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Ribbons of Scarlet

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Six bestselling and award-winning authors bring to life a breathtaking epic novel illuminating the hopes, desires, and destinies of princesses and peasants, harlots and wives, fanatics and philosophers—six unforgettable women whose paths cross during one of the most tumultuous and transformative events in history: the French Revolution.

Ribbons of Scarlet is a timely story of the power of women to start a revolution—and change the world.

In late eighteenth-century France, women do not have a place in politics. But as the tide of revolution rises, women from gilded salons to the streets of Paris decide otherwise—upending a world order that has long oppressed them.

Blue-blooded Sophie de Grouchy believes in democracy, education, and equal rights for women, and marries the only man in Paris who agrees. Emboldened to fight the injustices of King Louis XVI, Sophie aims to prove that an educated populace can govern itself--but one of her students, fruit-seller Louise Audu, is hungrier for bread and vengeance than learning. When the Bastille falls and Louise leads a women’s march to Versailles, the monarchy is forced to bend, but not without a fight. The king’s pious sister Princess Elisabeth takes a stand to defend her brother, spirit her family to safety, and restore the old order, even at the risk of her head.

But when fanatics use the newspapers to twist the revolution’s ideals into a new tyranny, even the women who toppled the monarchy are threatened by the guillotine. Putting her faith in the pen, brilliant political wife Manon Roland tries to write a way out of France’s blood-soaked Reign of Terror while pike-bearing Pauline Leon and steely Charlotte Corday embrace violence as the only way to save the nation. With justice corrupted by revenge, all the women must make impossible choices to survive--unless unlikely heroine and courtesan’s daughter Emilie de Sainte-Amaranthe can sway the man who controls France’s fate: the fearsome Robespierre.

560 pages, ebook

First published October 1, 2019

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About the author

Kate Quinn

39 books23.1k followers
--I use Goodreads to track and rate my current reading. Most of my reads are 4 stars, meaning I enjoyed it hugely and would absolutely recommend. 5 stars is blew-my-socks-off; reserved for rare reads. 3 stars is "enjoyed it, but something fell a bit short." I very rarely rate lower because I DNF books I'm not enjoying, and don't rate books I don't finish.--

Kate Quinn is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of historical fiction. A native of southern California, she attended Boston University where she earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Classical Voice. She has written four novels in the Empress of Rome Saga, and two books in the Italian Renaissance, before turning to the 20th century with “The Alice Network”, “The Huntress,” “The Rose Code,” and "The Diamond Eye." All have been translated into multiple languages. Kate and her husband now live in San Diego with three rescue dogs.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 596 reviews
Profile Image for Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader.
2,121 reviews30.2k followers
October 4, 2019
Wow, look at the authors contributing to this novel of the French Revolution!

In France, in the 1700s, women do not have power or a voice in how their country is run. As the revolution mounts, this is their opportunity to finally be heard.

Sophie de Grouchy is a staunch believer in equal rights for women, and unusual for the time, her husband is, too. Sophie assets that an educated country does not need a formal government.

Louise Audu is student of Sophie’s, and she wants vengeance and to eat… Louise leads a women’s march to Versailles after the fall of the Bastille. The monarchy is going to have to fold, but they have at least one more fight left.

Things really heat up when the newspapers turn the revolution on its head, and now the revolutionists, including the women, are in the crosshairs of the guillotine. Manon Roland takes up her pen to find a way out of the Reign of Terror, while Charlotte Corday and Pauline Leon pick up their weapons.

A search for justice haunted by revenge, who will come out on top, and what position will women have when the Revolution ends?

This powerhouse group of female hist fic authors has penned a powerhouse story of seven strong female characters. There’s beauty here and utter despair. The history of the time provides a rich backdrop.

I’ve read a few books set during this tumultuous and bloody time period, but not with this slant, which I found eye-opening and inspiring. Even with seven authors and seven characters, the book reads seamlessly as if one person wrote it. It’s a page-turner. It’s brilliant. And it’s a must-read for all hist fic fans. This is one we’ll be talking about for quite some time.

I received a complimentary copy. All opinions are my own.

Many of my reviews can also be found on my blog: www.jennifertarheelreader.com
Profile Image for Historical Fiction.
920 reviews589 followers
January 6, 2020
Find this and other reviews at: https://historicalfictionreader.blogs...

Ribbons of Scarlet is the fifth collaborative from the History 360 Co-Op but in many ways, it is entirely unlike its predecessors. For one, Ribbons of Scarlet is the first release to be traditionally published (thank you HarperCollins). For another, it is the first to which long-time member Vicky Alvear Shecter did not contribute (a voice I both adore and missed). Most notably, however, it is the first written with an overarching theme.

The Philosopher and Epilogue by Stephanie Dray
Dray hasn’t contributed to a History 360 collaborative since 2015’s A Year of Ravens, but she returns with a bang. Her story, The Philosopher, is based on the life and experiences of Sophie de Grouchy and I loved how the author used this character to challenge gender roles without sacrificing all semblance of traditional femininity.

The end result is an intensely relatable woman who embodies the ideals of the feminist movement while exhibiting the sort of emotional vulnerability that transcends the page on which she is written. Dray’s use of the ideological ideals that inspired the Revolution is also noteworthy, as are the nods she pays fans of America’s First Daughter.

* Favorite Heroine in Ribbons of Scarlet *

The Revolutionary by Heather Webb
Webb is a first-time contributor to the Co-op, but I can confidently say she pulled out all the stops with her portrait of Louise Reine Audu. I’ve read this author’s entire backlist and firmly believe the heroine of The Revolutionary one of her best.

The passion that inspired Webb to speak at the 2017 Women’s March is mirrored in her illustration of the Women's March on Versailles and I couldn’t help falling in love with how the author channeled her own experiences into those of the narrative. Ribbons of Scarlet is an undeniably relevant novel, but this piece more than any other communicated the feel of the moment and spirit that drove women to march both past and present.

* Favorite Use of Theme in Ribbons of Scarlet *

The Princess by Sophie Perinot
Perinot hasn’t contributed to a History 360 release since 2014’s A Day of Fire. To date, this is the longest hiatus by any member of the group, but this author hasn’t lost her edge. Not by a long shot.

Élisabeth of France is the only royalist heroine in Ribbons of Scarlet, but her reputation and position at court allowed Perinot to humanize the Revolution while subtly shifting the tone of the entire narrative. The Philosopher and The Revolutionary are characterized by patriotic idealism but it is in The Princess that the chaos of the conflict becomes evident.

In addition to turning the tides, Perinot uses Élisabeth to challenge readers into recognizing that strength takes many forms. It is easy to note the pamphlet writer or the speech maker, but The Princess gracefully illustrates how quiet dignity and unwavering devotion are in no way indicative of weakness, submission, or subservience.

* Favorite Story in Ribbons of Scarlet *

The Politician by Kate Quinn
Quinn, like Dray and Knight, is a founder of the History 360 Co-op and returns to the collaborative after a one book hiatus with The Politician. A chronicle of the life of Manon Roland, this story hit me the hardest.

I wasn’t familiar with the character and relished the opportunity to delve into fresh material, but the trials and tribulations Manon suffers struck me for the undeniable truths they relay. The repression of feminine intellectualism, hypocritical social norms, and the social conditioning that leads women to blame themselves for the violence they suffer harmonize beautifully with Quinn's astute foray into the political landscape of the French Revolution.

* Most Thought-Provoking Story in Ribbons of Scarlet *

The Assassin by E. Knight
Of all the stories in Ribbons of Scarlet, I looked forward to Knight’s The Assassin most. I assumed correctly that it would feature Charlotte Corday and Jean-Paul Marat, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover the author’s second narrator, Pauline Leon.

Historically speaking, I found The Assassin the most iconic of the novel’s submissions and loved how the dual narrative allowed Knight to play with the personal costs associated with taking up arms for the sake of one’s convictions. I felt the back and forth gave the story a unique feel and appreciated how it portrayed diversity within the feminist movement.

* Most Iconic Story in Ribbons of Scarlet *

The Beauty by Laura Kamoie
Like Webb, Kamoie is a first-time contributor to the Co-op. Unlike the other contributors, however, my only experience of her work was as half of the duo behind America’s First Daughter and I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from her creatively.

