A moderately engaging look at the French Revolution that suffers from one of the worst romances in recent memory.
Celie Rousseau is a homeless orphan, living in the back alleys of Paris with her savior, Algernon, a boy with revolutionary dreams. They steal from the rich, through a combination of housebreaking and rigged card games, and are feeling quite proud of themselves for it. Until a fellow thief botches his take and theirs, ending with Celie imprisoned, where one of the victims demands that she draw the other criminals to spare her own life.
Celie is a world class artist with an eidetic memory, which is WAY lucky for Marie "Manon" Tussaud (*cough*Grosholtz*cough*,) since she just so happens to need an apprentice to draw the backdrops to her wax figures! The other victim, the evil Comte d'Artois, wants her hanged regardless of skill, but Manon argues for Celie. They agree to a thousand livre bet that Manon can't tame Celie's wild spirit, and the girl is remanded.
Of course, Celie immediately flings herself into the mud and dirties the Comte’s carriage to show just how little she respects royal authority.
From her time spent with Manon and working with Elizabeth at Versailles, Celie starts to realize that maybe the upper class doesn’t have the freedom she suspected. I have almost no problems with this section of the book. The characterizations of Louis and Marie are pretty non-existent, I would have liked any sort of interaction between them and the main characters, but otherwise it’s a nice but unmemorable historical fiction told from an outsider point of view.
And then there’s the goddamn romance.
Algernon is an asshole. He uses Celie for her drawing skills, rejects her advances to become more than friends, then plays the jealous lover when she starts to find friends and family of her own. He constantly berates her for her disloyalty, but never shows himself to be loyal to her. He’s abusive, manipulative slime and when it comes time for the big confrontation, the book has the audacity to play the victim card and let him wiggle out of everything he’s done.
If the worst thing about this novel was the sheer convenience of a street urchin with an eidetic memory and the world’s greatest art skills, I’d probably call it good and recommend it as a short, fun historical romp. But I can’t, because I hate this book. Every quibble is magnified into full blooded hate due to Algernon’s stupid stupidness. I hate the ending and the naivete of thinking revolution can be bloodless. I hate that Marie Tussaud, (*cough*Grosholtz*cough*,) is barely in the book but she and Celie become inseparable mother and daughter any way. I hate the kiss and the final scene on the deck and last minute character changes. There have been a lot of novels written about the French Revolution. Read them.