Y.A. Historical Fiction (214 pgs.)
In this novel of social intrigue, Sabine Durand, daughter of aristocrats, thinks of nothing but donning exquisite ball gowns and being seen at all the right parties in Paris. That is, until she secretly rekindles a forbidden firnedship with Michel, who spirits her away to her first salon, where she meets the revolutionary Ben Franklin.
Fueled by ideas of change, Sabine is determined to make revolutionary changes of her own: to take control of her life as it spins toward an arranged marriage to a lecherous aristocrat. But how can she break free of her mother's tight grasp? Perhaps the secret lies in her portrait, recently painted by Fragonard, and her new understanding of love.
I must say, whenever it comes to novels of the Marie Antoinette/pre-french revolution era, I am both excited about it and sort of dread it. The pure opulence of that era is breathtaking at some times, but at others, it gets to be plain annoying. It's like, "Geez, you aristocrats wondered why the French people wanted to chop all of your heads off!"
Anyway, this novel is not short on the opulence. I understand the character of Sabine, our protagonist, is "trapped" in this world of stiff corsets and dinner parties, beautiful ballgowns and, well... Paris. I guess in this book I just didn't feel all that connected with her. It seemed to me like she's got a pretty sweet life.
One thing that I did enjoy in this book was the spirit of revolution. That certainly translated well to me, as a reader. Sabine finds herself in this new way of thinking, which she was helped along to by the magnificent Benjamin Franklin (another element I enjoyed). She is willing to support a change that she knows is right in her heart, and I admire her for that.
For the whole opulence factor, this book is very plainly written. I think it could have been written just a tad better. I really didn't get the presence of the history like I have in other historical fiction novels.
Another thing I enjoyed... while Sabine is posing for her infamous portrait, she reads the novel Candide by Voltaire to keep her occupied. I loved this tie-in! It wasn't until later, when I had actually read Candide that I could understand its importance in the novel. I loved the fact that Ms. Ain focused a good part of her book on this wonderful piece of literature.
All in all, this book wasn't really anything special to me. It's rather short, kinda predictable, and more suited I think to younger teens, just getting their first tastes of historical fiction.