Having said that, The Beauty caught me entirely off-guard. The Terror is in full force as Émilie de Sainte-Amaranthe takes the spotlight in what is easily the most romantic chapter of the novel, but it was the author’s use of theme that took my breath away. At its core, feminism is about equality of both genders and while several of the contributing authors incorporate male characters in their stories, it is Kamoie who puts the two on equal ground in a symbolic display of unity in the face of blatant injustice.

* Greatest Surprise Moment in Ribbons of Scarlet *
Profile Image for Gill Paul.
Author 60 books1,480 followers
July 10, 2019
The French Revolutionary years were among the most complex historical periods of all time. The Revolution’s proponents fought for differing ideologies and ever-changing goals. Alliances were forged then broken as new factions appeared overnight. Yesterday’s leaders were themselves led to the guillotine, the new-fangled machine invented as a quick and efficient method of execution. Some held true to their ideals and behaved with nobility and selflessness, while others scrabbled to save their own skins with a complete lack of humanity to others. Before reading Ribbons of Scarlet, I couldn’t begin to imagine how this group of six authors could possibly make a coherent narrative out of such a jumble of ideas and events, but they do so with subtlety and supreme writerliness.

The story is told from the points of view of seven women, each with a unique perspective and voice. They come from different backgrounds, from a starving street seller to the king’s sister; some are married, some are virgins. But each one steps off the page, a complete authentic character with her own set of hopes and dreams. I admit I didn’t want to leave Sophie de Grouchy and the wonderful Condorcet at the end of the first section; nor did I want to leave the mouthy wildfire Louise Audu. But I soon realised they would return. We weren’t done with them, as their narratives are woven into later sections where they appear like old friends. The one thing all the women have in common is immense courage. Each is inspirational in her own way. Each one is standing up for her rights, and those of her sisters, over a century before the suffragettes.

I learned a lot from this book and came away awed by the skill of the individual writers. The sheer technical difficulty of weaving all these threads into a coherent pattern should not be underestimated. But it’s the stories of these women that make it such a compelling read, and one I recommend whole-heartedly. It’s a masterclass in historical fiction!

With thanks to Sophie Perinot for the ARC.
Profile Image for Annette.
763 reviews335 followers
March 3, 2020
Collaboration of six talented female writers brings an epic story about historical female figures, who came from different backgrounds, but had one common goal to give women a voice. They were passionate about politics, which wasn’t a place for women to be meddling in. But they did.

Paris, 1786. Sophie de Grouchy, 22 years old, comes from minor aristocratic family. Her uncle Charles is a magistrate, taking charitable cases of defending poor during the time of the French Revolution. Since she can’t marry a man she loves, she wants to devote herself to the causes she assists her uncle with, “crusading on behalf of condemned peasants.”

Major-general Lafayette, who served in America under General George Washington, is one of the wealthiest men in France. And Sophie hopes to “recruit that wealth and influence” to her and her uncle’s cause. Instead, Lafayette suggests Nicolas de Condorcet, a prodigy “in philosophy, science, economics, and mathematics.”

Condorcet, a man of bit peculiar manners, when trying to explain his scientific point, the guests flee the room. But what time presents later, is a man of great significance not only on historical level but also personal. The story explores his forward thinking of women and their rights.

Sophie accepts his proposal of marriage. She likes their arrangement. She likes her freedom, but she can’t bear purposelessness. Thus she continues to be busy with the cause. Even starting a school for poor women.

Louise Audu is one of her students. She is a fruit seller and a passionate disbeliever that anything can change. Even though, she respects Marquise de Condorcet, she has her own opinions about aristocrats. When she meets Pauline and observes her bravery, then she wants to make a difference. Her voice is very real and raw and also entertaining with her opinionated mind.

Princess Elisabeth, sister of King Louis XVI, is pious. She believes “in divine right of kings as fervently as she believes in God.” But she is not blind to the plight of common people. She is devoted to charity not politics. The voice of Elisabeth is woven into this story to present different points of view.

Manon Roland is married to Jean-Marie Roland, minister of the interior. When she sees the streets of Paris running with blood, she can no longer give herself excuses for not writing. She picks up a pen and drafts her husband’s speeches. She knows his style; she just adds some boldness and strength.

Pauline is a leader of highly respected society of women activists. “To end the hypocrisy and the blatant disregard for the lives of those who kept this country alive – peasants, soldiers, women.” She has had enough of empty words, she is all about violence. “If our country was going to make its true transformation, it had to be all the way. No king living, and no heirs to take up his mantle. Which meant that his wife and his children needed to follow him to the guillotine, and soon. Their lives were a necessary sacrifice.”

The story explores-well both sides of the story. It is easier for aristocratic women to fight with words when they are well-provided for. It is a different story for those poor women, who have been not only voiceless but also very hungry. Words are not enough any longer, thus they resort to violence.

I highly applaud the two extraordinary aristocratic women, Sophie and Manon. They were ahead of their time and they stood for what they believed in. Manon felt the most free, when she was in prison, knowing that the guillotine was inevitable for her, she wrote without any restrains, with every fiber in her body she expressed what she believed in. (Her words were smuggled out of prison).

With immersive prose and smart dialogue, the characters shine with ambitions, fighting for the free most important words in French history: liberty, equality, and fraternity.

The story is rich in historical details, bringing key events of the French Revolution and more; offering phenomenal cast of historical figures, some more likeable than the others. And above-all paying honor to the women, who took the leading roles in fighting for the most important triumphs and inspiring changes of the tumultuous French Revolution.

Source: ARC was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Erin.
2,953 reviews485 followers
March 31, 2023
I love these historical compilations that weave different characters presented by various authors into one fantastic story. The focus here is the French Revolution through the eyes of seven women that experienced it first hand. The authors who refer to themselves as #ScarletSisters are determined to show the link between the events of the Revolution and the early days of women's rights. As I have done in the past, I will rate and discuss each storyline separately.

The Philosopher by Stephanie Dray 4 stars

Sophie is special... She consumes Rousseau and Voltaire like breathing air. She's conversant in every subject. Let her leave off the prayer beads, the embroidery, and other feminine occupations. Sophie is a scholar with a man's mind.

Sophie de Grouchy is the subject of the first chapter, who together with her husband the Marquis de Condorcet represents the idealistic nature that swirled in France and set the stage for the events which would eventually occur. I found Sophie to be an intriguing woman who wasn't timid to speak her mind among the male intellectuals and social elite of the time. It was also interesting to find that she made a love match during a time when that was unheard of among her class.

The Revolutionary by Heather Webb 5 stars

I would never go back to how it was before, a woman who did as she was told.

As a reader/ student of this time period, it has always fascinated me the drive of women to be seen throughout the events of the Revolution. One story I always remembered is the women who would bring their knitting to the guillotine on a daily basis. In Louise " Reine" Audu, Heather Webb puts a face on a brash and sassy woman who was dedicated to the cause, one of the many women that would be seen as heroes of the revolution. Ultimately, it would lead to heartache and tragedy for Louise, but I thought her perspective was the " sit up and take notice" that the revolution wasn't just for the male citizens of Paris. Hands down, one of my favorite chapters in the book!

The Princess by Sophie Perinot 3.5 stars

You are Elisabeth Philippine Marie Helene de France

Sophie Perinot takes an intriguing turn in giving voice to that of the King's beloved saintly sister, Elisabeth of France. Of course, the princess would be vilified by the height of the revolution and is often overshadowed by her sister in law, Marie Antoinette. So it is refreshing to have her perspective included in  Ribbons of Scarlet. A royalist who was not blind to the plight of the French people, but blindly loyal to her brother, Elisabeth is perhaps the most vulnerable character of this book as I already knew the end of her story yet knew little of her. This story prompts me to look further for more info about this enigmatic woman.

The Politician by Kate Quinn 5 stars

The Revolution has become a great whore, and I fear so have I.

Kate Quinn is without exception one of my go-to authors and can deliver the first line of a story that gets me hooked. I am not sure if KQ is a fan of the Outlander novels, but Quinn's writing is so immersive and her characters so real, that I often suspect she knows a whole lot more about those standing stones than she lets on.
In this chapter, we are introduced to Manon Roland, a politician's wife who was writing speeches and quite open about speaking/writing about the political ideas of the day. Manon also was very open about certain key figures of the revolution and I truly delighted in learning that wasn't just author interpretation. A contradictory personage in terms of hanging onto some key traditional values and ideals, I felt that Manon was a woman that I REALLY should have learned about when I was studying the French Revolution in high school AND when I was teaching world history. I am glad that I know about her now though!

