Mary Martin Devlin, "The La Motte Woman" (Cuidono Press, 2021)

45:20
 
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Jeanne de St.-Rémy has a grudge against the world. Born into the French royal family—if admittedly by a somewhat labyrinthine route—she spends years of her childhood so disinherited and ignored that at the age of six she is begging in the streets of Paris. A lucky accident brings her to the attention of the Marquise de Boulainvilliers, who adopts the little waif, raises her as a daughter, and helps her prove her claim to be considered a relative of King Louis XV through a legitimized descendant of the previous royal family, the Valois. The marquise even helps Jeanne secure a pension, but Jeanne remains unsatisfied. She will settle for nothing less than full acceptance into the court at Versailles.

Through a series of affairs and a forced marriage to Nicolas de La Motte, who becomes Jeanne’s loyal partner if not the husband of her heart, Jeanne ploughs through all obstacles on her path. Her greatest conquest is the Cardinal-Prince Louis de Rohan, a high-ranking aristocrat whose campaign to regain his influence with the new king, Louis XVI, is repeatedly challenged by a hostile Marie Antoinette. When Jeanne learns of a magnificent diamond necklace, a creation so elaborate and enormous that its purchase price would bankrupt a nation, the stage is set for a scandal that will bring down the very monarchy Jeanne is so desperate to enter.

With a keen eye and a vivid appreciation for detail, Mary Martin Devlin creates, in The La Motte Woman (Cuidono Press, 2021), an indelible picture of how three clashing obsessions—Jeanne’s quest for the validation of her heritage, Rohan’s yearning for his appointment as prime minister, and the jewelers’ determination to produce a unique and, in their minds, perfect work of art—intersected to destroy the reputation of Queen Marie Antoinette, with catastrophic results for the French monarchy as a whole.

A former professor of English and creative writing at Mount Holyoke College, Mary Martin Devlin has always had a passion for French literature and culture. In addition to The La Motte Woman, she is the author of Precious Pawn, based on the memoir of an aristocrat in the decadent reign of Louis XV, and Death in the Rainy Season, set among the American and European expat community of 1980s Zaire.

C. P. Lesley is the author of two historical fiction series set during the childhood of Ivan the Terrible and three other novels. Her latest book, Song of the Sisters, appeared in January 2021. Find out more about her at http://www.cplesley.com.

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