Fiction Catherine Delors For the King

ISBN 13: 9780525951742

For the King

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9780525951742: For the King

From the author of the critically acclaimed Mistress of the Revolution comes a spellbinding historical thriller set in post- revolutionary Paris.

For her first novel, Mistress of the Revolution, which the Associated Press dubbed one of the "best reads of the year," Catherine Delors earned comparisons to Tracy Chevalier and Philippa Gregory. In For the King, she again demonstrates her matchless ability to illuminate key turning points in history while weaving a gripping story about a man caught between his heart and his integrity.

The Reign of Terror has ended, and Napoléon Bonaparte has seized power, but shifting political loyalties still tear apart families and lovers. On Christmas Eve 1800, a bomb explodes along Bonaparte's route, narrowly missing him but striking dozens of bystanders. Chief Inspector Roch Miquel, a young policeman with a bright future and a beautiful mistress, must arrest the assassins before they attack again. Complicating Miquel's investigation are the maneuverings of his superior, the redoubtable Fouché, the indiscretions of his own father, a former Jacobin, and two intriguing women.

Based on real events and characters and rich with historical detail, For the King takes readers through the dark alleys and glittering salons of post-revolutionary Paris and is a timeless epic of love, betrayal, and redemption.

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About the Author:

Catherine Delors, herself from a family of French aristocrats, was born and raised in France. A lawyer, she has practiced in the United States for ten years, and now divides her time between Paris and Los Angeles.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

1

It had been one of the shortest days of the Year Nine of the Republic, the 3rd of the month of Nivose in the revolutionary calendar. The 24th of December 1800, old style. Christmas Eve, as they used to say before the Revolution. Night had long fallen on Rue Nicaise. People were beginning to call it Rue Saint-Nicaise again, for saints were reappearing in everyday language. A few hundred yards away, the lights at the windows of the Palace of the Tuileries glowed dim through the fog.

Passersby, wrapped in coats, hurried home, their workday over. Some, smartly dressed, were going to the houses of friends to celebrate the ancient holiday with a réveillon, the traditional Christmas Eve feast. In the Café d’Apollon, patrons were drinking and cheering.

The shops were still open. The glove maker’s pregnant wife, her two-year-old boy clutching her skirts with both hands, leaned against her counter. She chatted with her maid, who was peeling carrots and turnips in preparation for the feast. The tailor next door was cutting a piece of fabric laid on his workbench. Across the street, the watchmaker, a magnifying lens to his eye, inserted a spring into a timepiece. Musicians, recognizable by the odd-shaped cases they carried, hurried in the direction of the brightly lit Longueville mansion. They had been hired for a lavish party there.

In spite of the damp chill, people on Rue Nicaise kept their doors and windows open to see the carriage of Napoléon Bonaparte, the First Consul, pass by.

France had been a Republic since 1792. King Louis XVI had been guillotined. General Bonaparte, since seizing power a year ago and becoming the First Consul, had settled in the royal Palace of the Tuileries. He liked to drive around Paris in a carriage drawn by six white horses, accompanied by a guard of soldiers, at the sound of trumpets, drums artillery salvos.

Tonight, however, there would be no such military pomp. The newspapers had announced that the First Consul was simply to attend the première of The Creation of the World, by Haydn, at the Opera. It was the most anticipated musical event of the season, and tickets sold for twice the usual price.

Joseph de Limoëlan was well informed of this. He had read and reread all the details in every newspaper, though he did not plan on attending the show. Indeed he was not dressed for an evening at the Opera.

Whip in hand, coarse trousers and a loose jacket disguising his tall, slender frame, he led a horse-drawn cart down the street. A gray tarpaulin came down to the hubs of its wheels. Clouds of mist blew out of the nag’s nostrils with each of its breaths. Another man, Pierre de Saint-Régent, also slightly built, his brows knit, walked by the side of the cart, his mouth tight. A third companion, François Carbon, strutted close behind on his short, sturdy legs, and stared at every woman they passed. The three men were dressed in matching blue jackets, coarsely embroidered around the neck in red and white.

Limoëlan stopped the cart in front of the Café d’Apollon. He had surveyed one last time the whole length of the street that afternoon, and determined this was the narrowest spot. But Saint-Régent’s frown became more pronounced.

“No, this light won’t do at all,” he hissed, nodding in the direction of the café. Its windows projected bright yellow rectangles that illuminated this entire stretch of the street.

Limoëlan, without a word, pulled on the horse’s bridle. The animal snorted and set forth reluctantly. They moved the cart thirty yards down Rue Nicaise, at the intersection of Rue de Malte. It was darker there, and the other street provided an escape route, should any of them escape.