The Assassin by E.Knight 4.5 stars
E. Knight decides to tackle two voices in this chapter surrounding the assassination of Jean-Paul Marat, a journalist, and politician during the Revolution.

I leapt into this revolution to protect women, not fight them.
In Pauline, E.Knight gives us a historical personage that is perhaps the strongest image of what women of the FR hoped would be accomplished- equality for women. Involved in many different societies in the republic, Pauline and her female counterparts would eventually find that their voices didn't actually want to be heard.

I am not a murderer. I am a patriot. Like Joan of Arc, I am a savior of France.
Marie-Anne Charlotte de Corday d' Armont has gone down in the history books as either a heroine or a villain. I think every reader has to make up their own mind about where they stand on that issue. But I definitely enjoyed the way Knight presented her and it's for her narration alone that this story is almost a 5 in my books.

The Beauty by Laura Kamoie 3 stars

This revolution promised liberty, equality, and fraternity, but all it seems capable of is tyranny and death!

Our last historical personage is Charlotte Rose-Emilie Davasse de Saint Amaranthe Sartine who also probably should be a name that we know since her tragic ending would certainly sour the French thirst for the guillotine. Perhaps one of the more dramatic chapters of the book, I felt the story was intriguing but I wasn't as moved by the main character's voice. Overall, I did find it relevant and a good conclusion to the novel.

They killed us for being too political, too intelligent, too opinionated, too daring, too pretty.

If you enjoyed this historical compilation, I would also recommend A Year of Ravens: A Novel of Boudica's Rebellion, A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii, and A Song of War: A Novel of Troy.

Goodreads review published 27-28/02/20
Profile Image for Jenna Bookish.
181 reviews97 followers
October 17, 2019
My thanks to NetGalley and William Morrow for sending me an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by the publisher. 

"Beautiful, terrible humanity. Capable of the most inspiring and creative genius and the greatest and most unimaginable abominations."

I've had a bit of an ongoing effort to read more historical fiction that isn't set during World War II, and this novel was an easy choice because, hello, Kate Quinn. If you've never read any of her work, I (obviously) recommend this book, but also The Alice Network and The Huntress. Ribbons of Scarlet is set during the French Revolution and focuses on women's role in these events. 

The format of this novel worked very well. I've seen a lot of misunderstanding about this book online. Because of the number of authors listed, a lot of people have assumed it is a collection of short stories set during the same time period, and this is not the case. The novel follows a single linear narrative following the course of the revolution, but each section introduces a new point of view character. This is different from most novels with multiple POV characters in that, for the most part, we do not return to a character once we move on from her singular section. We get one peek into each woman's perspective and then she is lost to us. I worried that this would feel disjointed overall, but this was absolutely not the case, and it provided an excellent opportunity to look at some of the same events through different eyes. 

Despite what must have been a very difficult process, the six authors meshed very well together. Even while jumping from one one woman's perspective to another relatively unrelated woman's section, there is a strong sense of a central narrative following the course of the revolution. Each woman has a wildly different perspective on the historical moment they are inhabiting, and each perspective seems fully fleshed out and genuine. 

It was refreshing to see a war novel which focuses exclusively on women's experiences, as these are often overlooked. French women played a significant role in the revolution and women of different social classes were impacted in very different ways. It was particularly interesting to me to spend time in the mind of a female members of the aristocracy, who, while they did enjoy the benefits of wealth leading up to the revolution, often had little to no power of their own. In the end, they bore the consequences of the actions of their husbands and fathers alongside them. 

Ribbons of Scarlet is an illuminating novel about a fascinating piece of French history. Seamlessly told and heartbreaking, this book is a jewel. 

You can read all of my reviews on my blog, Jenna Bookish!
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Profile Image for Michelle.
602 reviews453 followers
November 4, 2019
After sitting on this for a bit, I'm going to give this 4 true stars, up from my initial 3.5. This book was a heck of an undertaking since there were SIX authors and it was set during one of the most momentous historical events in the history of Western Civilization (aka The French Revolution).

I'm a huge history nerd, but I'm more of a WWI/WWII kind of girl so this is before my time and I can tell you I learned a TON. What initially drew me to this book was that it was all about real women from this time period who served in various roles throughout the French Revolution. The forward was written by Allison Pataki and she made an observation that never really occurred to me before. She talked about how the women of the book I was about to read might sound really progressive...Almost as if they belong in today's time and not in the 1790s. She mentioned that women have always been involved in causes to advance rights of ourselves and others, but it was never written about in our textbooks. Why? Simply, women weren't writing the history they were a big part of. Men were. And there you have it.

I was concerned that with so many authors it might be choppy or feel like it wasn't all one story. Let that fear fall by the wayside because I didn't notice at all. I thought each story had something to offer and was extremely descriptive (almost as if you were there), but not boring at all. I like how after you finished reading a particularly character's section, they made an effort to let you know how that character fared from the perspective of the next character.

This was extremely well done, but for some reason I'm holding back on giving the 5th star. I can't really say why. I would blame me, not the book. One word of advice: this is definitely not a book to rush through. I admit I kind of had to so that may have been the problem.

Thank you to Edelweiss, William Morrow & Company, Kate Quinn, Sophie Perinot, Laura Kamoie, Stephanie Dray, E. Knight, Heather Webb and Allison Pataki (who wrote the forward), for giving me the opportunity to read and provide an honest review of this book.

Review Date: 11/4/19
Publication Date: 10/01/19
Profile Image for Kristina McMorris.
Author 16 books2,321 followers
July 20, 2019
Honored to have provided a quote for this wonderful collaborative novel:

“Seamlessly interwoven by a dream team of historical authors, Ribbons of Scarlet vividly transported me to the tumultuous days of the French Revolution; I could feel the cobblestones of the alleys, taste the fine wines of the salons, hear the whisk of a guillotine’s blade. In a single sitting, I devoured the tales of seven strong and enthralling women—then, for days after, relayed their startling true accounts to any friend who would listen. Remarkable for its moving finds of beauty amid tragedy, this timely masterpiece is sure to inspire both courage and caution. A spellbinding read from beginning to end.”
Profile Image for Erika.
311 reviews3 followers
July 15, 2021
This book could serve as a useful model for writing historical fiction in so much as it provides a simple and yet fairly all-encompassing guide to what *not* to do. It is, to put it plainly, a very bad novel on multiple levels.

I am an academic historian of French history whose fascination with the French Revolution spans over three decades. I am not, however, the kind of scholar who gets upset by occasional historical inaccuracies in fictional works or who will object if your approach to characters or narrative differs from the way I envision events, so long as you portray these in ways that make internal sense and bear some relation to historical reality. What I’m going to say about Ribbons of Scarlet involves less nitpicking factual errors with the presentation of revolutionary France than with examining the mediocrity of the novel’s historical imagination.

The best historical fiction immerses the reader in a world that is simultaneously unfamiliar and yet believable. It allows the reader to understand not just the facts that structure this foreign but human world but also the imaginaries that guide its characters’ beliefs and actions. It does so in a way that preserves the contingency and possibility of living at a moment as history is in the making – where characters talk and think *not* in the narratives that will later settle and enfold around them, but rather in the exhilarating chaos of *not knowing.* The best historical fiction takes us on a historical journey as well. Even passable historical fiction, novels that fall short of that standard of excellence, contains the following: fresh and engaging prose, characters who are unique and three-dimensional, and a vivid sense of the world in which those characters exist that conveys a vivid and visceral sensory experience for the reader.

Ribbons of Scarlet not only did none of these things, it went painfully above and beyond in failing to do these things.

This novel literally gave me a headache, but I pulled through and finished in a day because I knew that if I stopped I wouldn't muster the will to pick it up and write the scathing indictment it deserved.

