Thomas Dunne Books, August 2015
About the Book
The alignment of the stars at Marie Mancini’s birth warned that although she would be gifted at divination, she was destined to disgrace her family. Ignoring the dark warnings of his sister and astrologers, Cardinal Mazarin brings his niece to the French court, where the forbidden occult arts thrive in secret. In France, Marie learns that her uncle has become the power behind the throne by using her sister Olympia to hold the Sun King, Louis XIV, in thrall.
Desperate to avoid her mother’s dying wish that she spend her life in a convent, Marie burns her grimoire, trading Italian superstitions for polite sophistication. But as her star rises, King Louis becomes enchanted by Marie’s charm. Sensing a chance to grasp even greater glory, Cardinal Mazarin pits the sisters against each other, showering Marie with diamonds and silks in exchange for bending King Louis to his will.
Disgusted by Mazarin’s ruthlessness, Marie rebels. She sacrifices everything, but exposing Mazarin’s deepest secret threatens to tear France apart. When even King Louis’s love fails to protect Marie, she must summon her forbidden powers of divination to shield her family, protect France, and help the Sun King fulfill his destiny.
Marie Mancini, the niece of the real power behind the Sun King’s throne Cardinal Mazarin, decides to chart her own path in this story of power, manipulation, love, and sacrifice.
Cardinal Mazarin uses his surplus of relatives to dominate and manipulate Louis XIV of France. Rumor has it that the cardinal, not Louis XIII, is the current king’s true father. The cardinal views Marie as a dispensable pawn to use in his ongoing attempts to manage the king, affect world politics, and add to his own wealth and prestige. Marie initially goes along with the plan, in the hopes of being spared a return trip to a convent, but a romance blossoms between herself and the king—a relationship that threatens the cardinal’s control. She ends up playing a dangerous game: encouraging the king to be his own man and hoping their love is enough to see the cardinal’s reign end and Marie on the throne next to her beloved.
What ensues is a high stakes game of power, one which even Marie’s talent for divination is unable to influence. Accepting Louis’ offer of marriage could force the cardinal’s hand, shoving Louis off the throne and threatening France’s shaky chance of peace with Spain. So does Marie let her heart or head rule?
Marie is a fascinating figure: bold, determined, devoted, and above all, faithful. She is forced to make a choice that no one would envy, and the heartache that ensues is palpable. Be on the lookout for an appearance by Frances Stuart, subject of Marci Jefferson’s earlier book, Girl on the Golden Coin, at the end of the novel, which is a neat touch. This story is an emotional rollercoaster but one that concludes with Marie holding her head high.
Rebecca Henderson Palmer