Sandra Gulland’s Josephine B. trilogy remains one of my favorite works of historical nonfiction of all-time. I first read it when I was twelve or thirteen, and regularly revisit it every few years because it is just so good. When I realized Gulland had published another book after the trilogy, I knew I had to get my hands on it.
Mistress of the Sun is the story of Louise de la Vallière, more commonly known as Petite. After her father’s death in her early childhood, Petite joins the court of Louis XIV, the king of France, as a maid of honor to his sister-in-law, the Princess Henriette. She soon captures the King’s attention, and they begin an affair that would last years.
I really liked this book, although not quite as much as I loved the Josephine B. books. For one, I think this book would have worked better in first-person narration–I think Gulland’s style and tone lend itself better to it, and I found the third person narration here a little distracting and alienating. Other than that, though, this book was great. Louise de la Vallière is a pretty obscure historical figure, so it was cool to read more about her (and now the book has gotten me interested in a time period I knew little about, which is always good!). Petite is a compelling protagonist–smart, stubborn, and strong. I really felt myself relating to her, and feeling the frustrations she must have felt as the true love of the King, while still having to live a life of secrecy. There’s also a really interesting supernatural element to the novel that I won’t give away, but gives the plot a unique twist, which I liked.
Overall, this is a fast, engaging read that I definitely recommend to anyone who likes well-written historical fiction.