Mistress of My Fate by Hallie Rubenhold

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Henrietta Lightfoot was raised as a ward in the home of a gentleman, taught to be an accomplished and well-mannered young lady in 18th century England.  When she and the young mistress of the house reach marriageable age, things start to get a little difficult-unwanted suitors pile up around the ladies, and one suitor is desirable to both Henrietta and her “cousin”. Henrietta knows that her love will never come to fruition, for she has no birth status, no dowry, nothing an aristocratic young man could want in marriage. But the young lord seems drawn to her, and things begin to spiral out of control.

Soon Henrietta finds herself on the streets, forced to fend for herself and find a way to survive. She goes to her lover for a brief period, but she always knew that they were not to be together as man and wife, and she would always be his hidden secret. His secret doings take him from her and she must examine her future plans or die in the streets of London. She decides to use the resources that she possesses, her beauty, her charm, her body, and find a gentleman who will keep her safe, for a small price…

A proper young lady quickly becomes a harlot, a kept woman among scandalous libertines and the most despicable of human beings, people she wouldn’t have been allowed to speak with in the streets in her prior life.

This is a novel about surviving, using your wits and doing the best you can in harsh, unforgiving times. At times cynical, at times vulgar, this novel is not sweet and flowery. Readers who like Philippa Gregory’s novels of historical romance and intrigue (The Other Boleyn Girl) will enjoy Mistress of My Fate, by Hallie Rubenhold, which is, apparently, the first in a series about Henrietta Lightfoot. The audiobook version of this novel, by Hachette Audio, comes highly recommended, so if you like audiobooks be sure to give it a try.

The Queen’s Lover by Francine du Plessix Gray

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In popular culture, Marie Antoinette is very well-known for being the Queen who was beheaded by her people.  She is also portrayed as having her own tidy collection of male admirers. One such man considered himself above the rest -Count Axel von Fersen was a friend to the royal family, soldier, diplomat, and bodyguard. He served his queen in many ways, but considered himself her one true love and considered her his own true love. This does not, however, mean that he remained faithful to the queen during the long separations caused by politics of the time period stretching over years, through her crowning, the American Revolution, and later, the revolution of her own country. Faithful or not, however, he always returned and he always supported her in every situation.

This unique novel has taken the story of Marie Antoinette and put it into the eyes and mouth of her lover, giving you a perspective that feels exclusive and personal, without idealizing the woman or her behavior in any way.  More than anything, the novel discusses the politics of the world during the life span of Marie Antoinette and the period following her overthrow.

This is NOT a bodice-ripper, although it has its share of scandal. If you like historical romance more than you like HISTORY, then don’t bother with this one. If you want to learn more about the events leading up to and following the death of Marie Antoinette, however, this novel will be very interesting for you.  Give it a try and see what you think!