My second novel: For The King

David Bonaparte crossing the Alps

David Bonaparte crossing the Alps

I am often asked whether it is a sequel to Mistress of the Revolution. The answer is no. The characters of my first novel had such a grip of my mind that I needed to establish some distance, at least for a while. But my readers will recognize the same setting, the familiar streets of old Paris. Only the action now takes place in 1800, six years after the fall and death of Robespierre.

Six years is a very long time during the Revolution. Many things have changed. France is still officially a Republic, and Bonaparte, the First Consul, is not yet Napoleon. He has seized power in a coup in 1799, over a year ago. But Royalists, who had at first naively believed that he would restore the exiled King Louis XVIII to the throne, have now lost all of their illusions as to the extent of the First Consul’s ambitions.

Josephine de Beauharnais

Josephine de Beauharnais

Bonaparte is a master of propaganda. With the help of the greatest French artists, such as Jacques-Louis David and Antoine-Jean Gros, he cleverly uses his victories – and even his defeats – to craft the image of a glorious, invincible military hero.

At the same time, he pardons many of the former aristocrats who sought safety in émigration during the years of the Terror. He wants to attract them, and promises them new titles and generous stipends if they join the new Court he is forming around himself and his wife, charming Joséphine. The émigrés now cautiously return to France. Have they sincerely rallied to Bonaparte, or are they secretly conspiring for the return of the King?

Georges Cadoudal Coutan

Georges Cadoudal Coutan

In the western provinces, Royalist insurgents, called the Chouans, under the leadership of the charismatic Georges Cadoudal, continue to defy Bonaparte in spite of the government’s talk of pacification and amnesty.

In Paris Bonaparte also faces other determined opponents: the remaining Jacobins, partisans of the nearly defunct ideals of the Revolution. They, no less than the Royalists, are outraged by the emergence of a new monarchy.

On Christmas Eve 1800, Bonaparte, accompanied by Joséphine, is going to the Opera to attend the premiere of the oratorio The Creation of the World. On Rue Nicaise, along the path of their carriages,  an infernal machine, a bomb of tremendous power, explodes. Fortunately the First Consul’s coachman is alert and whips his horses. Bonaparte, Joséphine and their entourage escape unharmed, but there are over seventy casualties.

Public opinion reacts to the attack with shock and outrage, much in the same fashion as we did after 9/11. The target of the assassins was not only Bonaparte, it was also the people of Paris. The victims are a fourteen-year old girl, a little street vendor, shopkeepers, musicians who had been hired for a nearby party, passersby, ordinary people who were going to celebrate Christmas Eve or simply waiting to see the First Consul’s carriage pass by.

Joseph Fouche

Joseph Fouche

Joseph Fouché, the redoubtable Minister of Police, heads the inquiry, considered to this day the first modern, scientific criminal investigation. But Bonaparte distrusts Fouché, a former Jacobin who has betrayed everyone he has ever served.

Bonaparte, regardless of the findings of Fouché’s investigation, which soon points to Cadoudal’s Chouans, deftly uses the public anger that follows the attack to eliminate political opponents of all stripe and further consolidate his power. The path to Empire is now wide open to him.

So much for the historical background.

Now, about the plot of the novel?

Roch Miquel, a young policeman with a brilliant future and a beautiful mistress, investigates the Rue Nicaise attack. His father, a former Jacobin, has risen from the lowest rungs of society to owning a tavern. Roch’s investigation takes him through the dark alleys and glittering salons of post-revolutionary Paris, and the studio of the prominent painter David, himself a former Jacobin rallied to Bonaparte.

Old Miquel is soon arrested because of his political sympathies, and threatened with deportation or summary execution. To save his father, Roch must discover and arrest the assassins before it is too late. As he hunts them down and faces their chief, Joseph de Limoëlan – a historical character – he tests the limits of his loyalties and discovers the meaning of truth.

For The King is a historical thriller, a police procedural, a tale of love, betrayal and redemption.

