It’s Giselle Aubry’s first time at court in Versailles. At sixteen, she is one of Marie Antoinette’s newest undertirewomen, and in awe of the glamorous queen and her opulent palace life. A budding designer, it’s a dream come true to work with the beautiful fabrics and jewels in the queen’s wardrobe. But every few weeks she returns home to visit her family in the Parisian countryside where rumors of revolution are growing stronger. From her position working in the royal household, Giselle is poised to see both sides of the revolutionary tensions erupting throughout Paris. When her uncle, a retired member of the secret du roi, a spy ring that worked for the old King, Louis XV, suggests that she casually report the Queen s actions back to him as a game, she leaps at the chance. Spying seems like an adventure and an exciting way to privately support the revolution taking the countryside by storm. She also enjoys using her insight from Versailles in lively debates with Leon Gauvain, the handsome and idealistic revolutionary who courts her. But as the revolution continues to gain momentum, and Giselle grows closer to the Queen, becoming one of the few trusted servants, she finds herself dangerously torn. Violence is escalating; she must choose where her loyalty truly lies, or risk losing everything…maybe even her head.
I knew as soon as I started this book that it was unlike anything I’d read before. Maybe because of the times (late XVIII) or the fact that it was set in Paris, France. However, I’ve recently loved books based on real characters and the early reviews of this one helped me decide to read it. I was convinced.
The first thing you’ll notice when reading this novel is that Meghan Masterson’s writing feels both lyrical and easy to read. Based on the setting, I was afraid it was going to take me a while to get into the story, but instead I was quickly captivated by Giselle, the revolution, and her castle life. It is so different from what we’re used to that I simply wanted to know more and more.
This was my first book about the French Revolution and I must say I actually learnt a lot, something I always appreciate, especially if I’m enjoying myself at the same time. The Wardrobe Mistress was a thoroughly entertaining book and it certainly had a bit of everything: mystery, friendsip, love… And in addition, it was fun and sad when it had to be.
My only concern was that I thought the novel had its dose of cheesy moments, which I’m not really a fan of. Don’t get me wrong: I absolutely wanted Giselle and Leon to be together, but that included plenty of eye-rolling moments from my part. Oh boy, they could be saccharine. Despite those “harlequin-romantic-scenes”, I want to say I LOVED both characters and they were really well-written, as their actions made complete sense at all times. Giselle was strong and vulnerable and even though she made some mistakes, I think I would’ve done the same. It’s so easy to judge if you’re just an outsider. On the other hand, I have a weakness for the rebellious revolutionary type, so Leon was pretty much perfect from my point of view.
If you’re looking for a quick-paced, entertaining historical novel featuring some romance as well, this is the ideal book for you. The Wardrobe Mistress proves that you can learn about history and enormously enjoy yourself at the same time.
Netgalley, St Martin’s Press, 2017