|Charlatan by Kate Braithwaite|
Wednesday, April 18, 2018
My review today is for Charlatan by Kate Braithwaite, an historical fiction novel that takes us to the court of the King of France.
This book has a dark beginning that sets the scene for an extraordinary tale, played out behind the opulence and glamour of the court of Louis XIV in the late 1600’s, where wife, mistress, lover and children (legitimate and not) play the daily carousel around the Sun King.
Athénaïs, Madame de Montespan, has been Louis’s favoured mistress long enough to bear him seven children, but the King’s eyes are now on another. What lengths will she go to, to keep his affections, and is her position in court really worth the journey into the underground world of the fortune-teller?
Witchcraft, love potions, spilled blood and sacrifice seem to be commonplace in Paris at the time, but who was involved and who were they trying to help? A lifetime of secrecy and lies seems about to be revealed as Paris arrests fortune-tellers, potion makers and those suspected to be involved in poisonings. Their imprisonment and torture results in many fingers pointing to those at the heart of the court of Louis XIV.
Much of what really happened has been lost over time, but the author has made good use of the mysteries surrounding the facts and cleverly woven her fiction around what is known. It is a gruesome period of history when public executions were events to be seen at and torture of prisoners was commonplace, alongside the desperate conditions of the prisons. All a great contrast to the opulence of life at court. A question I was left with was who really held the power, the King, the mistress or the fortune teller/potion maker?
This book is one for those of you who enjoy gritty historical fiction.
Charlatan is available in ebook and paperback format and links to Amazon can be found below.
Tuesday, April 17, 2018
|17th April 1998, Henley-on-Thames|
Today is our 20th wedding anniversary and I can’t believe that Adrian looks so young in the wedding photos, whereas, as I’m sure you will agree, I look just the same. 17th April 1998, at Henley on Thames in Oxfordshire, we tied the knot with a small civil service, then went off on our first adventure as man and wife – a boat trip along the Thames, where the river was so swollen and running so high, we were told to expect a cancellation. But we had faith, it worked, and we sailed.
|17th April 1998|
The first ten years of marriage saw many adventures; getting two kittens, moving to a new house in the UK, having a baby, then moving to France and getting a dog. The last ten years have been far more relaxed but we’re still happy to have adventures, in fact our tenth wedding anniversary saw a new start to our adventures in France, our Mini Cooper Road Trips, in Gizmo the mini.
In 2008 we awoke on our wedding anniversary in Beaulieu-sur-Mer, near Nice, having made our way south to the Riviera in two days. We then set off along the coast, through the Alps and into Italy, where we stayed near Turin for a few days before heading west, back to home. It was such fun, we vowed to continue every couple of years and a new tradition was born.
In 2010, we returned to Beaulieu-sur-Mer, by a different route, then drove the Ardeche gorges, arriving in Montelimar on the eve of our anniversary. Up to this point, this road trip had been even better than the previous, and we’d learned to take our time to explore the back roads of France. However, it wasn’t a great start to our anniversary when we discovered Gizmo had been broken into overnight, but we coped. Thankfully they hadn’t smashed any of the windows, so we made a visit to the Gendarmes, and hit the road for Le Mont-Dore in the Massif Central. The sun shone on our beer terrace that night as we raised a glass to twelve years of marriage.
In 2012, we were wine tasting in Angouleme on our anniversary, taking a break from the preparations and packing for the third Gizmo tour to the south. From St Emillion to Condom, to the Pyrenees, to Collioure, to Carcassone, to the Cevennes and home, we had a great time. I had this mad idea to share our adventure on the blog every evening and I did, but it was tough, and if I’m honest, took up too much of our time together.
In 2014, two days after our anniversary, we were ready to hit the road once more. Sadly, on the second day Gizmo had mechanical issues (see here) and although Adrian managed to perform the equivalent of open heart surgery on a rather remote hillside, by the 21st April we were back home. We did get to make one (most likely) final road trip in Gizmo in June 2015 (see here), but he is sadly now showing his age and is confined to the garage for the foreseeable future.
However, this hasn’t stopped our adventures, oh no! In 2016 we spent our anniversary just outside Angers in the Loire on the eve of our first ever big cycling adventure. A six day, 450km cycle ride around the Sarthe department (see here). It was so much fun, last year we challenged ourselves to a charity cycle around the Deux-Sevres department (see here).
Which brings me back to today, our 20th anniversary, and I’m sure you’d love to know what sort of adventure we have planned in celebration this year. Well, life has given me a new adventure in the local library, and having only started work a few weeks ago, getting away this week hasn’t been possible. As Adrian works away from home, we have spent many birthdays and anniversaries apart, but this is the first time it’s my work that has been the reason. Call it sods law if you will, but since I began work, Adrian has had time at home.
As I write this, Adrian, Ed and my mother-in-law Sandra are in the Pays Basque, returning to the wonderful gîte we all visited last year (see here). I was at work this morning and will be working this afternoon, but I am being wined and dined by good friends this evening. Adrian is celebrating by cycling up mountain passes, without having to keep glancing behind him to see where I am. We will certainly be raising our glasses to one another this evening.
We have already had our first meal out, an advance celebration, at the village bar, where, as is the French convivial way, we sat with friends who were also eating there. When my travellers return at the weekend the celebrating will continue, at the village bar once more, and it will be a double celebration for Adrian’s birthday too.
I’ve no idea where the next twenty years of marriage will take us, or what adventures we will have along the way, but I can’t wait, as together we can tackle anything. Love you Ade.