As heiress to the famous Laurent Fashion Dolls business, Marguerite Ashby’s future seems secure. But France still seethes with violence in the wake of the Revolution. And when Marguerite’s husband is killed during a riot, the young widow travels to Edinburgh and becomes apprentice to her old friend, Marie Tussaud, who has established a wax exhibition. When Prime Minister William Pitt commissions a wax figure of Admiral Nelson, Marguerite becomes immersed in a dangerous adventure—and earns the admiration of two very different men. And as Britain battles to overthrow Napoleon, Marguerite will find her loyalties under fire from all sides.
“Bravo to this creative author with a deliciously original edge! Christine Trent has definitely made her mark…I dare nickname her a modern-day Heyer.” Enchanted by Josephine
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Those who read THE QUEEN’S DOLLMAKER will know that Anne Marie Grosholtz, later known as Madame Tussaud, plays an interesting role in the story. When Kensington asked me to produce a sequel to DOLLMAKER, I thought that exploring a period of Marie’s life that is generally not well documented might be an interesting escape for readers.
Most people know that the original Madame Tussaud’s wax museum sits famously in London’s Marylebone Road, where lines of eager visitors snake around the building daily. Truly, it’s well worth a visit to London just to visit this fascinating place. But not everyone knows about Madame Tussaud’s near-death experience during the French Revolution, nor that she had a traveling wax show in England for nearly 30 years. A ROYAL LIKENESS explores Tussaud’s early years in England through the eyes of a young apprentice, Marguerite, who becomes an expert waxworker herself and gets embroiled in a scheme against Napoleon.
1. How did Marie Tussaud’s experiences during the French Revolution affect the way she conducted business while in England?
2. How was Marie Tussaud’s lifestyle unusual for her times, in terms of her independence and entrepreneurial spirit?
3. How do you think waxworks exhibitions of the early 19th century were similar to those of today? In what ways do you think they were different?
4. Many French aristocrats fled France during the Revolution for places like Scotland and England. How would the émigrés’ lives have been impacted by Napoleon’s threatened invasion of Great Britain?
5. How did Brax’s background as the son of an impoverished aristocrat affect his decisions?
6. Were Marguerite’s motivations for marrying Philipsthal sound? What would you have done if faced with her situation?
7. Is Darden’s sense of duty admirable? How was his judgment sometimes clouded by this sense of duty? Was his attitude common or unusual in early 19th-century England?
8. Were you surprised to learn that there were sometimes women aboard naval ships, and that they sometimes accompanied crews into war? What do you think were overall attitudes towards women on ships?
9. During the Napoleonic Wars, alliances between countries shifted depending on the outcomes of battles, the rise of new leaders, and secret negotiations. How does this compare to the political map of today’s world?
10. Today Madame Tussaud’s waxworks sits in several permanent locations across the world. Why do you think the waxworks stopped its traveling format? What are the advantages and disadvantages of a waxworks being in a permanent location?
11. Lord Nelson’s affair with Lady Emma Hamilton was considered scandalous during a time when many aristocrats conducted affairs. What was different about their circumstances that made society aghast over Nelson and Emma?
12. By the end of the novel, Marguerite has married a naval captain. What challenges might such a marriage have presented to a 19th century woman? Would any of these challenges still apply today?
13. Consider Marguerite’s attitudes, feelings, and thoughts. In what ways is Marguerite a typical woman of her times? Conversely, how does she chafe against social conventions?