Did I read a different book again? Oh well. The French Mistress is I believe the third book written by Holloway Scott recounting the lives of mistresses of Charles II of England. Louise de Kérouaille is sent to the French court to serve as maid of honor to Charles’ sister Henriette-Anne, sister-in-law to Louis XIV. Louise serves her mistress faithfully and during Henriette’s visit to England she catches the roving eye of Charles II, but has to return to France with her mistress. Henriette soon dies mysteriously and Louise is sent to England to seduce Charles and provide political information to the French King. While keeping Charles at arm’s length for a time, she eventually becomes Charles’ favorite mistress (albeit not his only one) and is able to juggle life amidst the hatred of the English for anything French and Catholic, the intrigues of the English court, as well as her love for Charles while remaining loyal to Louis.
Well, that all sounds great and very much like the kind of book I love getting permanently lost in so why am I giving it three stars? I very much enjoyed the first part of the book while Louise was at the French Court in service to Henriette, as well as the first visit to England and the attraction between her and Charles. That said, it was well into two-thirds of the way through before Louise and Charles finally consummate their relationship and it then seemed the author found herself rushing to finish Louise’s story and keep it under 400 pages.
The first person narrative didn’t work well for me, it really seemed to limit the way the author conveyed Louise’s story, whether from putting her into contrived situations just so she could “witness” Henriette’s being abused by her husband to the last 100 or so pages where’s she’s dryly (very dryly I might add) recounting Charles’s political difficulties with Parliament, the Dutch and the matter of his succession. I prefer to see the action rather than have someone else tell me about it. The other problem with the first person narrative in this book was instead of someone else commenting to Louise on her generous bosom/creamy neck/beguiling eyes it was Louise giving herself those compliments. Who knows, perhaps that was intentional to remind us that Louise what a self-centered vain young miss she was? Lastly, and perhaps I’m forever spoiled and will always judge any book in Restoration England against Kathleen Winsor’s wonderful romp Forever Amber, this one just wasn’t bawdy enough somehow – it wasn’t “fun”. If you’re not sure get it from the library first, then buy it if you love it.