Three years have past since the Bastille was stormed, and in Paris we meet two young men, one a lawyer and one a soldier. Jean-Luc St. Clair and his wife Marie have come from Marseille so that Jean-Luc may work as a lawyer for the Republic. Jean-Luc toils away as a government employee, cataloguing the personal effects of the clergy and nobility, both prime targets for revenge by the new regime. Andre Valiere is the son of an executed nobleman. Now serving in the army with his brother Remy, Andre falls in love with a beautiful widow, Sophie, who happens to be the niece of his family’s enemy General Murat. Both Jean-Luc and Andre watch as the revolution pivots from trying to better the poor and starving to massacring anyone of noble blood or anyone who dares to criticize the new government’s lust for blood and power. When General Murat accuses General Kellermann, the hero of the Battle of Valmy, of actions against the Republic, Jean-Luc is the only lawyer that will come to his defense. His bold stance earns him many powerful enemies, and when Andre’s relationship with Sophie threatens Murat, Andre too is accused. Jean-Luc, Andre, Sophie, and Marie struggle to survive as Napoleon rises to power and those who overthrew a king eventually embrace an emperor.
The main characters are fictional but (as the authors explain in a lengthy authors’ note) are composites of historical individuals. Robespierre, Napoleon, and the father of Alexandre Dumas appear, albeit peripherally. The story sticks closely to the historical narrative and therefore provides an excellent view of events from less well known vantage points. So much history is covered, in fact, that it feels like the characters are forced in wherever possible, leaving the characters and plot arc a bit flat. The history is worth experiencing and the Patakis give us first row seats, but the characters themselves seem to be only loose connectors between major plot points.
Allison Pataki’s earlier novel, “The Accidental Empress”, is reviewed here.
Special thanks to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy in exchange for my review.
Amazon link is here.