, the author’s note at the end that explained what is known for sure vs what was fictional liberty, was appreciated.

First Sentence: A young woman galloped headlong and recklessly down half-wild trails in the immense forest of Fontaineb/>First
Blodeuedd Finland
The book is in a way not written from one POV. Sure Louise de Valliere is the main character for most of it but there is always someone else taking her is his turn to say something, or to think something. It feels not like you follow one person but like you are some sort of ghost jumping around trying to see what is going on.

The book also takes place during a few months in 1661. Lois XIV is madly in love with his sister in law Henriette and they have a relationship. Her husband Phill
Jul 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love Koen’s writing in this novel. Her descriptions of the characters, setting, and time period are unparalled. I felt like I was at Fontainebleau. The romance between different characters is very sensual and sparks definitely fly. Even more than this, I really enjoyed the conspiracy. I wanted to find out who the boy in the iron mask was and who was writing the letters. Throughout it all, it was a great character study of the growth of Louis XIV from a boy king to an all-powerful King ruling o ...more
Jul 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have been searching all summer for a book that would capture my interest enough to keep me up late reading, and I finally found one! Being a huge fan of Karleen Koen's other books, I had high hopes for this one, and it did not disappoint.

This novel covers 4 months in the early reign of Louis XIV, when he was still trying to find his way as a monarch. He starts to come into his own as a leader, deciding whom to trust, what is best for his beloved France and where his true loyalties should lie.
Julie Barrett
Jan 31, 2019 rated it did not like it
It's hard for me, stopping a book. For years & years, I would force myself to finish any book I start reading. In the past few years, however, I have decided to give myself permission to stop after a certain point. Look, I only have so much time left. The average life expectancy of a woman my age is 85. That gives me 34 more reading years, assuming I keep my mind until the bitter end. If I read 100 books a year, then I only have time for 3400 out of the millions & millions of books out t ...more
Having recently read and reviewed a couple of novels set in or around Revolutionary France, it occurred to me that I’d like to learn some more about French history. I teach French, I speak French (fairly well) and I’ve spent a fair bit of time there in the last couple of years, and realised I knew relatively little about the history of this wonderful country on my doorstep, whose history is so entwined with that of Britain.
So I asked those helpful people over at Goodreads for some recommen
Aug 18, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
While this certainly can't be qualified as a BAD book, when I turned the last page and closed the cover (yes, I still read tree-books), I could only say "Well, that's over." Not sad, not desperate for the next chapter, just resigned.

The story is interesting in a way - showing the first few months of the reign of the future Sun King of France, a crucial moment in Louis XIII's reign in which he made a definitive grab for power. At least, that's how the story ends.

(Minor spo
Since Through a Glass Darkly I have been hoping for Karleen Koen to devote an entire novel to Louis XIV (I am a passionate fan of the Sun King). And now here it is!

The action of the novel is concentrated in a very short time, the few months that it took for the young Louis XIV to get rid of Nicolas Fouquet, the all-powerful superintendent of finances of France. In fact, the same period covered by Dumas in The Vicomte de Bragelonne. So, I was quite familiar with some of the scenes, which allowed me to
May 27, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 Stars

There is a lot going on in this book! There's almost not enough time to even grasp everything. I can see this being the next historical series on cable. There's enough scandal and drama in this book for at least three or four seasons.

I really liked Louise from the start. She was so genuinely caring. I might have enjoyed the book more if it had really narrowed its focus down to Louise at court. But there were so many other storylines going on as well, I found myse
Apr 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, read-2016
Set over the course of four months in the summer of 1661, Before Versailles: A Novel of Louis XIV gives a tantalizing glimpse of life in the court of a young Louis XIV, aged just 22 at this time and only beginning to grow into the immense power he will eventually wield as the absolute monarch he is most remembered as. The novel delves into the lives, loves and intrigues not only of Louis himself, but also those surrounding him, juggling a large cast of characters and various plot threads without an ...more
May 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Louise de la Baume le Blanc is an innocent young maid of honor in the household of the infamous Monsiuer and Madame--let me stop here, because if I get on a tangent about this book, I won't stop. Mrs. Koen never disappoints. After having been able to speak to her personally about writing techniques and various other things this book became all the more enjoyable! Definitely a great read.
Laura Tenfingers
Before Versailles tells the story of a year in the early part of Louis XIV's reign. We hear a bit about the political climate but mostly it's about love affairs and loyalties in his Court.

I would not recommend this book. It's somewhat YA but in a bad way and is not at all informative. A five minute read of Wikipedia is way more educational. This was a disappointment, but the biggest problem was that the characters are depicted in completely absurd, unrealistic and sexist ways. Louis
Originally published at Book Lovers Inc

There are two types of historical fiction. The first is the type where the main characters are nearly all fictional, but the story takes place in a historic setting. Before Versailles is the other kind. Nearly all of the characters are historic figures, but the author is using fiction in an attempt to explain events that set the stage for major forces in history. She is trying to breathe life into people we know only as royal portraits, or autocratic
Jean V. Naggar Literary
Houston Chronicle picked BEFORE VERSAILLES for their 2011 Texas Titles List!