Much of this novel reads like it was lifted directly from a Wikipedia article, dumping vast amounts of information on the reader at once while yet providing no deeper sense of the world the characters are navigating. It might be unavoidable in explaining an event as complex as the French Revolution to have the occasional information dump along the lines of “The Assembly began its attack on religion more than a year ago. First by placing the church’s property at the disposition of the government. Then by banning monastic vows and sentencing to death monks who failed to marry. And finally, by requiring all clergy to take an oath of loyalty to France. Most priests refused, as the oath conflicted with their duty to Rome by demanding they put nation before obedience to the pope. Such priests are labeled nonjuring, though I would call them the only true ecclesiastics in France.[173-174]” (These information dumps are particularly egregious when discussing anything related to slavery or the situation in Saint-Domingue. It's like "we don't really want to talk about this but we want to show we care about race issues"). However, similar “tell-not-show” passages happen repeatedly in Ribbons of Scarlet, leaving the novel sounding rushed and overeager. Instead of allowing the reader to experience this world, and find out the pieces of it in a way that would gradually come to make sense, we’re given the Cliff Notes version from some character’s head. Indeed, in reading this novel I thought frequently of when I assign my students French Revolution role-playing games. The goal in these games is to show you “know the information” and can articulate it through your character. If this was the purpose of an historical novel, then Ribbons of Scarlet would have succeeded, at least on this level. Sadly, it is not. The conversations between the Marquis de Condorcet and Sophie de Grouchy are particularly unbelievable in this way. While I’m sure the author’s intention was to show that their marriage was a “meeting of minds,” no one talks so continuously in theoretical generalizations summarizing larger world views this side of an Ayn Rand sex scene.

The authors also periodically throw in random, distracting, and sometimes incorrect French, whose only apparent purpose is to “show the reader we are in France” rather than, say, convey words whose meaning has no direct English equivalent. Everyone* here would be speaking French so there’s no need to interject the perfectly translatable “calme-toi” or “incroyable” or “c’est joli celui là!” or “pots de chambre” (etc.) and there is certainly no need for the grammatically incorrect femmes sans-culottes (used as a singular noun) or the nickname Mousseline Serieuse (which should be Mousseline la Sérieuse). One sentence women are “women” and in the next they are “femmes;” “yes” or “correct” somewhere along the line become replaced by “oui” at the end of interrogative sentences. I make this remark not because I’m a French grammar Nazi, but because it exemplifies the gratuitous pretentiousness and superficial erudition of the novel more generally.

Even when the novel attempts to get beyond just recounting information to express feeling or passion, it is undermined on two fronts. First, very little attention is paid to the kind of research into the details of daily life during the Revolution – despite the numerous scholarly books on this subject – that would allow you readers to really immerse themselves in more than just the sheer narrative passage of events. What are characters eating, smelling, dreaming, buying, seeing, touching etc? Describe the visceral experience of macaron, don't just tell us it's one. And do so in a way that makes us feel that we are in a different era. Don't just superimpose our own experiences on to it. Louise Audu the fruit-seller slips into extra macarons into her sack --- seriously??? We are not 21st century marketing assistants here sneaking pastries from the company lunch into our purses. Similarly, when Manon Roland takes a random trip Caen to clear her head she seems to have taken the TGV rather than the *days* of uncomfortable travel to and from for her to just randomly appear somewhere else (and randomly bump into Charlotte Corday, since all characters in this novel are always inexplicably running into and/or thinking about other characters).

The French Revolution may have abolished the use of torture, but with the number of times that cheeks were growing hot, fear/dread/shivers were creeping up spines and “swells of emotions” were crashing over characters, I could swear these authors had reinstated it. When the language ventures into originality, it is a painful, halting venture still ridden with clichés. Take these two gleaming atrocities in Quinn’s chapter on Manon Roland: “in the dimpled salonnières like Sophie Condorcet who would fling mercy into the teeth of an entire hissing Convention” [318-319] and “in the eye of the storm, in the shadow of the guillotine, we all walked in the glint of lightning” [334]. Language is also tellingly anachronistic – such as Corday’s use of the term “propaganda” and Roland’s use of “atavistic.” The use of sometimes ridiculously heavy-handed clichés, particularly clichés that simply *tell* without accurately conveying the sensual experience of feelings, is illustrative of a larger lovelessness in the portrayal of the past. In place of a desire to understand characters and how they lived, there is a simplistic, rather stupid, political message of the present (GIRL POWER!) projected directly on to the past.

Indeed, despite the fact that these women, as historical characters, were intensely passionate people, and their era an intensely passionate one, the reader is repeatedly just told this and now allowed to work through it as s/he reads. For instance, here we have Pauline Léon: “This was the reason I was determined to give women a voice, and fight for our rights to bear arms, so that women could become equal in our new republic. This was the reason I woke every morning and started the day anew.” [343] Seriously, this is okay for your answer to some characterization prompt about what gets your character motivated. But in the actual novel you SHOW us that this is what motivates your character, you ILLUSTRATE this.

But it’s hard to show characterization when your characters aren’t really that different at all. Madame Élisabeth, Sophie de Condorcet, Pauline Léon, Louise Audu, Charlotte Corday, Manon Roland and Émilie de Sainte-Amaranthe are very different women with not only very different opinions but actually different characters. But, in this telling, they are speak with more or less the same voice, with some minor variations (Audu and Léon are more ferocious, Roland and Condorcet more theoretical and Élisabeth and Corday more religious - and of course, as we’re reminded practically every 10-15 pages in case we forgot, Sainte-Amaranthe is BEAUTIFUL).

Indeed, despite the often life-and-death political differences that divide these women, their similarities lead them, at various moments in the prose, to various extremely unbelievable moments of recognition of themselves in others. At one point, the starving fruit seller Audu says of Madame Élisabeth: “Yet I knew her birth and status had trapped her in this moment. Despite her wealth and her brother and her fancy shoes, her status as princess forced her to bend to our will. The same way my poverty had forced me to bend to other wills.” [163] Likewise, Léon recognizes that Corday too is oppressed by being a woman and Elisabeth in Sophie de Condorcet. This would 100% not happen.

It’s almost as if these women are examining their counterparts through the 20-21st century sociological lens of race, class, and gender rather than the actual imaginaries of the world that illuminated actual people during this period. There is no attempt to really get us into the head of what these women believed, not in *our* feminist terms, but in their own – where discussions of women’s rights were part of discussions of family, divine right, religion, regeneration, citizenship and republicanism. When we are exposed to these characters, we need to understand that their mental constellations are *not* our own, and we need to be show how they configure the world not in our terms but in theirs.

This laziness - or deliberate and clumsy imposition of modern comfortably liberal (but NOT left) value systems onto the past - reveals itself in what we are supposed to take away from this book. In reality, the French Revolution both allowed women's voices to be heard and silenced those for being, as it is put by Sainte-Amaranthe, "too political, too intelligent, too opinionated, too daring, too pretty" (p. 497). The French Revolution killed a lot of women and the shutting down of the radical women's clubs and the misogyny that animated so much discourse against Marie Antoinette revealed a fundamental distrust of female power. BUT on the other hand, women gained during the Revolution unprecedented powers to divorce, to inherit property and to pursue the fathers of their illegitimate children for support. This is because the political imagination of the French Revolution was neither monolithic nor explicable in the terms of our own day; debates were rather guided by entirely different understandings of concepts of gender, family, and their relation to the nation-state. The authors of Ribbons of Scarlet make absolutely NO effort, despite the abundant scholarly literature - some of which they cite in their bibliography - to explore the logic that gives birth to such apparent contradictions.

This profound inability to truly recreate and empathize with these characters on their own terms and instead insert them into the narrative of White Educated Middle-Class American Women probably explains the single most bizarre deviation from the historical record in this novel – and one that is given no explanation in the end notes – the decision to portray Robespierre as a sexual assaulter.

Now, it’s hardly an original choice to villainize the Jacobins (or rather the Montagnards – the authors don’t really understand how contemporaries would have understood their political formations, as can be seen by their uses of the term “Girondins” and “Les Enragés”). And since there is basically NO mention of the dire realities of economic collapse, multiple civil wars and insurrections and a desperate struggle against *the entirety of Europe* that make the Terror, at least initially, explicable if not necessarily justifiable, it is not surprising that the Terror seems completely an evil Jacobin plot. And certainly the Terror was awful. Indeed, the vast majority of women persecuted and killed in the Revolution were not the Sainte-Amaranthes or even the Léons – they were the women of the Vendée and Midi and the “pacified” cities. They were the women shot and bayonetted, not guillotined. They included *actual* peasants, not peasants as the word is apparently used to refer to all “poor persons” including Parisians demanding bread (pp. 344 and 347).