Rue Nicaise Machine Infernale

Rue Nicaise Machine Infernale

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47 Comments to “My second novel: For The King”

  1. art for sale says:

    Admiring the time and effort you put into your blog and in depth information you provide! I’ll bookmark your weblog and have my kids check up here frequently. Thumbs up!

  2. Catherine Delors says:

    Well, Penny, my Mom’s first reaction to this cover was “But what does it have to do with the book?” I had my answer ready: “There are several female characters in the book, and you have a woman on the cover.”
    I know, the connection is slim, and I would have preferred a male figure on the cover, but such is life!.

  3. Penny says:

    i am gradually getting used to that cover for a thriller. do you ever think if you were a Charles or a Roch, that the cover would have the explosion artwork or something else more in line with the topics covered?
    i do wonder if there should be a pronounciation guide in back of the book for those who don’t know when consonants are silent in French as most of us here in the US don’t know French. i only know the nice polite things to say.

  4. Catherine Delors says:

    This is precisely why I chose it, Sandra! You are right, many American readers pronounce it “roach.” Yet I hated to get rid of the reference to Saint Roch, who was very popular, rightly so because he was the patron of those affected by infectious diseases, particularly the plague.

    Maybe adding a note re: pronounciation would do the trick?

  5. Any chance of spelling it Roc Miquel? Then it would be pronounced correctly in N.A. markets. I do like the name, and the bluntness of it.

  6. Catherine Delors says:

    Jefe – Never too late to join in the discussions here!

    Indeed British intelligence supplied not only money (lots of it) but also logistical support, such as, as you mention, landing Cadoudal in Britanny, near Cancale apparently, and supplying the gunpowder used for the bomb.

    As for who commissioned the Infernal Machine, it seems that it would have been the direct entourage of Monsieur, future Charles X. Many others in the French emigre community in London were appalled by it. So, as little as we may like Louis XVIII as a man, he seems to have had no responsibility for it. You are right, after a few disastrous few months in power that led to the Hundred Days, he was an excellent monarch. I believe it is Madame de La Tour du Pin who depicts him before the Revolution as “un courtisan sournois et dangereux”. Dangerous for Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, certainly, and quite an oustanding intelligence.

  7. Got in very late on this discussion, and I will re-read it all tomorrow if possible.

    The Infernal Machine plot is most interesting, and did open the route to absolute power for Napoleon.

    I read a little on it years ago. . .and I always wondered at the financing and organization. There was real money involved, and I remember thinking British Intelligence was tied into it somehow — they certainly connived at getting Georges Cadoudal secretly back to France, bankrolled him and probably his whole organization.

    Somebody mentioned Louis XVIII. A repellent individual, certainly. Not a loyal brother, and ruthless in abandoning his supporters when they were no longer of use. But for all that, he was, once on the throne, a better king than a man — much the best of the Bourbon monarchs, given what he had to work with, except for maybe Henry IV.

  8. Catherine Delors says:

    New post on For The King today!

  9. Penny Klein says:

    so, the title is official? how about the book cover is it official also?
    once again i look forward to autograph, photo and maybe a hug from an american friend. and this is only your second book. i want photographs etc for every book you write.!

  10. I have been following your blog for about 8 months and have never left a comment. But I am now. I enjoy reading about the historical background. All your posts are quite fascinating. The culture of the arts, architecture, the clothing all of the period. Since I will never get a have a chance to visit these places. I would like to thank you. I found your blog because I was doing research on the French Revolution and found it that way. My paper was on the Women and the French Revolution. My professor never heard most of the women I researched on the paper for that time period. He is a male, what does that tell you. Women, and history men still think of women as inferior in the history books. During the French Revolution women were prevelent. I am sure you know that.

    I would like to know if you might be interested in me reviewing your book Mistress of the Revolution and your upcoming release for 2010. If you are you can contact me at the email above. Thank you for all that you do.

    I am very fascinated about the French. Which I wasn’t when until taking my Western Civilization class. I used to think what is so important about the French. Now I realize there is so much to thank the French for. You are the only one that I know write historical fiction on the french revolution. I was excited to see your book out there.

