Book 1 in the Royal Trades Series

A young woman, struggling to expand her London dollmaking trade, finds a surprising customer in Queen Marie Antoinette, an avid doll collector herself. This seemingly innocent exchange puts Claudette’s life in danger when she is lured to Paris under false pretenses. Money and jewels are being smuggled in dolls destined for the Queen, and have now been discovered by the fledgling revolutionary French government…

“Unique, imaginative…replete with delightful details and astounding characters, both real and imagined.” Donna Russo Morin, author of The Courtier’s Secret

“A winningly original story, glittering with atmospheric detail!”Leslie Carroll, author of Royal Affairs and Notorious Royal Marriages


Trailer for The Queen’s Dollmaker

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Many people have asked me how I came up with the unusual idea for a dollmaker heroine. It really was the first idea that popped into my head when I sat down in 2006 with the grand idea of writing a novel about a dollmaker serving Queen Marie Antoinette.

I’d been passionate about doll collecting since I was a teenager but had never collected antique dolls. So, I had a vast gap in my knowledge about dolls, giving me the great opportunity to visit libraries and bookstores to fill that gap.

Did you know that there are very few dolls left from before the 19th century? Homemade “play” dolls were made from scraps of fabric, dried fruit, etc., and could not stand the test of time. The more elegant wood fashion dolls described in my book were the domain of the wealthy, not the commoner, so naturally there were fewer produced. Wax dolls did not start coming into use until the early 19th century, something I did not know until I began my research for the book.

My interest in Marie Antoinette started around 2003 when I first started reading about the royal courts of Europe. Her life as a revered-princess-turned-scapegoat fascinated me. She was a known doll collector, sending them regularly to her mother and sister as gifts, so she very easily found a place in my story.

I was very fortunate to have sold DOLLMAKER without an agent to the lovely Audrey LaFehr at Kensington as part of a two-book deal. A Royal Likeness, published in 2011, is the sequel to DOLLMAKER, and under a second contract I wrote another follow-on, By the King’s Design, published in 2012.


Paris, 1770

       Five-year-old Claudette Laurent raced down the street from her father’s doll shop to knock on the door of Charles and Michelle Renaud.

       “Madame Renaud!” she exclaimed when the door was opened. “Is Jean-Philippe here? Papa is taking us to see the Dauphine. Can Jean-Philippe go along?”

       Claudette’s best friend, barely a year older than she at age six, popped his dark head around his mother’s skirt.


       Claudette reached out to grab his hand. “Come, Jean-Philippe, we’re going to see the Dauphine!”

       “What’s a Dauphine?”

       “Papa says she’s a príncesse who is coming from a faraway land to marry the king’s grandson. One day, when the king dies, they will become the king and queen.”

       Jean-Philippe’s eyes were round. “Is the king going to die soon?”

       Claudette frowned. “Papa didn’t say. But come, Mama and Papa are waiting.”

       Étienne and Adèlaide Laurent, along with their young daughter and her friend, lined the dusty street of St. Denis along with hundreds of other French citizens. The day was unseasonably hot, but the expectant crowd was in high spirits. Some of the crowd was also in high smell, from both the heat and being unwashed, and combined with the odor of various animals roaming the streets it bordered on noxious. Standing in close confinement with so many other people gave the inquisitive Claudette an opportunity to listen to plenty of gossip and hearsay, most of which she couldn’t understand. She overheard two women talking nearby about the new Dauphine.

       “I hear one of the king’s four daughters entered the Carmelite nunnery here, and that’s why they’re visiting here on their way to Versailles.”

       The other woman nodded. “Poor thing will have a time of it. She’s but a child, and undoubtedly old Louis will send her Austrian entourage back right away. She won’t have a soul for a friend.”

       The first woman elbowed her friend. “Better a peasant than a príncesse, eh?”

       “Hah! Better to drink imported bourbon than to be in the House of Bourbon.”

       The women laughed uproariously at their own jokes.

       Claudette was still puzzled by part of their conversation. She pulled on her father’s sleeve. “Papa, what is the Dauphine’s entourage?”

       “Eh? Oh, an entourage is a group of other people that surround the Dauphine, either as advisors or servants. Some of them will be French, and some from her native land.”

       “Does she have friends in her entourage?”

       “Well, the people that have come with her from Austria might be her friends, particularly her personal maids. Most members of the entourage, though, have either their own motives, or are under strict orders of the king to watch the Dauphine’s every move.”

       Claudette was puzzled. “What is a motive, Papa?”

       Étienne patted his daughter’s head. “Never mind. Keep watch for the Dauphine.”

       Many children, Claudette and Jean-Philippe included, held flowers at the ready for strewing in front of the Dauphine’s carriage. After several hours of waiting, the crowd could see the stirring-up of dust in the distance, a sure sign that the troupe was on its way. The dust cloud got larger and the sound of hoofbeats louder as the carriages approached. The cavalcade slowed near the town, as the Dauphine’s procession prepared to make a stop to greet its residents.

       Claudette clutched a handful of wilting posies in her hand. She tried to peer around her parents to see the oncoming carriages, but the crowd was too thick. Jean-Philippe took up her free hand and whispered, “Let’s try to get closer.”

