Famously beautiful, Frances Stuart has been remembered throughout history as the woman who twice refused to be the mistress of a king. But what if she did submit to King Charles II?
Using the historical framework of the restoration of the Stuart monarchy in England, Jefferson’s debut novel imagines the romantic intrigues of the beautiful Frances Stuart. With her family recently returned to favor, Frances is eager to escape her mother’s suffocating attention. Walking a fine line herself, Sophia Stuart lives cautiously, knowing her secret connection to the Villiers family and her position in the queen mother’s court are precariously balanced on Frances’ behavior. Yet Frances seizes upon a chance meeting with the rakish Duke of Buckingham to arrange an escape. Through Buckingham’s influence, she gains a position as maid of honor to her friend, Henriette Anne, the new bride of Philippe, Duc d’Orleans. Philippe spends most of his time arranging trysts with the Chevalier de Lorraine, and Henriette Anne spends most of her time arranging trysts with Philippe’s brother, King Louis XIV, a powerful man who soon finds his attentions wandering to Frances. But rejecting his advances lands Frances in even hotter waters, as the queen mother and Louis send her to England to seduce King Charles II. Louis wants to secure a political alliance through Frances; the queen mother wants to advance Catholic interests; but Frances wants to honorably serve the new queen of England, the rather sad Catherine of Braganca. Once she meets Charles, however, it’s only a matter of time before she surrenders to him, sending the lovers on a course that leads to political and emotional disaster.
Jealous women, competitive men, power struggles—the treacherous world of the court is familiar, predictable and disappointing.