As a point of historical fact, it does not require a lot of imagination to make Robespierre the villain of a novel (even if I myself take a more nuanced view). He was indeed fanatical and paranoid. But, generally his enemies and friends, positive and negative sources alike, agreed that if there was one thing Robespierre was it was *not super into sex.* So the decision to make him some kind of dandy horndog aggressively pursuing– and then deciding to guillotine – Emilie Sainte-Amaranthe seems kind of gratuitous. UNLESS you consider this book not really as about women in the 1780s at all but instead about the travails and potentials of White Educated Middle-Class Liberal But Not Too Left-Wing American Women. Then this weird story about Robespierre, the personification of radical Revolutionary evil, attempting to sexually assault one of the characters – the reaction to whose death is literally seen as the reason for the end of the Terror - becomes symbolic of the deviousness of the patriarchy that pretends to be progressive. As Léon says, when expressing her [totally unrealistic] sympathy with Corday: “women could and did form and act upon their own opinions. And even the most progressive men seemed to have difficulty accepting that.”[ p. 414) Yet in its essentially centrist pro-moderate message – its clearest political trajectory seems to support Lafayette but would prefer the monarchy over the Jacobins – is not really rebellion. And, we might ask, is it really a step forward for women?

In short, this is a badly, even painfully, written unimaginative and thoroughly banal 550 page slog through a period in history that has already been fictionalized by much more skillful writers. Read them. Skip this.
Profile Image for Vicki Kondelik.
180 reviews2 followers
October 1, 2019
Ribbons of Scarlet is a powerful, inspiring novel about the women of the French Revolution, by six different authors. Each author writes a chapter from the point of view of a different character. Together, they tell the whole story of the French Revolution from its idealistic beginnings through the height of the Terror in 1794. I had been looking forward to reading this book for a long time, because the French Revolution is one of my favorite historical periods, and Ribbons of Scarlet more than lived up to expectations. Every one of the narrators really lived. I was familiar with some of them already, and not so much with others. But each represents a unique voice, and all the stories were equally compelling.

The first chapter, by Stephanie Dray, tells the story of Sophie, a young noblewoman who believes in equality for women and who helps her uncle, a magistrate, in his efforts to help people who are wrongfully imprisoned and to put an end to the barbaric execution methods of the time. She is in love with Lafayette, but marries the Marquis de Condorcet, who shares her beliefs. Sophie comes to love her husband as they work for democracy during the early days of the French Revolution. I have to say that Sophie was my favorite character in the whole book, and I missed her when the chapter was over. But she reappears throughout the book. That is another thing I loved about this book: characters who narrate one chapter will appear in others.

In the next chapter, Heather Webb writes about Louise Audu, a fruit seller from a poor family, who runs errands for the nobility (and so interacts with some of the upper-class characters in the novel). Louise learns to read at a school for adults founded by Sophie and her husband. In spite of the efforts of well-meaning members of the nobility, such as Sophie, to improve the conditions of the poor, Louise and her friends are no better off than they were before. Her rage at the treatment of the poor leads her to take action, and she and other market women lead a march to Versailles to bring the king back to Paris. The story of the women's march to Versailles is excellently told, and I definitely see parallels with the Women's March of 2017.

The third chapter, by Sophie Perinot, tells the story of Princess Élisabeth, sister of Louis XVI, the only royalist narrator in the novel, which gives the chapter a very different perspective. (I also noticed that it's the only chapter written in the present tense, besides the epilogue, which is narrated by Sophie.) The devout Élisabeth is devoted to her brother and believes in the divine right of kings. She sympathizes with the poor and wishes to improve their conditions, but she believes the old order should be preserved. Her chapter tells of the royal family's attempt to flee from Paris, and their capture at Varennes. The revolutionaries, and many historians, have seen this as an attempt to flee the country, but, according to Élisabeth's narrative, the real aim was to escape to another part of France where they thought they'd be safe. In an especially heartbreaking scene, Élisabeth witnesses the first execution by guillotine, after she and the royal family are brought back to Paris.

The next chapter, by Kate Quinn, is narrated by Manon Roland, wife of the minister of the interior under the Girondins (moderate revolutionaries). I have read quite a bit about Manon Roland, including her memoir which she wrote in prison and smuggled out to her friends, and I think Kate Quinn captures her voice very well. Manon had a passion for politics, wrote many of her husband's speeches, and even addressed the National Assembly herself. She was a woman ahead of her time in many ways, and I believe that if she'd lived today, she'd be in the Assembly, or in Congress if she were an American. But she also had some old-fashioned beliefs: for example, that women should be subordinate to their husbands. (I don't think she would think so if she lived today.) Unlike Sophie de Condorcet, she did not believe women should have the vote. And so, for much of her political life, Manon hid behind her husband. It was when she was in prison, writing her memoirs, that she found her own voice. Quinn portrays Manon's conflict between her passion for politics and her traditional beliefs very well. She also brings to the forefront the sexual assault Manon experienced as a child, at the hands of one of her father's apprentices, an episode that was censored from earlier editions of her memoir. This early trauma cast a shadow over Manon's later sexual experiences and relations with men. Although she is faithful to her husband, she feels powerfully attracted to a rising politician who is very much in love with her. Her confession to her husband casts a damper on their marriage, until the tragic end comes.

In the fifth chapter, E. Knight tells the story of Charlotte Corday, a young woman from Caen who came to Paris to assassinate Jean-Paul Marat, one of the bloodthirstiest leaders of the revolution. Charlotte spent most of her life in a convent, and was cast out on her own after the National Assembly closed the convents. Her father was too poor to take her in, so she lived in the household of a distant cousin, where she read political newspapers by Marat's opponents, the Girondins. Convinced that Marat was ruining the country, she decided that the only way to save France was to assassinate him. Famously, at her trial, she said, "I have killed one man to save a hundred thousand." There is a second narrator in this story: Pauline Léon, a working-class woman who helps to run a chocolate shop in Paris. She and her friends, including Louise Audu and the actress Claire Lacombe, found a society of revolutionary women. Wielding a pike, Pauline takes to the streets to fight for the revolution and for equal rights for women. She and Charlotte represent two different sides of the revolution. (Charlotte was not a royalist. She supported the more moderate revolutionaries, while Pauline supported the radical Jacobins.) Both use violence as a means to accomplish what they think is right. I was familiar with Charlotte Corday's story before I read this book, but not so much with Pauline's. I think E. Knight does an excellent job of explaining why women like Pauline supported Marat and were devastated by his murder, and this is not easy, since I've always thought of Marat as a monster who deserved exactly what he got. (I admit, though, that my thinking is influenced by one of my favorite novels, Katherine Neville's The Eight, where Marat is the villain of the section that takes place during the French Revolution.)

The last chapter, by Laura Kamoie, is narrated by Émilie de Sainte-Amaranthe, a young girl considered the most beautiful woman in Paris. Émilie is the daughter of a courtesan, and she and her mother make appearances in the earlier chapters. Robespierre desires her, but she resists his advances. Émilie is married to Charles de Sartine, but she is in love with a singer, who comes to her house in secret to visit her at night. Meanwhile, her husband is having an affair with an actress. Émilie and Charles know about each other's affairs, and accept the arrangement. But Émilie's lover's visits are mistaken for those of a foreign spy, and she and her family are implicated in a conspiracy against Robespierre and sent to prison. They had nothing to do with this plot at all, if it really existed. Tragically, it is only when they are all about to be sent to the guillotine that Émilie and her husband come to love each other. Her lover had done absolutely nothing to help her when he had the chance. I had not been familiar with Émilie's story before. This chapter is powerful, and devastating.

Ribbons of Scarlet is an outstanding novel. Much of it is tragic, but it is also inspiring, because it shows how women can take charge of their own lives and work to change the world. I see many parallels with our own times. These strong women must not be forgotten! Their stories deserve to be told. I congratulate all the authors who worked on this novel. Even though there are six different stories, by six different authors and with six (actually, seven) different narrators, the novel fits together very well.

