Woman is born free, and everywhere she is in corsets. . . .
Lili du Châtelet yearns to know more about her mother, the brilliant French mathematician Emilie. But the shrouded details of Emilie’s unconventional life—and her sudden death—are elusive. Caught between the confines of a convent upbringing and the intrigues of the Versailles court, Lili blossoms under the care of a Parisian salonnière as she absorbs the excitement of the Enlightenment, even as the scandalous shadow of her mother’s past haunts her and puts her on her own path of self-discovery.
Laurel Corona’s breathtaking new novel, set on the eve of the French Revolution, vividly illuminates the tensions of the times, and the dangerous dance between the need to conform and the desire to chart one’s own destiny and journey of the heart.
Six days after giving birth to a daughter, Lili, the marquise du Ch telet dies, leaving Lili in the care of her friend Julie, who's just given birth to her own daughter, Delphine. The marquise was noted for her intellect and free spirit (indeed, there are questions as to the identity of Lili's father), two qualities Lili inherits, along with the trouble they cause a young noblewoman navigating the tricky 18th-century court of Louis XV. Eager to determine their own destinies, Lili and Delphine make mistakes and raise many an eyebrow, testing Julie's resolve. Lili protects and defends Delphine, ultimately bringing about the girl's happily ever life, leaving Lili alone to ponder, and soon discover, her own ambiguous identity. Unlike many historicals with "strong" heroines, Delphine and Lili complement and support each other, which deepens them more than enough to make readers care (especially for the strong-willed Lili). And by telling the marquise's story along with her daughter, Lili's, Corona brings a changing world, peopled with fascinating historical figures like Diderot and Voltaire, to vibrant life.