Limoëlan stopped the cart sideways to impede the flow of traffic. Other drivers pulled on their reins, swerved and cursed at the three men, who ignored the volleys of insults. Each in turn went into the Café d’Apollon and, grim-faced, gulped down in silence mug after mug of wine.Their purpose was firm, of course, and they were entirely devoted to the holiest of causes. Yet such is human frailty that even the bravest fear death. Had not some of the saints themselves, though assured of the rewards that awaited them in eternal life, recoiled from the glory of martyrdom?

The three men, braced by their visit to the Café d’Apollon, gathered again around the cart. Limoëlan spoke in a low voice to his companions and left in the direction of the Seine River. Carbon seized the bridle of the horse and looked around. He whistled at a young woman, who hurried away.

Limoëlan walked along the embankment that followed the Louvre galleries. He paused, took off his gold-rimmed spectacles and wiped them with a checkered handkerchief. He groaned with impatience. How was he to find what he wanted in this fog? He pushed to the Pont-Royal, the “Liberty Bridge,” as the scoundrels now had the impudence to call it. He crossed the river. On the Left Bank, he recognized the massive outline of the former Hackneys’ Office, which had recently been turned into barracks. Among the flow of the passersby, he finally distinguished two slight figures standing under a streetlight by the entrance. Children, apparently. He approached. Now he could see their skirts. Two girls, little street vendors, stomping their feet in the cold. Each carried a wicker tray, attached by a leather strap to her shoulder.

Limoëlan paused. Either girl would do, but he only needed one. It bothered him to make that choice. Then, when he drew very close, he saw that the tray of one of the street vendors still contained a few cakes and biscuits. The other girl had already sold all of her wares and was apparently waiting for her companion to be done. No doubt it was a sign. She was the chosen one.

Limoëlan addressed her gently. A smile lit her pockmarked face when he put a silver coin in her hand. She giggled, slipped the strap above her head and handed the other girl her empty tray.

“Take it home to Mama, will you?” she said in a cheerful tone.

As the girl followed Limoëlan across the river to Rue Nicaise, he turned around to glance at her bony frame, dressed in a tattered striped skirt. She was gathering around her neck the collar of a woolen coat. The sleeves were too short and left her wrists, red with cold, bare. How old was she? Twelve, thirteen? He had not asked her name. It did not matter. He shivered and resolved not to look at her again.

“Hurry, will you?” he said, looking straight ahead. “We haven’t all night.”

She pressed on and almost caught up with him. They joined the cart and the other men. Limoëlan gave the girl the bridle to hold.

“Remember, no matter what, the horse must not move at all,” he said as he handed her the whip. “It is very important, do you understand?”

She nodded. “Oh, don’t worry, Sir, I’ll be very, very careful.”

The horse was covered with sweat and kept its head down. It was content to sniff noisily at discarded cabbage leaves on the cobblestones and seemed in no mood to canter away. The girl waited, shifted her weight from one foot to the other, patted the horse’s neck, toyed with the whip. Limoëlan pulled his watch. The time was near. He exchanged a glance with Saint-Régent and nodded.

Limoëlan left to post himself at the intersection of Rue Nicaise and Place du Carrousel. Soon he saw a cortege of carriages leaving the Palace and heading his way. He shuddered. At last. He had waited so long for this moment. A few more seconds, and it would be all over. He knew he had to signal to Saint-Régent, but somehow his heart stopped and he was unable to raise his hand. He was still frozen, overcome by an emotion he could not define, when the first carriage passed him by and turned onto Rue Nicaise.

The girl looked up when she heard the rattling of wheels and the noise of hooves. She gaped at the squadron of dragoons in splendid uniforms surrounding the procession of elegant carriages. One of the guards of the escort, saber drawn, galloped ahead to the cart and shouted to move it out of the way. His horse shoved Saint-Régent against the wall of a house. The girl, her mouth still open, held on to the nag’s bridle. She was staring at the gold braid on the dragoon’s green jacket, at the horsetail that flowed down his back from his shiny helmet, at the claws of the spotted pelt that served as his saddle blanket. In her entire life she had never seen anything so strange and beautiful. She paid no attention to Saint-Régent, who had swiftly recovered his balance and reached under the tarpaulin.

But the coachman of the first carriage had noticed it all. He swore at the top of his voice, whipped his horses and drove away at a gallop. A blinding burst of light tore at the night. Thunder shook the air. The horses of the guards reared up, neighed wildly, slipped and fell. Cobblestones, roof tiles, parts of walls, entire chimneys, shards of glass, shreds of flesh were raining down on the street.

All that was left of the nag was the head, intact like a trophy, one front leg and one side of the chest and rump. Straw poked out from the remaining half of its leather collar.

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