In this first of a trilogy about the life of Marie Antoinette, we are introduced to ten-year-old Antonia, the youngest daughter of Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, autocratic co-ruler of the Austrian-Hapsburg
Antonia is an impetuous child, more prone to chasing after butterflies, or tumbling in the garden with her pet dog, than gliding through the mirrored halls of the celebrated Versailles. Yet, her mother is determined that she shall marry the French Dauphin, the young grandson of King Louis XV. No effort or expense is spared in the empress's race to transform this sweet, boisterous, little girl into a sophisticated beauty, able to deal with the intrigues and treacheries of the French Court.
In order to meet the French standard of elegance, she must learn the special Versailles walk on two-inch heels, and wearing skirts wider than a door. Her hairstyle is considered wrong; her figure at twelve years of age, too boyish; and even her teeth are too crooked for their standard of beauty. She must undergo the rigors of a crude form of braces to straighten them. She is not by nature a student, so must undergo constant, rigorous lessons in the French language as well as the geography and history of that country.
The author gives us a detailed account of the young Antonia growing into the glamorous Marie Antoinette under the demanding eye of her ambitious mother. It is character-driven and through the author's beautiful and skilful writing, we are able to watch the young girl's metamorphous before our eyes, rather like the butterflies she loves.
Since it IS character rather than plot-driven, it is not a page-turner in the sense of a thriller or even a cozy. But through wonderful word pictures and delightfully poignant scenes, the writer has done an outstanding job of drawing the lover of historical fiction into the life of this remarkable young girl.
I can hardly wait for the release of the other two books in the trilogy of France's last queen. Like the author, I am growing very fond of Antonia. I wish that her story could have a happy ending but, sadly, we already know what her fate will be.