Friday, October 4, 2013

Historical Fiction Book Tours: Confessions Of Marie Antoinette

There are many historical novels out there about Marie Antoinette, what sets your trilogy apart from the rest?
For starters, it’s a trilogy, which allows me the time and space to get into the events of Marie Antoinette’s entire life in far greater detail, touching upon some of the lesser known but equally important things that shaped her and her era—rather than jumping from one “greatest hit” of her life to the next, in an effort to cram everything in, or to reluctantly be compelled to omit key details and events because of lack of space to include them. For example, the entire first half of Becoming Marie Antoinette, the first novel in the trilogy, covers her childhood in Austria, material which is rarely given a glance, or else completely ignored in one-volume novels about Marie Antoinette. I was able to depict the difference between the Empress Maria Theresa’s court from that of the Bourbons in France. Becoming Marie Antoinette also allowed me to detail the incredible physical and academic makeover that Marie Antoinette was forced to endure over a period of several months before the French would deem her worthy of wedding the dauphin. And after she arrives at Versailles, I am able to develop the relationship and rivalry between Marie Antoinette and the king’s mistress Madame du Barry, so that readers understand the politics at the court of Louis XV. Also, we know that it took more than seven years for Marie Antoinette and Louis Auguste (the future Louis XVI) to consummate their marriage, and yet we also know they became friends and allies at a court known for its vicious backbiting. So how did their friendship develop? Because I didn’t have to cram Marie Antoinette’s story into one volume, I could allow her relationship with her husband to develop organically.

The same is true for her relationship with her friends and mentors that took place during her years as queen, particularly her connection with the Swedish diplomat Count Axel von Fersen, events that play out in the second novel in the trilogy, Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow. And I had the ability to show how the various events of the notorious Affair of the Diamond Necklace unfolded and how Marie Antoinette came to be ensnared in the con of the century, forever destroying her reputation and credibility with her subjects, although she was a completely innocent party in the scam. Over the course of the middle novel, we see her during her glamorous years as queen, her struggles and yearning to become a mother, and how her unfulfilled desire to do so manifests itself elsewhere, as well as how French Revolution came about. I felt I owed it to my readers to show the real reasons for the Revolution, because—thanks to centuries of propaganda that made its way into the history books as fact—Marie Antoinette has been blamed for many of France’s ills, and named as a catalyst for the French Revolution. Her subjects believed that, but it was far from the truth.

And in the final novel of the trilogy, Confessions of Marie Antoinette, I have the opportunity to depict the full force and effect of the Revolution on the royal family, as their despair increases in proportion to their deprivations. By providing such a fully detailed a picture of the atmosphere and mood in France over the course of three books, and of the way that the central character developed as they aged from their mid-teens to their mid-thirties, I can give readers a greater understanding of the situation the queen was in, and allow then to feel a greater sympathy for Marie Antoinette and her family. They have been able to come to know these historical figures as living, breathing human beings, depicted in oils (a trilogy), rather than a sketch (a single volume).

What is the most interesting thing you've learned about Marie Antoinette while researching your books?
That she was a much stronger woman than I had originally imagined her to be, given the propaganda, presented as fact that has found its way into generations of textbooks, history books, and popular culture, depicting her as a frivolous, bubble-headed spendthrift. In Confessions of Marie Antoinette, the final novel in my trilogy, she finds her strength and proves herself to be a true daughter of Empress Maria Theresa. Marie Antoinette was the one striving to save the royal family during their hours of darkest peril. At her own risk, she corresponded in cipher with foreign powers in the hopes of rescuing her family and restoring her husband to the throne.

What made you decide to tell Marie's story as a trilogy?
See question 1, above. I was eager to have the leisure and freedom to tell her full story, rather than select a few key events or years of her life to highlight. If I only had one book, I’d be racing through the events of her life, with little time for character development and not enough pages to show how, over time, and in what ways, she came to be so despised by her own subjects that she (and her husband) lost their thrones and their heads.

If you could offer Marie one piece of advice what would it be?
I would have suggested that she take the high road when the backbiting gossips at court were cruel to her during her years as dauphine of France. I would have reminded her that no matter how young she was, she still outranked them and had the distinction of being the first woman in France. Getting even with them when she became queen would only make these “mean girls” angrier, and in the long run it would have behooved her to cultivate their friendship because the day would come when she might require their support. The seeds of the French Revolution were sown right within Versailles. The hatred of the queen in particular had its origins in the hearts of those members of the nobility whom she had snubbed as a young queen because they had been nasty to her when she was dauphine and she’d seen no reason to surround herself with toxic people. But would a fourteen-year-old girl have listened to me?

Why do think that readers are attracted to the more tragic figures, like Marie Antoinette and Anne Boleyn?
I think there’s a collective wish that these tragic figures had happier endings because they have been so traduced by the propaganda disseminated against them beginning in their lifetimes. Neither Anne Boleyn nor Marie Antoinette lost their heads because of any felonies they committed. The charges against them were completely invented, and their trials took place in front of “kangaroo” courts. They share something else in common: both women were desperate to produce a male heir for the security and happiness of their realm. I believe readers are interested in well researched stories about these more tragic women, based on the actual historical record rather than on the propaganda—novels depicting the immense obstacles these women had to overcome, and showing them in a sympathetic, humanizing light.

What is next for you?

Under the name Leslie Carroll, my 5th nonfiction book for NAL about the lives and loves of European royalty, titled, Inglorious Royal Marriages: A Demimillennium of Unholy Mismatrimony, is scheduled to be published in November, 2014. As for historical fiction, I have a number of historical fiction irons in the fire, so we’ll see!


Publication Date: September 24, 2013
Ballantine Books
Paperback; 464p
ISBN: 0345523903

Confessions of Marie Antoinette, the riveting and sweeping final novel in Juliet Grey’s trilogy on the life of the legendary French queen, blends rich historical detail with searing drama, bringing to life the early years of the French Revolution and the doomed royal family’s final days.

Versailles, 1789. As the burgeoning rebellion reaches the palace gates, Marie Antoinette finds her privileged and peaceful life swiftly upended by violence. Once her loyal subjects, the people of France now seek to overthrow the crown, placing the heirs of the Bourbon dynasty in mortal peril.

Displaced to the Tuileries Palace in Paris, the royal family is propelled into the heart of the Revolution. There, despite a few staunch allies, they are surrounded by cunning spies and vicious enemies. Yet despite the political and personal threats against her, Marie Antoinette remains above all a devoted wife and mother, standing steadfastly by her husband, Louis XVI, and protecting their young son and daughter. And though the queen and her family try to flee, and she secretly attempts to arrange their rescue from the clutches of the Revolution, they cannot outrun the dangers encircling them, or escape their shocking fate.

Review: We've finally reached the last book in Juliet Grey's Marie Antoinette trilogy. I have loved the first 2 books and I love the final book as well, although, the book is terribly sad. From the beginning of the first book, I've felt sympathetic to the little Austrian girl who became the last Queen of France.

This book deals with the last days of the French Royal Family.

One word: Heartbreaking.

I don't think that I can adequately say how well researched this book was and how enjoyable the story is, even though you will cry.

I recommend reading the first two books, so you really get to follow Marie's life, but it certainly can be read as a stand alone.

Rating: 5 flowers

About the Author

Juliet Grey is the author of Becoming Marie Antoinette and Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow. She has extensively researched European royalty and is a particular devotee of Marie Antoinette, as well as a classically trained professional actress with numerous portrayals of virgins, vixens, and villainesses to her credit. She and her husband divide their time between New York City and southern Vermont. 

For more information please visit  You can also find Juliet Grey on Facebook.


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