       With the young boy in the lead, the two children pushed their way through the throngs of people. A woman swatted at them, chastising them to get out of the way. Jean-Philippe looked up at the woman with a winsome smile.

       “Madame, if you do not let me pass, the Dauphine will miss seeing me.”

       The woman shook her head in exasperation but smiled and let the children through. Jean-Philippe used his youthful charm to get them past the burly fishwives and their husbands. Finally, Claudette burst in front of the crowd. Her flowers were now mostly mangled. Jean-Philippe, still clutching her hand, continued pulling her away from the squeeze of eager spectators.

       “Claudette, let’s go meet the Dauphine!”

       “No, Jean-Philippe, Papa will be mad if we leave.”

       “Follow me!”

       Claudette was swept down the street toward the carriage procession. In the background she heard her mother shrieking, “Claudette, no! Come back this instant! Étienne, she will be injured.” Her father was also shouting to her, but Jean-Philippe’s grip was secure and their destination exciting. She willingly ran with him, closer to the approaching mass of horses and carriages.

       The man riding the first horse in the procession was dressed in a fancy uniform of white. He was wildly waving at the children to get out of the way, but they stood there, dumbfounded by his finery.

       “Brats! Out of the way! I shall run you through myself!” He put his hand menacingly on the sword belted to his side. From far behind them the children could hear a collective gasp from the crowd, and the faint calling of Claudette’s parents floated distantly through the air.

       Claudette and Jean-Philippe reacted to his movement and stepped quickly aside. However, by this time the entire entourage had slowed down. As horses and their conveyances were brought to a walk, the children got a good look at the riders and the carriage occupants.

       They gaped at the gentlemen and ladies who rode by in an endless pageant of silks, satins, feathers, bejeweled throats and wrists, and ribbons fluttering in the breeze. Near the center of the pageant was the largest and most spectacular carriage of them all. The closed white carriage, shaped like an inverted teardrop, was decorated with gilded wheel spokes and gilded moldings along the top edge. Paintings depicting themes of love decorated all sides of the carriage.

       From spires on the four top corners of the carriage flew a hodgepodge of colored ribbon streamers, still flapping gaily even though the conveyance was moving at an unhurried pace. It came to a complete halt next to Claudette and Jean-Philippe. A man who had been riding horseback just behind the carriage leapt down, ran to the door and unfurled a small folding stair next to it. Opening the door, the snowy-liveried servant proffered his arm to the occupant.

       Out stepped a young girl only about ten years older than the children on the ground. She was petite and delicate, her fresh features marred only by a lower lip that protruded unpleasantly from her face. She was dressed even more elegantly than anyone the children had seen yet in the procession. Her robin’s-egg-blue gown was stitched with lace and many sizes of pearls, and her tiny feet were adorned with heeled shoes encrusted with a matching pattern of pearls. The sumptuous gown was dusty all along the edges from road travel, and her shoes had splotches of mud on them, but she bespoke elegance, style, and sophistication. In her hand she held a small box tied with a bright white ribbon, a white lily tucked in the loops.

       The beautiful girl called out in very rough French, “Come to me, little enfants, I have a treat for you.”

       Claudette and Jean-Philippe approached cautiously, their earlier bravado having fled completely in the face of this graceful creature.

       She leaned over, holding out the box with one hand, untying it with the other. “Would you like some marzipan candies? Everyone loves sweets. I know I do.”

       They reached into the box and each took a sweetmeat, chewing slowly. The girl giggled delightedly.

       “Do you know who I am?” They both nodded dumbly. “I am the new Dauphine of France, and I have recently met my new husband and now I am being taken to the Palace of Versailles. Do you know where that is?” They shook their heads no, still silent.

       “Well, I am a bit frightened, first of the king, second of the Dauphin, but mostly of this strange new country that is now my home. So next time you are frightened by someone on his big horse waving a silly sword, remember me. Remember that even a príncesse has moments of terror.”

       The children’s mouths hung open, showing the Dauphine chewed-up candy. She giggled again and looked expectantly at Claudette. When Claudette did not move, the príncesse asked, “Are those for me?”

       Claudette looked down at the drooping flowers in her hand. “Yes, Mama told me I should throw them in front of your carriage. I did not do it. I was too afraid. I am sorry, Príncesse.” A tear rolled down Claudette’s cheek. She struggled not to burst into a sobbing bawl and shame herself before this very nice lady who was not even mad at her for interrupting her travel.

       “There is nothing to be sorry for. If you will give them to me now, I shall take them with me as a souvenir of my stop in St. Denis.”

       Claudette handed over the flowers, many of which were matted in her tiny, grubby hand. The príncesse acted as though she were receiving a gift of great value.

       “And what is your name, little one?”

       “I am Claudette Laurent,” she said shyly.

       Jean-Philippe stepped forward. “And I am Jean-Philippe Renaud. Claudette is still only a baby. I made sure she got down here to see you.”

       “I am not a baby! I’m almost as old as you.”

       “You’re just a noisy little girl. I’m nearly a man—my father says so.”

       The Dauphine broke into their disagreement. “Well, Jean-Philippe, you are indeed brave. I am pleased to make your acquaintance.” With that, the príncesse reentered the carriage, and waved to the children as the procession embarked again on its journey through St. Denis.


Excerpt copyright 2010 Christine Trent.