Who is the Shadow Queen?

Who is the Shadow Queen?

{Portrait of Claude des Oeillets}

The main character of my novel The Shadow Queen is Claude des Oeillets (dit Claudette), an impoverished young woman from the world of the theater. Socially scorned and denounced by the church, she lives on the fringes of society. As the daughter of a theatrical star, she exists in her mother’s shadow.


Unusual and beautiful portrait of Athenais

{Portraits of Madame de Montespan}

In contrast, Athénaïs, Madame de Montespan, lives at the heart of high society. She becomes Claudette’s obsessive passion, seeing in her a perfect life—a life without hunger and fear, a life of ease and beauty. Athénaïs’s life is everything Claudette’s is not.

While my other Sun Court novel, Mistress of the Sun, is set largely at Court, in both novels I am exploring the dynamic edge where court and ordinary life meet, with often explosive, unpredictable results. The Shadow Queen is about many things, but at its heart is the relationship between these two woman, Claudette and Athénaïs, who are close in age and share many of the same interests, yet are worlds apart. Claudette envies Athénaïs’s wealth; Athénaïs envies Claudette’s freedom, her life in the theater. Over time, they become dependent upon one-another. As Athénaïs’s devoted maid, Claudette is willing to do anything for her—up to a point.

It’s at that point that Claudette must step out of the shadows—and into the light of her own life.

Shadow Queen Cover copy 2

Over the five years I was writing this novel, I considered many titles. In the end, I felt that the title The Shadow Queen metaphorically captured the spirit of this story on a number of levels.

As part of the theatrical world, Claudette lives in the shadows of society. When she joins Athénaïs at court, she becomes the shadow of the official “Shadow Queen.” The story is very much about the ever-fascinating Athénaïs, but it is also about Claudette’s “dark” obsession with her and what Athénaïs represents, an obsession that leads Claudette into the shadow-side of that opulent world, a world of corruption and black magic, the shadow-side of want and hunger.

Who, then, is queen of shadows? Officially, of course, it is Athénaïs, but it could be others as well—Madame Voisin, for example, a woman who fulfills dark wishes, and even our “Good Knight” Claudette.SaveSave



Happy 376th Birthday Louis XIV!


The birth of Louis XIV, the Sun King, was an occasion of great celebrating in France. He was called the “God-Given,” because Queen Anne had prayed fervently for a child after suffering several miscarriages and many years of marriage.

Here are some images of mother and son, and a charming portrait of the future Sun King as a toddler:

790165eb40 a6f5bc24d0 baby  louis-XIV-child babybaby

This last one, my favorite, is only presumed to be of the king. It shows the swaddling that was done at the time.

Portrait of a Child Presumed to be Louis XIVbaby

Historically dressed book club reads “Mistress of the Sun”

Some book clubs have book-themed dinners, but imaging a club whose members historically dressed for a discussion of a historical novel.

Then: imagine that they are discussing your book.

And now imagine that they are discussing your book in a bookstore.

You have to admit that that’s fairly special!

Historically dressed book club reads Mistress of the Sun

Tami Grondines, a Chapters/Indigo employee, reported to HarperCollins Canada that  Mistress of the Sun, was “very well received” by her book club. It scored a “solid 9 out of 10.” (Yay! :-)

Here are photos of two of the members who historically dressed for the discussion!



I love that there are three editions of Mistress of the Sun in the snapshot.

This book club is extra special to me because Tami, the organizer, gave me editorial feedback on an early draft of The Shadow Queen,

Here she is with published hardcover editionpointing to her name in the acknowledgements.



She wrote: “… seeing the changes that Sandra made due to my feedback was amazing and emotional.”

Thank you, Tami! Your feedback was important.

I have written an essay on this unusual editorial “experiment” asking bookstore employees to read an early draft of a manuscript.  I will link to here as soon as it is up.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy The Shadow Queen and Mistress of the Sun, the two novels in The Sun Court Duet, now both out in paperback.

The Shadow Queen, beautifully historically dressed


Here is a Pinterest blog on Book Inspired Costumes. Fun!

I love to Skype-meet with book clubs!

I finally had a Skype meet with a book club at the Carteret Public Library, in Carteret, NJ. This meet had been scheduled long ago by Supervising Librarian Samuel Latini, but Hurricane Sandy conspired to make it difficult. Now, the library is once again up-and-running (yay!), and we were able to have a chat.

This time, however, illness had swept through and only three of the members were able to make it: Joyce, Gail and Stephanie. They had read MISTRESS OF THE SUN, and they had lots of interesting questions. It made for an intimate and lively discussion!

There were, of course, the usual technical problems: my image froze (fortunately not with my mouth hanging open), but I could see them, which was nice, and we could hear each other fairly well.

We kept it to 1/2 hour: and I think that’s a good rule-of-thumb. That gives them time to discuss the meet among themselves after.

All in all: it was just great. I’m always aglow after these Skype sessions. I’ve talked to clubs and high school classes in the US and Canada, and even one in Germany. If you’re in a book club and would like to schedule a chat, email me at sgulland AT sandragulland DOT com or through my website here: http://www.sandragulland.com/contacts/.

OMG, I nearly forgot to mention: I sent off the “final” draft of IN THE SERVICE OF THE SHADOW QUEEN this morning!