I know I am in the hands of a capable historical fiction writer when I find myself breathlessly turning pages even though I know how the story will end.
I know I have encountered a great writer when I find myself wishing history could be changed.
Jean Plaidy made me care about the doomed Marie Antoinette and her family. She portrayed the last queen of France as a multifaceted, very human woman: good-hearted, fun-loving, dignified and courageous, yet tempermentally incapable of submitting to the rigid etiquette of Versailles.
She also brought to life the glittering French court, the disaffected people of Paris and the terrifying days of bloody revolution. While reading the novel, I felt like an eyewitness to the events of Antoinette's life, right up to her last ride to the guillotine.