A novel of decadence and sorcery in 17th century Paris based on a real scandal that reached all the way to the throne.
She has created brave and gallant characters - enough to engage any reader of perception and interest.
The story focuses on Genevieve, a young girl who pretends to be an aged crone (very aged---she admits to being well over a 100!). Genevieve works for the famed witch, Catherine Montvoisin but she is also a follower of the new philosophy (science).
Underneath the persona of an aged wise woman and fortune teller, Genevieve remains a young girl. And like all young girls, she is in love---first with a conceited fop and then, finally (!) with a man who is her intellectual equal and who loves her more than he loves himself.
This is the kind of book which you will love to read late at night (preferably a cold winter's night). There is a touch of the supernatural in the story---but it is Riley's mastry of the romance novel which really makes this book great reading for late at night!
It is true that under King Louis XIV, the "Sun King", life was very hard for the common people, while at Court, life was extremely frivolous. But in this book it shows the extent people were willing to go to live in, and be accepted by, that Court.
Very interesting book full of detail and very lively characters.
The problems start coming in about halfway through the book. The plot, which had been hurtling along at a brisk pace, grinds to a halt. The characters start to get into a fixed routine that rapidly becomes stale, and all the suspense evaporates. In fact, Genevieve predicts the ending of the book several times throughout the story, so there's no fear of her being killed or even emotionally hurt.
Emotional scenes need work--they have all the plausibility of a B-movie performance. I got the impression that the author has an intellectual understanding of such scenes, without a true grasp of the feeling behind them. As a result, romance is a crutch rather than a highlight of this book. The same holds true for some of the characters--they are intellectual constructs of a certain character type rather than psychologically complex people.
It's also a pity that the court intrigue, so often hyped in the first half of the book, is really not as complex and vivid as it could have been. Perhaps what really irked me about this book is that with such a great setting, the plot had enormous potential, but instead just peters out. It is worth reading to get a feel for the period, and it's fun in its way. I would recommend it to fantasy fans in need of pure escapism, with Riley as a sort of fantasy counterpart to Danielle Steel. If you come to it expecting to have fun and nothing more, you probably won't be disappointed.