  11. Penny Klein says:

    I was just thinking about romance in mysteries and I remembered reading one in which there are two amateur detectives so in the course of reading about their methods, motives, learning whether to trust each other, it was a nice diversion actually.

  12. Penny Klein says:

    anything new on the cover of this second book? i really like that picture you have of the young man leading a charge.

  13. Penny Klein says:

    Ma Chere Catherine,
    Now that i have read a bit more of the responses, i see that this will be a page turner for me. i can see how in the creativity process, a character would talk to you. as long as you don’t have discussions with him while you are driving:-). so the police botched the job, was that on purpose? or were they that incompetant?

  14. Penny Klein says:

    ma Chere Catherine,
    a serial killer protagonist? is this a thriller? is he the French jack the ripper? i had not realised the French past was so interesting. was he an officer in the army? that always explains it:-)

  15. Catherine Delors says:

    The forensics are totally accurate, Penny. I only had to follow the actual investigation, and was amazed at the level of scientific sophistication. As for the romance, there is certainly a healthy dose of it, but enough according to my editor…

    A bookshelf full of my books… That would be nice!

  16. Penny Klein says:

    I forgot to mention i like the artwork on this page. Could you have used the figure of the man above Napoleon for the cover?

  17. Penny Klein says:

    How very exciting. I am looking forward to a bookshelves full of your books. so it looks like you have added a romance to this one as well? how accurate can I expect the forensic details to be? also will this be a third person or first person narration? just curious.

  18. Catherine Delors says:

    Thanks so much, Michelle! I liked that name: full of consonants, and Saint Roch was invoked to protect from the plague and all kind of ailments.

  19. Roch Miquel…

    How dreamy! I loved this post, Catherine… I can’t wait to read the book!

  20. Lezlie says:

    I’m hooked! Not only on this one, but one the 3rd as well.


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  31. Suzanne Levin says:

    I’m so sorry for taking so long to reply, but I’ve unfortunately been extraordinarily busy for the past week.

    It sounds like a movie I wouldn’t mind seeing, at least to be able to see the way in which the filmmakers choose to portray events. I have a much higher tolerance for historical inaccuracy in films that don’t cover the Revolution than those that do, and I rationalize that by saying to myself that filmmakers have a responsibility not to mislead the public on such a crucial event, though of course that could probably be said of historical films set in other eras. It might just be that I care less about inaccuracies as far as those other eras are concerned merely because I know less about them.

    I must admit, in any case, that the peasants’ point of view does seem to be the more compelling. It’s a pity the film doesn’t go into that climate of fear and helplessness you describe. Not only would it have made it more accurate, it would I’m sure have made it more interesting and original.

    The more you tell me about this second book, the more it sounds like it will be fascinating to read. The juxtaposition between the different points of view should be especially interesting. I’m sure I won’t be disappointed.

    I think it must be part of the creative process to be able to write from the points of view of different characters. Certainly, I would be very glad if I could capture Éléonore’s character half as well as you capture Coffinhal’s. Though I daresay the greater challenge will be portraying Robespierre and the other conventionnels who will feature in it.


    Is Brotherhood worth seeing? It all depends on your level of tolerance for historical inaccuracy in fiction. Mine is high for movies though much lower for novels. I will say that I enjoyed that film. I like Vincent Cassel, cast here, as often, as the villain, and there is a certain visual poetry to the forest scenes.
    Brotherhood was much ridiculed upon its release (true, the Hong Kong style fighting scenes are odd in the context of 18th century France) but I found it interesting. What is missing from the film is the POV of the peasants. That was what my late father was pointing out. They were subjected for three years to the random attacks from a vicious serial killer, animal or human, and the only response from the authorities was along the lines of “those country bumpkins are so stupid they can’t tell the difference between a large wolf and one of the beasts of their traditional beliefs.” And that only after the death toll passed 100. It must have been a feeling of extreme anger and powerlessness. Keep in mind also that commoners were not allowed to carry swords. They resolved the problem by carrying sticks fitted with long, sharp knives, bayonet style, to defend themselves.

