From the author of the beloved Josephine B. Trilogy, comes a spellbinding novel inspired by the true story of a young woman who rises from poverty to become confidante to the most powerful, provocative and dangerous woman in the 17th century French court: the mistress of the charismatic Sun King.
Claudette’s life is like an ever-revolving stage set. From an impoverished childhood wandering the French countryside with her family’s acting troupe, Claudette finally witnesses her mother's astonishing rise to stardom in Parisian theaters. Working with playwrights Corneille, Molière and Racine, Claudette’s life is culturally rich, but like all in the theatrical world at the time, she's socially scorned.
A series of chance encounters pull Claudette into the alluring orbit of Athénaïs de Montespan, mistress to Louis XIV and reigning "Shadow Queen." Needing someone to safeguard her secrets, Athénaïs offers to hire Claudette as her personal attendant.
Enticed by the promise of riches and respectability, Claudette leaves the world of the theater only to find that court is very much like a stage, with outward shows of loyalty masking more devious intentions. This parallel is not lost on Athénaïs, who fears political enemies are plotting her ruin as young courtesans angle to take the coveted spot in the king's bed.
Indeed, Claudette's "reputable" new position is marked by spying, illicit trysts and titanic power struggles. As Athénaïs, becomes ever more desperate to hold onto the King's favor, innocent love charms move into the realm of deadly Black Magic, and Claudette is forced to consider a move that will put her own life—and the family she loves so dearly—at risk.
Set against the gilded opulence of a newly-constructed Versailles and the blood-stained fields of the Franco-Dutch war, The Shadow Queen is a seductive, gripping novel about the lure of wealth, the illusion of power, and the increasingly uneasy relationship between two strong-willed women whose actions could shape the future of France.
Praise for The Shadow Queen
"The Shadow Queen is an epic feast for the senses with a cast of characters that includes Moliere, Racine, and the Sun King himself, Louis XIV. With this exhilarating exploration of the years of Louis's reign, full of exquisite details and memorable characters, Sandra Gulland proves herself a master of not only storytelling but stagecraft and illusion, as well." —Melanie Benjamin, New York Times Bestselling author of The Aviator's Wife
"Fascinating and rich in historical detail, The Shadow Queen brings Claudette des Oeillets to full and vivid life as she makes the journey from hungry, roaming player to indispensable attendant of Louis XIV's mistress. A captivating glimpse into the theatre, court life and black arts of 17th Century Paris.” —Cathy Marie Buchanan, New York Times Bestselling author of The Painted Girls
"Sandra Gulland is at the top of her game in The Shadow Queen and that's saying a lot! From the first page you know you are in the hands of a master story teller. I just don't think anyone does it better than Gulland—this book is lyrical, fascinating and seeped in history, drama and emotion. Truly magnificent and an absolute joy to read." —M.J. Rose, International Bestselling author of The Book of Lost Fragrances
"Propelled by Sandra Gulland's brilliant storytelling and her unerring gift for reviving an historical era through dramatic scenes, The Shadow Queen is told through a fascinating perspective—that of the personal attendant and closest confidante of Louis XIV's all-powerful mistress. The story straddles two worlds—the competitive arena of 17th century French theater and the opulent yet treacherous court of the Sun King. The characters are magnetic and the pace will dazzle you." —Adrienne McDonnell, author of The Doctor and the Diva
"Sandra Gulland is one of our most gifted historical novelists and once again, she does not disappoint. This vividly drawn tale of a young woman caught up in the dark intrigues of the beautiful, lethal mistress of the Sun King has all the ingredients readers love, blending passion, adventure, pageantry and danger into a heady brew as intoxicating as it is unforgettable." —C.W. Gortner, author of The Queen's Vow
“A must-read for anyone passionate about the theater and hungry for more of Sandra Gulland's masterful depictions of life at the court of the Sun King.” —Anne Easter Smith, author of Royal Mistress and A Rose for the Crown
"The Shadow Queen will remind readers why they fall in love with the past. Gulland uses her meticulous research with consummate skill, rendering vivid the luxury and squalor of Louis XIV's France and breathing life into fully formed characters that tug at the heart. Masterful." —Tasha Alexander, New York Times Bestselling Author of Death in the Floating City
“The Shadow Queen is a quick-paced, captivating tale of 17th Century France—from the dramas and destitutions of life in the theatre, to the intrigues and ruthlessness of the royal court—and of the wrenching conflict between familial bonds and the sacrifices a woman must make to survive and thrive. Through the trials and hard-earned triumphs of quick-witted Claudette des Oeillets, maid and confidante of aristocratic, alluring Athénaïs, Sandra Gulland shapes a world rich in historical detail and timeless in its exploration of divided loyalties, power struggles, and the consequences of remaining true to heartfelt ideals.” —Ania Szado, bestselling author of Studio Saint-Ex