In the Shadow of the Sun King
As Huguenots in 17th century France, Madeleine Clavell's family has always lived on the cusp of controversy, but in the past they were always protected by the Edict of Nantes. But the power behind the edict weakened with every year, and new laws closed Huguenot schools while requiring Huguenot children to be sent to convents for reeducation into Catholicism. When Louis XIV's dragoons come for her own children, Madeleine sends her children into hiding and prepares to confront the Sun King.
For Madeleine Clavell is not just any Huguenot. Years ago, her family lived at the palace and she and Louis XIV were deeply in love. He gave her a ring inscribed Toi seule pour toujours...or “You only, forever.” Madeleine hopes that if she returns to Versailles, she'll be able to remind the King of his tender feelings for her and convince him to protect her family.
At this point I had to laugh at Madeleine's naiveté. She expects the King of France to save her family for nothing but a distant romance in the past? At the very least, a man like Louis, known throughout the land for his great love of women, would expect some special “favors” before granting Madeleine's request.
In the past year, I've read several books about the Cathars and the persecution they faced in the 13th century. Reading how little France had changed in four centuries was disheartening. The fate of the Clavells as they are cruelly separated and forced to flee France is a realistic portrayal of what happened to Huguenot families across the country. In the Shadow of the Sun King was inspired by the author's research into her family tree, but since she had no primary sources about the Clavells in her past the story is pure fiction. In the Shadow has both the best and worst traits of Christian fiction. Madeleine's insistence on sticking to her beliefs when it would be so easy to give in and conform to Louis XIV's desires is admirable. But the plot suffers by a little too much deus ex machina. Whenever the characters decide to relinquish control of their lives and allow “God's will be done” the current problem is magically resolved and the story moves forward. This will probably annoy the reader, although I think it was intended to help encourage their faith. Ultimately, her determination to bring about a happy ending for the Clavell family pokes through the narrative, relieving much of the tension and drama.
This is the first in the 'A Darkness to Light' series. The second volume, A Prisoner at Versailles, is scheduled to be released this fall.