“Rich with detail and action...History tells us Louis took mistresses and became the textbook example of an absolute monarch, but getting there is marvelous great fun...With a handsome ruler as charismatic as Britain’s Henry Tudor, this focused retelling of the emergence of the Sun King will attract fans of the English king as well as Francophiles.” --Library Journal, starred review, named one of Best Histori
Mar 28, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I especiallly love this period of French history and with Louis XIV as my absolute favourite king, it was easy for me to dive head first into Before Versailles. First of all let me say that the research in this book must have been of the most meticulous! The juicy parts and descriptions that entail mystery and kept me fascinated were impeccable in accuracy. I loved reading about palace life and the very details of day to day- the glamour, the splendour of this time- truly sweeps you off your fee ...more
Jun 22, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Her face was lovely, flushed, incandescent - the way it could be when she was this happy and carefree. Her name was Louise de la Baume le Blanc, and she was just on the cusp of ten and six, and she had no idea of it, but her life was about to change forever as certain stars finished their alignment."

Karleen Koen's latest novel takes us back to the days of a young Louis XIV of France, later considered the country's great monarch. The sun shone on France during his rule - he encouraged the arts, a
Deborah Sloan
Jun 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Capturing the court of King Louis XIV in it's entirety is no easy task, but Karleen Koen and Crown Press Publishers have done just that including all the court intrigues whispered about for centuries in just 4 short months of his reign as a young King. Before the greatness of Versailles was established. What could inspire this King and his court to such building extremes and opulence. A young king just beginning to find himself, to understand power and the responsibility his position requires. ...more
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
I understand now why Koen has such a devoted following. This deliciously huge novel has a fantastic cast, a fabulous setting, delicious intrigue, romance, and drama. Set during 1661, after Louis' prime minister Cardinal Mazarin died, the novel follows Louise, a lady-in-waiting for the stunning, energetic, and inspiring Madame Henriette -- the king's sister-in-law.

Those who've read Dumas' The Man in the Iron Mask (or seen one of the films) will immediately notice one of the stories plot lines, b
Scandal, drama and intrigue; those are the main three elements of Before Versailles. It had some mystery to it as well and I love mysteries so I really liked the mystery element of Before Versailles.
I thought that Before Versailles was really interesting as I didn’t know much about King Louis XIV or French history so now I feel a lot more knowledgeable on the subject. I like reading historical novels that are set in reality for that reason. It’s based in truth so I like to read through and
Jul 06, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Most history buffs know of Louis XIV. His reign shines through French history for his control of the throne and his love of art. This book tells the tale of his beginnings; before he became known as The Sun King.

It covers only 4 months of his life - the first four months of his reign before he converted Versailles to the magnificent palace it is today. He is coming into himself as a king and as a leader of men. His mentor Cardinal Mazarin has died and his brother has just marri
May 31, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hf-france
From the time of his grandfather, Louis XVI's France has been ruled by incredibly powerful men. Men who are not the King. Cardinal Richelieu had the spiritual well-being, as well as the national treasury, tightly held in his crimson velvet-clad fist. His protégé, Cardinal Mazarin, followed in his mentor's footprints in all but one thing. This particular cardinal had the love of the Queen. Now Mazarin has died, the Dowager Queen Regent is devastated and Louis, the Fourteenth of his name, has a ch ...more
Jun 28, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I remember taking French History when I was in college and being totally smitten with the story of Louis XIV, there was just so much decadence. Have you seen pictures of Versailles? The pompadours and powders, oui! And, dude, what was up with the man in the iron mask? That’s probably one of the most enduring legends from the reign of Louis XIV and still there are no definitive answers about the who or why…

Meticulously researched, this book has everything ~ mystery, intrigue, romance,
Oct 26, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This took me a while to get into it, but once the story got past mid-way it was hard to put down. Very well written story of four months in a young Louis XIV's early reign when he was 22. Most is told from his pov and of the young Louise, a young lady in waiting to Madame aka Henriette, the attractive and often irresistible wife to Louis' younger brother, Phillippe aka Monsieur. Louis leaves boyhood behind and becomes a king during these four months. Whether it is tracking down the culprit leavi ...more
May 20, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook, 2012, reviewed
I love Historical Fiction!

Karleen Koen did not disappoint.

Before Versailles is about a young lady by the name of Louise. Louise comes to court by way of family connections and becomes a lady in waiting to one of the princesses. Louise soon learns the ways of the court of young Louis XIV. Both women and men seemed to enjoy themselves a little too much, as the court life seemed to be all sex and parties. There was a little mystery and treason thrown in the mix. Treason seems to alwa
Allison G
Jun 12, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Let me start out by saying I love Karleen Koen's writing style. Dark Angels was good but Through a Glass Darkly and Now Face to Face were even better. After finishing this series, I discovered she had written another book - Before Versailles - so I rushed to the library to get it. The time period for this is the very beginning of Louis XIV's reign which is just BEFORE Dark Angels begins. I was a little disappointed in this book. The history was awesome, the court intrigue was fascinating and the ...more
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