The Shadow Queen by Sandra Gulland

Sandra Gulland is the author of The Josephine B. Trilogy, three popular historical novels based on the life of Napoleon's Josephine. In her most recent historical fiction, The Shadow Queen, she writes of the life of Claude des Oeilletes, who becomes the servant and confidante of Athénaïs, Madame de Montespan, the shadow queen, mistress, for more than 25 years, of King Louis XIV of France.

Claude was born into a theatre family. Much of the novel details the life of the theatre and theatre troupes in France, at the time of and including the characters of Corneille, Moliere, and Racine. Paris and Versailles are also detailed as settings for much of the action of the novel. 

Sandra Gulland comments that this is her second novel in the Sun Court Duet, following Mistress of the Sun, which was set primarily at court. What interested me most about this novel was the details of the life of the theatre, the players, and the playwrights. The contrast between the lives of the two women one rich in talent, but living in poverty, and the other rich and privileged, but insensitive, also made for compelling reading.

Sandra Gulland's own website is an excellent source of information about her books and the historical background of them:
http://www.sandragulland.com/

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