Note: I received a copy of the book at the American Library Association conference in Washington, DC, and had it signed by the three authors who were there.
Profile Image for Lisa.
620 reviews233 followers
September 30, 2019
An delightful and enlightening book about seven strong-willed women intent on fighting for necessary changes during the French Revolution.

RIBBONS OF SCARLET is The French Revolution as seen through the eyes and voice of seven women who actively participate in the revolution. In the late eighteenth century women don’t have a place in politics, but as the revolution begins, these courageous women take up the fight, each with a different purpose.

The women are all from different backgrounds but each has a vested interest in this revolution. Salon hostess and philosopher, Sophie de Grouchy, is fighting for equality and education for women. Fruit-seller and revolutionary, Louise Audu is hungry and wants food for all. The king’s sister, Princess Elizabeth fights to defend her brother’s rule. Writer and Politician, Manon Roland puts her faith in the pen, writing speeches. Chocolate-maker Pauline Leon and the steely Charlotte Corday embrace violence as the only way to save the nation. But the fate of these women rests with the ability of the beautiful Emilie de Sante-Amaranthe to sway the one man who controls France’s fate.

I loved the concept of this book and being introduced to these seven strong-minded women who actually stood up for change during the French Revolution. The subject was intriguing, even causing me to research the internet for more about each of these amazing women. The book is an inspiring tribute to this sisterhood who willingly put their lives on the line for change in their country. Each of women showed courage, dedication, and perseverance.

Ribbons of Scarlet is divided into six parts, each written by a different author. Authors Kate Quinn, Stephanie Dray, Laura Kamoie, Sophie Perinot, Heather Webb, and E. Knight also formed a sisterhood to pull off this delightful book. The writing is enlightening and the stories were creatively woven together by ribbons of scarlet.

Thanks to the authors for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Publisher WilliamMorrow Books
Published October 1, 2019
Review www.bluestockingreviews.com
Profile Image for Maureen.
329 reviews77 followers
February 29, 2020
This book is about the French Revolution and seven strong women told by six brilliant authors and a forward by Allison Pataki.
Each story is told with a different perspective. These women came from different backgrounds from a woman selling fruit on the street to the King’s sister. They all had one thing in common. The courage to fight for what they believed in.
Although the stories are written by six different authors they are intertwined with one another and develop as the story enfolds.
It is a wonderful and inspiring story of the courageous women of the French Revolution. These women each had a story to tell and will not be forgotten.
I highly recommend this compelling novel
Profile Image for Amanda Hupe.
953 reviews57 followers
July 12, 2021
Ribbons of Scarlet is an anthology written by various authors. This novel is about six women during the French Revolution that has one direction and yet six different points of view.

Part I: The Philosopher by Stephanie Dray is about Sophie de Grouchy. She does not want to be ruled by any man, but then there aren’t many men like the Marquis de Condorcet who respect and support her views. Their outspoken views on women’s rights and education are ahead of their time but how long will that be with the unease building in their country?

Overall, I believe this one is my favorite out of the bunch, maybe because I really admire Sophie. But I love how Stephanie Dray discusses the uniqueness of her relationship with her husband and the growing tension in their country. 5 out of 5 stars

Part II: The Revolutionary by Heather Webb is about Louise Audu who starts out as a fruit seller but as the Revolution begins she leads the Women’s March on Versailles. The price of bread rises and the people of France are starving. They were able to confront the King himself. This march is actually one of the major turning points of the Revolution.

Just kidding, this one is probably my favorite. Or maybe it is a tie. I love Louise. Unlike Sophie, Louise knows what it is like to be a part of the lower class in Paris, the ones who are starving. She has a legit reason to use her voice when the aristocracy refuses to acknowledge their suffering. 5 out of 5 stars.

Part III: The Princess by Sophie Perinot is about Princess Elizabeth, even though she would rather take her place in the Church, she knows her place is by her brother’s side. Plus, she does have a love for shoes. She can’t understand why the people would rise against their king.

I know this set of stories was supposed to have different points of view to get a better understanding of each side in the Revolution but Elizabeth was not my favorite. She looks down on everyone lower than herself, she is one-dimensional and it is because of attitudes like hers that there was even a Revolution in the first place. 2 out of 5 stars.

Part IV: The Politician by Kate Quinn. I have always enjoyed Kate Quinn’s work and this section about Manon Roland is stunning. While her views about women more aligned with the beliefs at the time, she did make her voice known in politics that ultimately led to her death.

This is a heartbreaking read. If you have studied the French Revolution then you would know about Manon Roland whose memoir was smuggled out letter by letter while she was imprisoned before her execution. She had a difficult life and had been abused as a child. However, her letters gave a very intricate point-of-view about the Revolution. 4 out of 5 stars

Part V The Assassin by E. Knight by has a dual perspective, one of Pauline Leon and the other Charlotte Corday. Both of these women thought the best way to get the results they wanted was through violence.

I did enjoy this section. There is a real vulnerability with these women that history hasn’t often portrayed. They are often seen as villains. But it is really their fear that drives them. 4 out of 5 stars.

Part VI: The Beauty by Laura Kamoie is about Emilie de Sainte-Amaranthe who is one of the most beautiful woman in Paris. She is also the daughter of a courtesan. Her path takes her towards one of the most famous people in France…Robespierre.

I was a hot mess during this read. The final pages were so vivid and heartbreaking. But I loved this take on Emilie. She is enchanting from beginning to end. 5 out of 5 stars.

Overall, this is a wonderful historical fiction of some of the most notable women of the French Revolution. It gives wonderful insight into the real terror afflicted on everyone. Because truly, no one was safe. 4 out of 5 stars!
Profile Image for Emily.
192 reviews9 followers
July 21, 2019
I was so excited to win this in a Goodreads giveaway! This book has 6 authors who each wrote a different part of this story which is told from the viewpoints of 7 different women (Part 5 has 2 main characters) during the French Revolution. When I started reading it I didn't realize that they were all real people! I was expecting it to be fictional characters experiencing real events but all of these women actually existed. I found myself looking them up between chapters to try and figure out which parts of their story were facts and what was created by the authors to help tell their stories. There's a P.S. section in the back of the book where each author talks about their character which was also very interesting to read. I was worried that with 6 different authors it might feel more like separate short stories, but most of these characters cross over into multiple parts of this book as the story unfolds so it still feels like a novel. If you're even a little bit familiar with this period in history you know that most of the endings are not happy and this book does not spare any of the gory details. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who likes to read historical fiction.
Profile Image for Kris Waldherr.
Author 39 books337 followers
June 25, 2019
A deeply moving pageturner by six immensely talented authors at the top of their historical fiction game. RIBBONS OF SCARLET elegantly unfolds the complex history of the French Revolution through the eyes of seven real-life women, each representing a different stratum of society. Though the novel weighs in at over 500 pages, I tore through it in less than 24 hours and read the final sections with my eyes awash in tears. In our current age of #metoo and cultural and political clashes, RIBBONS OF SCARLET offers a potent feminist reminder that the more things change, the more they remain the same. Highly recommended. (Many thanks to William Morrow Books for the ARC.)
Profile Image for Christina (A Reader of Fictions).
4,230 reviews1,651 followers
October 14, 2019
"The Philosopher" by Stephanie Dray
Set in the time before the revolution, a young female philosopher fights for justice and independence in her world. Without being heavy-handed, this short story sets the tone in France at the time, raising several points of conflict all through an upper crust lens. The heroine runs in a more liberal circle and is hoping for change. It's interesting because, though she chafes at the fact that women are owned, she almost can't fathom equality for women, as much as she wishes for it. The romance is an interesting one, borne of mutual admiration and compatible intellects, rather than passion. A solid story, one that will have me picking up books by Stephanie Dray. ★★★★

"The Revolutionary" by Heather Webb
There's much less development to this story, but it's also much shorter, so it didn't bother me too much. Where the first story focused on an aristocrat, this one focuses on a flower-seller who turns revolutionary, fighting to make her world better. It's a great follow-up to "The Philosopher" because they're both fighting for change but for very different reasons and in very different circumstances. The heroine, Louise, feels a bit like an every-woman rather than a specific character, but I think that works for this story, which captures the role of women in fomenting revolution and marching on Versailles. The point isn't that Louise is special in some way; she's like every other peasant woman and becomes a leader by chance. ★★★½

