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The Disenchantment

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No,’ said Madame de Cardonnoy. ‘She wasn’t afraid. For her heart, too, was made of stone, so that both fear and pity were beyond her.’ A shimmering, sexy, thrilling tale of intrigue and desire, and the dark paths we walk to keep our secrets safe. Bell has written a shining debut.”

Set in 17th century Paris, The Disenchantment takes up the infamous Affair of the Poisons as it tells the story of a love affair between two noblewomen seeking freedom from their repressive society—the unhappily married Baroness Marie Catherine and the androgynous countess Victoire Rose de Bourbon. What inspired you to write this book? They’re just children’s stories,’ Madame de Cardonnoy said. ‘Mother Goose tales. There’s nothing to take credit for.’

Mary Catherine was a beautifully written character with a fierce love and determination. And this was a debut!!!! The Disenchantment] explores the court of Louis XIV in 17th century France, where two noblewomen fall in love amongst dark magic and intrigue. From the most elite salons to the grittiest quartiers, Bell weaves a tale that is complex and compelling.” You feel the ever present pressure of societal expectations on the characters along with their strained actions to break free from them and Marie Catherine's recurring fairytales throughout the novel highlight the desperate desire for escapism.

The writing has the quality of velvet about it, so lusciously rich that it folds you into a thrilling love story . . . Beautifully researched.” It is known (probably from my review of The Empty Room) that I'm not the biggest fan of omniscient POV in novels. This was no different, though obviously, I liked this novel a lot more. Marie Catherine is an interesting character, but I feel that the omniscient perspective made it difficult for the reader to know her on a deeper level. Though, perhaps using the omniscient POV is actually quite clever, as it seems that Marie Catherine does not give her full self to anyone. Another character I really liked and sympathized with was Jeanne. If the POV just flipped between the two of them, it would have been a lot more focused, though I understand that other characters' POVs (I will not name names in case of spoilers) are important and even necessary to the story. A very impressive debut historical fiction, set in the time of the 17th century Poison Affair in France. It is centred around a sapphic romance, but I wouldn’t classify it as a romance specifically. The author provides very interesting commentary on womens’ liberty and their relationships with marriage, gender expression, motherhood and class. It is also a mystery, with the protagonist trying to outwit the police throughout the story, while the police are desperately trying to get on top of the poison affair, and directing much of their suspicion and anger towards women.Can we have the one about the girl under the peapod, Maman?’ she asked, and the corner of Madame de Cardonnoy’s mouth turned up. Her expression had been so poised that Lavoie had not realised that her polished smile did not reach her eyes. Now it did, and he saw the difference. What a fantastic debut! One thing that I don't like about books set in the 17th or 18th century is all the social expectations and pleasantries that the characters have to adhere to, so of course I loved The Disenchantment and how all of the characters broke free from the guise of Parisian propriety.

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