“The astrologer present at Petite’s birth had written…that her ‘affective sensibility tended to overheat,’ concluding with the warning that her mild manner veiled a voraginous passion. Petite had yet to discover what voraginous meant, but because of a line in the Aeneid (“Neptune came upon them, with all his vorages and his waves full of scum”), she thought it might have something to do with a whirlpool.” (Chapter Eight)
Mistress of the Sun, by Sandra Gulland, was published in the spring of 2008. I first read and loved Gulland’s Josephine Bonaparte series last year upon the recommendation of a friend, and couldn’t wait to read Mistress. Lately, I’ve been meandering through other genres, straying from my true love, historical fiction. Mistress marked my return to the past, and it was a wholly absorbing, fascinating, and gratifying journey.
Mistress of the Sun tells the story of Louise de la Valliere, or “Petite”, as she is nicknamed because of her diminutive, pixie-like physique. From the beginning, it’s clear that in spite of her angelic countenance, Petite has a wild streak in her–a characteristic that she tries to tame like the horses she cares for. This passion leads her to great joys and terrible sorrows as mistress of Louis the XIV, “The Sun King.”
I can’t praise this book enough. Gulland has a particular talent for endearing her protagonists to the reader. She perfectly balances history and fiction, and creates complicated, multi-layered characters. Themes of inner struggle over good and evil are prevalent throughout, and come to a satisfying conclusion. I hated when the book ended, and was pleased to read that Gulland will continue to write about the court of The Sun King, and that Petite will show up, often, in her future works.
I often measure how much I enjoy a book by how quickly I read it, how much sleep I lose over it, and if it sends me searching the internet for more information about its characters or the author. I read Mistress of the Sun in three days, and spent an hour online after completing it, very late at night. Gulland has made a devoted fan of me. I will always buy her books.