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A Reader of Fictions: The Queen's Approach - The Decemberists

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Queen's Approach - The Decemberists

The Queen's Dollmaker

Author: Christine Trent
Pages: 342
Publisher: Kensington Books

Brief Summary:

Claudette Laurent learned dollmaking from her father, an eminent Parisian dollmaker. A fire ends the life of both of her parents, leaving Claudette alone in the world. She tries to find her fiancée, Jean-Philip, but fails, and winds up on a ship bound for England. She had been told that the women were to be made governesses, but realizes, just in time to extricate herself, that they are to be sold to whorehouses instead. She acquires a position, along with a fellow frenchwoman and her daughter, working for the obnoxious Mrs. Ashby. Her dollmaking saves them from this wretched life of servitude, but it also embroils her in the French Revolution.

Historical fiction is a genre I quite enjoy, but do not read all that often. Partially, I worry about getting real history and imagined history mixed up in my head. Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution are not amongst my historical interests either, so this is not a book I would have picked up under normal circumstances; I read this for a book club.

The Queen's Dollmaker was not a terrible book by any means, but it wasn't great either. The writing was good and the historical events in France seemed to follow the correct timeline. The story definitely was not a pageturner, and I had to resist the urge to skim. The real weakness here lies in the plot and the characters.

Claudette is strong for a woman of that time period; she works in trade unashamedly, will not marry solely for station, will not be a mistress, earns her enough money to support herself and her friends, and is possessed of some sass. Her love interest, William Greycliffe, seems a bit like a generic romance novel hero, only without the great sex. He is there for her, loves her unconditionally from his first look at her (despite the fact that he is a rising aristocrat and she is a servant) and saves her when the chips are down. He lacks substance, but he's okay. Jean-Phillipe lacks any sort of real character; he certainly has qualities, but all of his behavior does not really add up to one whole that I could make out.

My main gripe with the plot is that Claudette, a successful, happily engaged woman, has no need to go to visit Marie Antoinette in the middle of the revolution. Sure, she probably didn't know how bad things were, but she certainly knew they weren't good. She is too smart of a woman to think that's a good idea, especially after she decided she truly belongs in England. One other thing that really bothered me, because it, too, went against Claudette's character was her begging to a villain in an attempt to save herself from incarceration: "Please, I will become your lover if that is what you wish, but do not take me in there, in the name of our parents and all that has passed between us, please do not do this" (258). This just seemed completely unnecessary and unfair to her character.

Overall, a meh book. Not bad, but not really worth the time. I thought Jennifer Donnelly's Revolution did a better job with the French Revolution.

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