This is kind of an embarrassment to admit but, when I was younger, in the deep dark on the night, on very rare occasions-I used to read Sweet Valley High books. Not the ordinary ones, but these four or so books which were about the romantic lineage of the main characters, showing how their ancestors on both sides had twined lives constantly but never come together until the parents of the main characters did. I liked these books, which spanned about four hundred years each. When I started reading "To Dance with Kings" I was reminded very much of those books-right down to the little half cover which has various scenes underneath it of men and women kissing, undressing, dancing...ect.
"To Dance with Kings" is a story of four generations of women and the destiny they have which entwines their lives, in one way or another, with the palace of Versailles. When Louis XIV, the great sun king, invites the court to visit Versailles, then a simple (but royal) hunting lodge, the village of Versailles is overwhelmed with nobles who rent out space from the peasants in which to sleep. Augustine Roussier and his four friends witness the birth of a fan maker's daughter-and christen her Marguerite. A drunken Augustine promises the mother that he will return upon her seventeenth birthday and pay her court. The mother takes the promise to heart and educates Marguerite so she will make a fitting mistress for the noble man.
But plans change when on Marguerite's seventeenth birthday both parents die. She starts her own fan making business but Augustine, who has forgotten his promise, meets her through chance and is bewitched by her strange beauty-and drawn out of a long funk caused by a secret love for his best friend's wife. Soon they come together but political strife interferes.
The rest of the book is devoted to Marguerite's daughter Jasmin, her daughter Violette and her daughter Rose. Eventually the "flower women" are all drawn to Versailles in some way or another-exploring al of its facets, dark and light. Eventually Marguerites and Augustine's love will come full circle during the turbulent and dangerous terror following the French revolution.
This isn't exactly high quality literature, more like a romance with a ton of historical detail, but it is an extremely fun book to read and great in its own way. I only had two problems with it:
1. The title. At no point does Marguerites mother say her daughter will dance with kings or anything like that. She just thinks her daughter will be the mistress of a wealthy noble man. The book needs a different title.
2. There is almost nothing in the book about Violette. She's like the forgotten character and I would have liked to hear more detail about her life; instead of the little summery the book gives.
Other than that I really enjoyed reading this book. It's a fun read, there a lot of detail and historical tidbits about the royal traditions and Versailles, and hair and fashion-tons of cool stuff to learn. The romances weren't all that realistic, unless you believe in love at first sight, but as they evolve they seem a little more believable. Overall I really liked this book, would recommend it and plan to read more by the author.