    It follows that another protagonist of Book 3 will be a peasant, probably a girl for balance. For Book 2, I started with a single POV character, Roch, the policeman. Then, after I was done with my first version, I realized that the book was a thriller, not a mystery, and that I needed to inject at least one second POV character, the “terrorist.” His voice came to me pretty effortlessly, though I had to do some research into terrorist psychology. A fascinating topic, by the way, and maybe the subject of a post.

    Now, with the Beast, we have a completely different kind of animal, so to speak: a serial killer. Why is this man “talking” to me? No idea. Coffinhal did too while I was writing Mistress. They are both obscure historical characters, but I don’t believe in ESP or the supernatural, though I am completely open-minded. I will just ascribe it for the time being to the mysteries of creativity. Maybe the same will happen to you with Eleonore Duplay…

  33. Suzanne Levin says:

    I’ve seen the story referenced on a number of occasions, but I never really looked into it–though it did sound interesting, especially the aspect of the juncture between superstition and Enlightenment. And I’m sure it will be interesting to read a novel on the subject.

    The idea of “seeing” through the eyes of a serial killer is rather disconcerting, admittedly. Though, presumably, as you say, the book will probably have more than one point of view… Did you have to change the point of view at all in either of your first two books?

    The commonly overlooked point that factions of the aristocracy can and often have opposed the monarchy must reflect a certain ignorance of pre-Revolutionary French history. After all, until the late 18th century, these factions were the sole major interior threat to the monarchy and, in particular, it’s consolidation. Still, I can’t help feeling that today it’s somewhat ridiculous to “choose sides” in that particular ongoing conflict, as you say “The Brotherhood of the Wolf” does. (I have not seen the film myself. Would you say, despite the message and the conspiracy theory, that it’s worth seeing, or would I be wasting my time?)


    Yes, I have begun Book 3. The voice of my male protagonist is coming to me so strong that it is for the time being a first-person account. I must say that it is very disturbing to “listen” in this manner to a serial killer.

    All the more so that I have yet to complete the research. That should be fairly quick, because the contemporary investigation was thoroughly botched. However, like Gabrielle, I have been told this story (the Beast of Gevaudan) since my childhood, and I discussed it with my father just before his death a few years ago. He saw it, by the way, purely from the angle of class struggle, and he was very far from a Marxist. There are many other aspects to it, in particular the clash between the traditional belief in werewolves and the scientific approach of the Enlightenment, cleverly exploited by the killer and his accomplices.

    I don’t know whether you saw the film “The Brotherhood of the Wolf” which attributes all the killings to the Beast and interprets them as an anti-monarchist conspiracy (the handlers of the Beast are presented as aristocratic proto-revolutionaries.) The story is told as a flashback by the Marquis d’Apcher just before his supposed arrest during the Revolution.

    While the plot of that movie makes the – correct but often overlooked – point that the relationship between some of the nobility and the monarchy was not a friendly one, the message is clear: the “bad people” are the enemies of the established order of things. Generally I am not a fan of conspiracy theories, and there is simply no basis in fact for this one.

    To go back to my own narrative, the first-person form might evolve, because it will be a thriller, like For The King, and this genre works better with multiple POVs, which in turn makes the use of the third person more natural. But I have the editing of Book 2 to worry about first…

  35. Suzanne Levin says:

    Yes, you’re right; it works well for the character and his origins.

    Interesting. Have you started writing that one yet?


    Roch Miquel has a blunt sound to it I like a lot. Very unaristocratic.

    All the more interesting that the protagonist of my third book is once again a nobleman, a serial killer in 1760s Auvergne. A historical character, so there will be no name issue.

  37. Suzanne Levin says:

    You’re quite welcome. It would certainly be interesting to know.

    It’s my view that it is impossible to control the way non-French-speakers will pronounce French names, so I would say it’s not particularly helpful to choose the name of your protagonist based on that consideration. If you like that name–and it seems to me that it would be appropriate, from what you’ve said about your protagonist–I would say go for it. Besides, if nothing else, it will open up the opportunity to discuss the name’s origins, either in the book itself or in interviews.