"The Princess" by Sophie Perinot
From the perspective of Madame Élisabeth, sister to King Louis XVI, "The Princess" covers the period of the revolution in which France briefly became a constitutional monarchy, after the royal family's attempt to flee Paris failed. The historical aspects are interesting, but the story's slightly boring because this version of Élisabeth is flat and uninteresting. All she cares about are shoes, the annoyance of the rebellion, and God. Her only real sense of conflict in the story is whether she made the right choice in following and supporting her brother rather than becoming a nun, and she does not change or evolve at all over the course of the 80-90 pages of short story. That may very likely be the truth of the woman, but she didn't make for a compelling main character. Not bad but a trifle tedious. ★★½

"The Politician" by Kate Quinn
Though not up to the standard of Quinn's full-length novels I've read, "The Politician" was pretty interesting. The heroine, Manon, is the wife of an influential politician and essentially writes everything he says. She's an interesting study, because she believes in a woman's proper place behind her husband, but she's got all the strength, drive, political ability, and intelligence in the relationship. Obviously, she's not my favorite heroine, but she does remind me of certain women of an older generation who, despite being independent and clever, firmly believe in the patriarchy's messages. It causes a jarring dissonance in their character that everyone sees and feels but them. ★★★

"The Assassin" by E. Knight
There's a change in format here to dual POV. "The Assassin" alternates between Pauline, a radical revolutionary and advocate for women's rights, who calls for the death of all of the leaders of the least radical faction, the Girondins, and Charlotte, a nun turned assassin, hoping to end the revolution by figuratively cutting off its head, the newspaperman Marat. This installment's particularly interesting in the way it dovetails women from alternate sides of the revolution, both extreme in entirely different ways. There's a hopelessness to this installment, more so even than the prior ones. By the end, the hope for positive change is dying away, and the violence shows no sign of ending. ★★★★

"The Beauty" by Laura Kamoie
Émilie Sainte-Amaranthe has been in each of the stories, and her story is as beautifully tragic as one might expect. There's an inevitability to this story that drains some of the tension, but by this point in Ribbons of Scarlet, it's easy to get the main thrust of this anthology: women were powerful forces in the revolution, which ultimately punished them for their daring. ★★★½

Overall, this anthology deserves four stars, as the stories themselves are quite good, and the way they dovetail into a novel is cool. However, to make the sections clear, there are only seven chapters in this book (one per author and an epilogue). The length of the chapters made the stories feel tedious in a way that having regular chapters like a novel (or even some anthologies) would not have. Thus my enjoyment dropped though I was able to adjust my ratings per story based on what I felt they deserved. Otherwise, my only other comment is that, given how frequently we encounter most of these heroines, I wish I'd felt more invested in any of them.
Profile Image for Susan Peterson.
1,562 reviews252 followers
October 8, 2019
From the moment I heard about this book, it became one of my most highly-anticipated novels of 2019. Six of the best historical fiction authors, writing about the women who shaped the French Revolution—I couldn’t help but be excited! These extraordinarily talented women have captured the chaos, the passion and conviction of that era with with empathy for all sides caught up in the events of late 18th century France. Each author has written about this time of political and social upheaval from a different point of view, telling the story from all angles. It was fascinating to hear from six women from all walks of life, representing all of the conflicting sides, and being able to feel compassion and sympathy for all of them.
Profile Image for Crystal King.
Author 6 books417 followers
September 15, 2019
Wow, what a daredevil of a read! This is a wonderful novel, written by six talented authors, telling the tale of the French Revolution through the eyes of six women from the past. I am in awe of the structure of this novel and how they managed to weave six different narratives together into one cohesive story that sweeps the reader through the chaos and politics of this tumultuous time in French (and in some ways, American) history. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and all of the varying points of view. It is unusual to cheer on protagonists and antagonists at the same time but I found myself doing so because of the interesting way this story was told.
Profile Image for Lana.
10 reviews3 followers
August 25, 2019
I was fortunate to receive an ARC of this book through Goodreads. This is a wonderful, compelling novel concentrating on six main female characters during the French Revolution and written by six authors. I wasn’t sure how the continuity of the story would be with different writing styles. Not to worry. The flow of the stories and styles was seamless and provided a masterful tale of what it must have been like to be a woman during that era.
Profile Image for Taury.
498 reviews88 followers
November 15, 2020
Filled with history of women fighting for a voice during the French Revolution. It was hard to follow. Different main characters and not knowing ( remembering) who is who. A book heavy with history and emotion.
Profile Image for Tammy(PeaceLoveBooks).
525 reviews199 followers
September 25, 2019
I read a lot of historical fiction but this was honestly the first book I've read about the French Revolution. I knew that I had to read Ribbons of Scarlet as soon as it was announced and it didn't disappoint! These six historical fiction heavy hitters have seamlessly written a book with relatable characters, each telling their side of the cause. I honestly was surprised at the credits to find that each author had written a chapter on a separate character. Their voices blended so well! Job well done, ladies!
Profile Image for Meg - A Bookish Affair.
2,445 reviews191 followers
October 18, 2019
"Ribbons of Scarlet" is a fantastic story of the French Revolution told in six parts by some of the powerhouse women authors of the historical fiction world. The French Revolution is definitely well-trodden territory for historical fiction but this book feels fresh as it gives a lot of new perspectives to such an important event through the eyes of the women who experienced it firsthand. These women are strong, principled, cunning in very different ways! This book was truly a treat!

One of the things that I love best about reading both non-fiction history and historical fiction is the lessons that they hold for the present day and those nuggets are most definitely strewn throughout this book. Women did not often have a platform during this time but all of these women find small and big ways to make waves and stand for what they believe in! Always an important lesson and one that is definitely well done throughout this book!

Each of the six sections of the book is written by a different author but the whole story flows while giving us different perspectives and showing different aspects of the French Revolution. I love this concept and I think it works really well to essentially breakdown super complex events into something that is easier to follow. If you're a historical fiction fan, you may have caught some of the authors in this book in other History 360 books such as "A Day of Fire" and "A Sea of Sorrow" among others. They have found a really great way to tackle some of the big events of history. "Ribbons of Scarlet" is the first History 360 book to be traditionally published, which will hopefully bring these stories to more people. The concept is much the same as the other books although this book really felt more cohesive and a whole story rather than only showing various perspectives.

The characters that we're introduced to are really fantastic and they are so different. We meet some of the great thinkers of the revolutions, the students, the traditionalists, and the muscles of France. They come from different experiences and classes. All of them are women. All of them seem to be stymied in some way because of their sex. All of them find ways to make their voices heard. Present day, when it feels like there is not much you can do about the things going on in the world, this book is seriously inspiring!
Profile Image for Margaret Rodenberg.
Author 2 books92 followers
July 22, 2019
I received a free Advanced Reader Edition of RIBBONS OF SCARLET at the Historical Novel Society conference so this a legitimate prerelease review. The book is unique in that six authors collaborated on it. Each wrote a section told from the point of view of a different female historical figure during the French Revolution. So six authors, six main characters. Does it work as a novel? Amazing well. I didn’t want to put it down.

The main characters—women drawn from various levels of society—show up in the other chapters as secondary or cameo characters. As you progress through the book, you get to know all the characters better and better, and you’re thrilled to see them intersect with the other characters’ lives. Their challenges—political, family, economic, philosophical, physical dangers, and love interests—overlap, giving the reader deep insight into the French Revolution from its hopeful inception to its disastrous end at the guillotine.

For me, it’s the women’s personal stories that resonate the most. These women struggle to be heard and to be leaders in their own right. They want to build unique personal relationships in a society that reflects their values. As you might expect, that wasn’t easy in late 18th century France. You might be surprised how relevant and touching their struggles feel today.

