Genre: Upper MG historical fiction
Word count: 57,000
While the French Revolution brews around her, 14-year-old Comtesse Juliette de la Marche is concerned only with finding her missing diplomat father, a quest that takes her from the center ring of London’s first circus to the edge of the guillotine’s blade.
On three levels, I considered, visiting Guy Legrand's home was like making a visit to the barber to have a tooth extracted: you winced coming in and left feeling greatly relieved; any time spent there was easier to endure with your eyes closed; and you could never get the smell of rotting things out of your nose.
If common blood is red and noble blood is blue, then what runs through my veins is the clear purple of a fresh spring violet. I’ve always considered this a great advantage.
The noble part of me can dance a minuet with Gulliver’s Travels perched atop my coiffure. The commoner part can swear like a pirate and spit like a lackey. Not that my commoner mother taught me either of those two skills; I picked them up from Georges the stable boy since Maman died when I could scarcely string a sentence together. Still, I considered them my birthright. Two such practical abilities demanded to be put to use.
For example: the day at the circus.
The year was 1790, and we were in Paris like most of the courtiers. The royal family bought tickets to the show; thus everyone else did as well. While some of the haughtier aristocrats considered it their grim duty, I thought Papa might have been the one to plant the idea in Queen Marie Antoinette’s head, tucking it in somewhere behind the ostrich plume in her hair. Jeanne Marie and Angeline, my stepmother and stepsister, belonged to the former group of nobles. They looked forward to the day with all the fervor and joy you might expect of someone about to have a leech placed on a troublesome boil.
“Bring your embroidery along, girls,” Jeanne Marie advised before we left, “so that at least we will have something interesting with which to occupy ourselves.”
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