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Book Review: "Girl on the Golden Coin" by Marci Jefferson

"Girl on the Golden Coin" by Marci Jefferson

Barbara Villiers, 1st Duchess of Cleveland. Louise de Kerouaille, 1st Duchess of Portsmouth. Nell Gwyn, actress. These were women infamous for being the mistress of King Charles II of England. There was one that he deeply loved though. She was one he would have married and made his queen. She was one that shined so brightly for him. Frances Stuart, the La Belle Stuart was the one that Charles II desired among all things, but never could fully have. In "Girl on the Golden Coin" by Marci Jefferson, we meet the woman that a lusty king treasured.

The novel follows the full life of Frances Stuart. Frances, a distant cousin to King Charles lived at the French court with her mother and siblings in the household of Queen Henrietta Maria. Frances was placed into the household of Charles II's sister Madame, her girlhood friend. It was in that household that she caught the eye of King Louis XIV of France. King Louis desired to make Frances his mistress, but she refused leading King Louis to punish her by sending her to England to bed King Charles and stop the two countries from going to war. With her beauty, kindness, and intelligence, she catches the eye of King Charles and infuriates his mistress Barbara. Charles falls deeply in love with Frances, but Frances is loyal to kind Queen Catherine and her own virtue. Eventually her attraction and love for Charles cannot be tamed and she gives into passion, but puts herself, her promise to King Louis, and a family secret in danger. This is the story of the woman who King Charles loved and adored, but never could fully have.

Many historical fiction novels have told the stories of King Charles II's more colorful mistresses, but Jefferson in her debut novel finally gives readers the chance to get to know the famous Frances, the woman King Charles desired above all and even had her likeness put on England's coins. Many in history and historical fiction have portrayed Frances as a vapid or clueless girl, almost childlike playing Blind Man's Bluff or building houses made of cards, but Jefferson's Frances is intelligent, strong-minded, determined, and fierce. She's not a foolish little girl captivating King Charles and being used as a pawn for Barbara Villiers, but a woman who could hold her own with the King of England and King of France. Jefferson has given readers a new and fascinating take on Frances Stuart.

Jefferson also excels in her portrayal of both the French and English courts and how different King Louis and King Charles were. Jefferson brings to life the beauty and frivolity of the French court and the exciting promise of the English court of King Charles II. You'll feel as if you've been transported back in time to both courts.

Most powerful is the relationship Frances has with people. She is loyal to Madame. She defies King Louis. She loves and adores her beloved King Charles. She has a complex rivalry with Barbara Villiers. She has loyalty to Queen Catherine. She loves her family. Frances is a well-rounded character and a true heroine.

"Girl on the Golden Coin" is a fantastic debut for Jefferson. It will leave readers hoping that Jefferson will continue to tell the tales of the royal figures during this time period. Here's hoping for more from the courts of King Louis and King Charles courtesy of Jefferson!

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