So hats off to the six brave authors who banded together to give voice to these six largely forgotten women. They created a beautifully researched, entertaining, and inspirational novel that takes women’s historical fiction to a new level. Enjoy it! I loved it.
Profile Image for Clarissa.
181 reviews7 followers
September 30, 2019
It seems like forever since I've written one of my long-winded, lengthy reviews, but here we are. Ribbons of Scarlet is a title I've spoken a great deal about in the last few months and even though I am publishing this today, you will see my post about it at least two more times, so my apologies in advance. However, I feel given the current state of things, women (and men!) could benefit from reading and learning about life in Revolutionary France. I find that looking at the past can always help us learn in the present. Now, women didn't have the rights that we do today. So whether they were protesting at Versailles and begging for bread or they grumbled and tried to survive in what was an oppressive regime, they were progressive because they refused to sit idly by. Even though the new motto sort of laid it plain: Liberté, égalité, fraternité. Fraternity. Brotherhood.

They were not only fighting for survival, but they also were doing some truly remarkable things, fighting for the rights of women, for the freedom of slaves, for the betterment of things. It was rather progressive for the time period. Far ahead of many countries. Also, bear in mind...they risked their heads too. Everything could b put on the line if you were 'rebellious'. It didn't matter your background either, as we well know. If a King could lose his head...then who was a mere peasant? No one was safe.

In my opinion, it takes a special brand of author to each write a portion of a story and to have all of it be part of a cohesive story. But it's a stunningly beautiful collaboration. I've read each author before and I was not at all disappointed with their work. Their efforts at truly beautiful and stunningly written. They don't shy away from the harshness of the period--in Stephanie's section, for example, we meet Sophie whilst she is witnessing a public execution, which doubles as a torture session. The more interested the crowd, the slower the executioner goes, but the moment the crowd loses interest, they make the ending swift. It was not a particularly easy thing to read, but knowing that this actually occurred and that people watched? It makes it more difficult to fathom. Furthermore, the fact that people would dip their handkerchiefs and such in the blood as a memento is even more horrifying. Still, Sophie was a wonderful opener to the book, her section is engrossing and it was wonderful to get lost in her life. I especially felt for her, given her frustration at the binds put on women because of their sex. When women married, their identity was often sacrificed in order to be a mother and a wife. Sophie's intelligence, frankness, and wit lead her to her husband and invariably her survival. Stephanie Dray is quite possibly at her best here.

What I really loved was how each of the authors took their subject(s) and made them come off the page in such a striking way. For me, I had heard of some of them, but others were lost in history to me until now. Sophie de Grouchy, Louise Reine Audu, Princess Élisabeth, Manon Roland, Charlotte Corday, Pauline Leon, and Émilie de Sainte-Amaranthe. Seven women...seven exceptional women. All so different, yet so unforgettable.

I knew of Princess Elisabeth, of course. I was delighted to see Sophie Perinot writing her section; knowing full well how excellent she writes. Elisabeth was in quite safe hands; for these were the hands that wrote of Marguerite, the daughter of Catherine de Medici. Reading her narrative from the perspective of a royal is fascinating and for me, added to my sympathy for them. Do I believe them to be monsters? No. Do I believe the King and Queen to be good rulers? No. What I believe is that they should have been given the choice to flee with their children to live out quiet lives. As we know, that doesn't happen. Reading of the first death by guillotine was like a punch to the gut; Ms. Perinot has the innate ability to pull your heart out, stomp on it and leave you wanting more.

Something I particularly enjoyed was reading of other characters in other sections. For example, in part one, Sophie is our main character, but in part two, Louise, our narrator, has attended a school that Sophie has founded and learned to read there. It's a fascinating way to tie everything together. A ribbon, if you will, that winds itself skillfully throughout the entire novel. Reading about the best efforts of the upper classes to improve the life of the poor was both touching and sad. Sophie was a woman who truly wanted to help women less fortunate than herself, but sadly, it doesn't work. Louise joins with others and marches upon Versailles. Perhaps it was just me, but I saw parallels between that and the Women's March that takes place yearly now.

Each character had such heart and such power. I don't think I'll ever forget a single one of them, which I am certain was a goal of the authors. To shed light on those who were relegated, as many women were, to background characters. I've been anxiously awaiting this book since I first heard about it and I was not disappointed at all. It's truly a wonder. A true tour de force that shall have your emotions begging you to get off the roller coaster; but you're an enthusiast for the thrill of it. I couldn't put it down...and even after I finished, I still kept it close. (Nerdy, but true.)

I am so excited for this coming Saturday and getting to meet all six authors. my first book signing ever and there's going to be six (!!) of my favorites there. Totally over the moon.
Profile Image for Carol (Reading Ladies).
653 reviews147 followers
December 6, 2019
4.5 Stars

Liberty! Equality! Fraternity!

Six masterful storytellers collaborate to share the experiences of seven unforgettable women of The French Revolution. During the Revolution, these courageous and determined women felt compelled to speak up and exert their influence wherever they could. Even though these are six separate stories, some passionate convictions and ideas connect them.

The authors of Ribbons of Scarlet pull off an ambitious collaboration and put the history back into historical fiction! This compelling and powerful story is well researched, well written, and packed with vivid historical details. The transitions are smooth between the stories and Ribbons of Scarlet reads like one complete story….if I didn’t know there were six authors, I would not have been able to guess. I appreciate the multiple viewpoints which give us well-rounded perspectives from members of royalty, a fruitseller, a teacher, a political writer, two revengeful women, and a beautiful woman married to an influential man.

I wish the authors had included a bit more scaffolding for readers to understand the scope and sequence of the French Revolution. I feel like I was immersed in the individual stories but I was uncertain of the political groups and broad ideas of the Revolution. I Googled frequently, but most of the information I found was complex to understand in a quick Google search. What I really needed was a “Dummies Guide to the French Revolution.” It might have been helpful for each author to provide a brief and simple overview of the politics and factions at the beginning of each chapter.

Don’t miss the authors’ notes!

The characterizations of these strong-willed women are excellent even though each of their sections is like a short story. I was immediately drawn into their situations and felt connected with them and grew to appreciate their causes and viewpoints. The women seem modern in their thinking: lending their voices to the cause and passionate about equal rights. I heard Kate Quinn speak to this first hand, and she assures readers that the women’s modern attitudes reflect thorough research and that these women were, indeed, early feminists.

In addition to themes of politics and patriotism, there are thoughtful themes of loyalty, family, risk, courageous determination, bravery, hope, finding your voice, sacrifice, and equal rights.

Content warning: capital punishment, beheadings (PG-13)

I highly recommend Ribbons of Scarlet for readers who appreciate compelling stories of strong and independent women, for fans of historically rich and powerful histfic, for those who are interested in French history, and for book clubs looking for ambitious reads.

For more reviews visit my blog www.readingladies.com
Profile Image for Jocelyn Green.
Author 30 books1,222 followers
February 28, 2021
This is a very different kind of novel than most, due to its format. Six authors have joined together to give voice to six different women living through the French Revolution. So it's a little like a novella collection, but the novellas are each integral parts of the whole. The story arc in Ribbons of Scarlet is not tied to one character, but is the French Revolution itself.

Having studied the French Revolution while researching A Refuge Assured, I was familiar with many of the historical figures and events in this book. I found the historical integrity in Ribbons of Scarlet to be worth five stars. The godlessness portrayed in some of the stories was true to the "enlightened" attitude of the time. Affairs were very common for that period and people, too. The characters in this novel are not concerned with the reader being able to "relate" to them. I admire the authors for presenting these women to us just as they were, which gives us a broad understanding of the variety of opinions that prevailed.

The book covered atrocities but in a tasteful way. It could have been so much more graphic (the September massacres--oh my word, I remember weeping when I first read about those). Yet at the end of the book I was *this close* to ugly crying during a particular scene that tore out my heart, as a mother. This was such a powerful subject matter, and it could have been exploited to be completely sensational--but that would have cheapened it. Instead, the authors wielded the power of their collective pen by choosing exactly the right details to share, the right chords to strike.

This is not a book for those looking for a feel-good read. It is not uplifting in the conventional sense, but readers can still draw inspiration from the courage some of these women portrayed. But if you want to get a good grasp of the French Revolution, I can't think of another book that would offer such a well-rounded picture.
Profile Image for M.K..
Author 6 books203 followers
January 7, 2020
This novel both surprises and delights. It's a feat of writing in that 6 authors created the story and a miracle that it comes together so well and so seamlessly. All the angst, horror, conflicting ideologies, and terrible losses are set out for the reader with uniquely compelling characters whose stories are interwoven to tell the tale. Remarkable and highly recommended.
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