Alexandre Gaudet is no hero. He’s a playwright and one who prefers the pampered life afforded to him in London. But his homeland is in the midst of a civil war and Madame Guillotine claims more lives with every passing day. Desperate to save his sister and the nephew he has never met, Gaudet returns to Paris. But he is captured by the Butcher of Orleans, Vincent Tessier, who is determined to torture Gaudet until he reveals the location of the late Queen’s prized diamond, The Star of Versailles.
Viscount William Knowles isn’t a particularly good spy, having stumbled into his current situation quite by accident. But he has been charged to find the Star for his masters in England. Rescuing Alexandre Gaudet is not a part of the plan. Yet rescue the man he must and suddenly two men who could not be more different find themselves in a frantic race against time. If they cannot reach Gaudet’s sister and the Star before Tessier, then more than a mere diamond might be lost.
I admit that I struggled to start reading The Star of Versailles. The first couple of chapters felt stiff and awkward and the history, while interesting, felt heavy handed and poorly integrated. I picked the book up and put it down several times because I was finding it utterly impossible to engage either character or to immerse myself in the story. And then around chapter 3 or 4 this all changed. Like flipping a light switch, the story suddenly took on an amazing life and the characters seemed to wake up. Much of this is due to Alexandre Gaudet. Once his true personality is given free reign, it is impossible not to find him utterly endearing. He is riotous and flamboyant and absolutely comfortable in his own skin. And if he is all color and light, then William seems dour and stuffy. But with Gaudet at his side, we see his passionate and absolute loyalty shine through. These two become so entwined, it is hard not to imagine one with the other.
There are a host of secondary characters, both villains and heroes, all of whom are surprisingly well drawn despite their relegation to a second tier. Tessier is properly evil and with a backstory that is fully presented to readers. As Gaudet and Knowles race to the coast, there are secret betrayals, foolish decisions, and frequent periods of action, all of which engage the secondary cast without overwhelming the main characters. The ending of The Star of Versailles is slightly abrupt and I was left wanting more, a far cry from how I began the novel to be sure.
Though the start of The Star of Versailles is somewhat slow and plodding, this quickly gives way to strong action, excellent characters, and a story that is truly engaging on multiple levels. Anyone who enjoys historical fiction is bound to enjoy this adventure filled romp through revolutionary France.