    I don’t know but will ask. Thank you so much for your input.

    By the way, do you like the name Roch Miquel for my protagonist? It is pronounced rock (which I love), but I noticed that many Americans pronounce it roach (which I don’t like). St. Roch was deemed to protect from the plague and other deadly diseases, hence the popularity of the name.

  39. Suzanne Levin says:

    Now that you explain the context (I’m less familiar with the details of this period than with those of the Revolutionary era), I agree that For The King is among the best of the titles you had been considering. However, I still rather like Painters and Assassins (and I think many people, just reading the current title might assume that the assassin with the code name Pour Le Roy was the protagonist)… Do you have any theories as to why your publishers prefer the one over the other?


    Excellent question, Suzanne. The choice of a title is obviously very important from a marketing standpoint. I usually run my ideas for possible titles by Stephanie Cabot, my agent (when people tell you that the role of literary agents stops when the contract is signed, don’t believe them.) And then there are many brainstorming sessions with the publisher. Julie Doughty, my editor, announces possible titles in a meeting. When she gets blank stares from her colleagues in response, it is not a good sign. So it ends up being pretty much a collegial process.

    In this case, I had thought of:
    1800 (too non-fiction?)
    The Christmas Eve Assassins (too Bad Santa?)
    The Conspiracy (too generic?)

    I always liked Painters and Assassins, but it didn’t seem to fly in New York, while For The King did, right away. I like it myself. Not only does it describe the motivation of the assassins, but it is a translation of Pour Le Roy, the code name of one of them. But stay tuned, it could still change. Penguin’s 2009 catalog, I believe, is not set until around mid-May 2008.

    I will post one of these days about the process of settling for the title of Mistress of the Revolution. That was far more difficult to find, and was decided at the very last minute.

  41. Suzanne Levin says:

    It’s certainly a fascinating, if horribly corrupted period.

    Out of curiosity, what did persuade you (at least for the present) to choose For the King over Painters and Assassins for the title. The latter seems more descriptive.


    Thank you, Maria Elena!

    After the extent of the disaster became clear, with Bonaparte escaping and all those innocents killed or maimed, no one was in a hurry to claim responsibility for the attack. What seems clear is that Cadoudal had a hand in it (he had crossed over from England to Brittany to supervise the attack) and that the entourage of the Count d’Artois was involved. The reaction among the emigres in London was mixed, with some expressing outrage, and some, well, looking not so surprised.

    So you don’t like Louis XVIII? Neither do I. A bright but totally ruthless man. Probably the poisoned pen behind most of the anti-Marie-Antoinette pamphlets. But he doesn’t seem involved here. The Duc d’Enghien’s execution happened some years later, but it is an indirect consequence of this.

  43. It sounds like a thrilling story! Yes, that terrorist attack was pretty horrible. Was Louis XVIII involved in planning it? I would put nothing past him. I believe it was after the terrorist attack that Napoleon kidnapped and executed the Duc d’Enghien.


    I am delighted to have piqued your interest, Suzanne. Unlike the Napoleonic wars, it is a period that had attracted relatively little attention, and yet… so many things are happening then.

    The research for this one was fascinating. I expected to plow through depositions and police reports (and I did) but it also took me to places I had not anticipated: painters’ studios, and the relationship between art and politics. I even thought for a while of the title Painters and Assassins.

  45. Suzanne Levin says:

    That sounds like a book I will definitely be reading. Though I do find that period immensely depressing, I will admit it makes an excellent setting for a novel, and the plot of this one sounds particularly intriguing.


    Thank you, Julianne!

    Yes, the politics of the times are fascinating. Nothing new under the sun…

  47. Catherine,

    This new novel sounds fascinating! I’ve never heard of the bomb attack before (granted, the Napoleonic era is probably the era of French history I know the least about!). I love the grasp you have on the politics of the time and how you illustrate the various ideologies through the personalities and actions of your characters. I, for one, can’t wait to read this new book.

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