Review: The Star of Versailles by Catherine Curzon & Willow Winsham

As the Reign of Terror tears Paris apart, a dandy and a spy are thrown together on a desperate race through France.

In the darkest days of the Reign of Terror, rumors grow of the Star of Versailles, the most exquisite treasure ever owned by the doomed Marie Antoinette. For Vincent Tessier, the notorious Butcher of Orléans, this potent symbol of the ancien régime has become an obsession and he’ll stop at nothing to possess it.

When Alexandre Gaudet arrives in France to find his missing sister and nephew, the last thing he expects is to fall into Tessier’s hands. Tortured and left for dead, salvation stumbles accidentally, if rather decorously, into his path.

For Viscount William Knowles, life as a spy isn’t the escape he had hoped for. Yet a long-held secret won’t let him rest, and the fires of revolution seem like the easiest way to hide from a past that torments him at every turn.

Adrift in a world where love, family and honor are currencies to be traded, the world-weary Viscount Knowles and the scandalous Monsieur Gaudet have no choice but to try and get along if they want to survive. With Tessier in pursuit, they search for the clues that will lead them to the greatest treasure in revolutionary France—the Star of Versailles.

This was yet another slam dunk request, because French historical. The Star of Versailles is set during the French Revolution's Reign of Terror.

It is largely a fictional book but it does fold in some historically accurate information and if you know not of the French Revolution, it was a bloody affair. The authors did not pull any punches when it came to depicting the torture either. Beware the first 15% or so is predominantly Gaudet being tortured by Tessier. 

Then it mostly settles into a slow burn, opposites attract romance between William and Gaudet. 

William Knowles is an English spy who has adopted the persona of Yves Morel to infiltrate Tessier's inner circle. He's an introverted loner and a man of few words who has made every effort to submerge himself in work. He has his reasons for his escapist ways which are eventually revealed. He's also been straight up until he meets the fiery and irresistible Alexandre Gaudet.

Gaudet is his polar opposite in most ways. He's flamboyant, has close ties to the French royal family, has never met a stranger, is a chatterbox and a clotheshorse and has a penchant for wearing powder, rouge and the occasional dress. I was really looking forward to that dress but it never appeared. *pouty face* He's also outspoken, passionate, is utterly and completely devoted to his girl, "Mademoiselle Papillon", a poodle and reads very French. Despite what his outward appearance might lead one to believe, he's very perceptive and intelligent. I was a smitten kitten. 

This narrative is an ensemble cast with lots of head hopping. It's split between the burgeoning romance between William and Gaudet and the quest to find the Star of Versailles, a ginormous diamond of Marie Antoinette's. It's an obsession of Tessier's and it's likely in the possession of Claudine Gaudet, Gaudet's sister who was a former lady-in-waiting of the court.

The Star of Versailles is full of adventure and a toe curling romance saturated with UST. The authors did a great job of building tension and once they are together there is no contrived conflict. They just want to be together as much as the time period will permit and safe. They do get the HEA but they have to find Gaudet's sister and get out of France first. Both of these objectives push the plot forward. I would've liked an epilogue, though.

I don't ordinarily have a problem with head hopping but the head hopping has to have a purpose, has to drive the plot and there were too many times when I felt it was superfluous. I would've liked for the story to be tighter with less meaningless minutiae that could've been edited out altogether. 

Also, it says this book is 270 pgs on Goodreads. Ummm are those scroll pages?

Because they most assuredly are not kindle pages.

In the end I did enjoy this story, though I wish it had been more focused on the romance between Gaudet and William even though I did like the majority of the cast and thought they were all well drawn secondary characters whether they were "good" or "bad". There are strong female characters, adorable kids that read age appropriate, intelligent and sometimes monstrous men and one charming as all get out staring poodle. I should warn that there are on page mf interactions for those that find that problematic in their mm reads.

Recommend to historical fans, particularly French history.

A review copy was provided.

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