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Extended Audio Sample The Queens Lover: A Novel Audiobook, by Francine du Plessix Gray Click for printable size audiobook cover
2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 2.00 (419 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Francine du Plessix Gray Narrator: Edoardo Ballerini, Tandy Cronyn Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: June 2012 ISBN: 9781101564325
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Historical fiction of the highest order, The Queen’s Lover reveals the untold love affair between Swedish aristocrat Count Axel Von Fersen and Marie Antoinette


The Queen’s Lover begins at a masquerade ball in Paris in 1774, when the dashing Swedish nobleman Count Axel Von Fersen first meets the mesmerizing nineteen-year old Dauphine Marie Antoinette, wife of the shy, reclusive prince who will soon become Louis XVI. This electric encounter launches a life-long romance that will span the course of the French Revolution.

            The affair begins in friendship, however, and Fersen quickly becomes a devoted companion to the entire royal family. As he roams through the halls of Versailles and visits the private haven of Petit Trianon, Fersen discovers the deepest secrets of the court, even learning about the startling erotic details of Marie-Antoinette’s marriage to Louis XVI. But the events of the American Revolution tear Fersen away. Moved by the colonists’ fight for freedom, he is one of the very first to enlist in the French contingent of troops that will fight for America’s independence.

When he returns, he finds France on the brink of disintegration. After the Revolution of 1789 the royal family is moved from Versailles to the Tuileries. Fersen devises an escape for the family and their young children--Marie-Thérèse and the Dauphin Louis-Charles--whom many suspect to be Fersen’s son. The failed evasion attempt eventually leads to a grueling imprisonment, and the family spends its excruciating final days in captivity before the King and Queen face the guillotine.

Grieving his lost love after he returns to his native Stockholm, Fersen begins to sense the effects of the French Revolution in his own homeland. Royalists are now targets of the people’s ire, and the carefree, sensuous world of his youth is fast vanishing. Fersen, who has been named Grand Marshal of Sweden, is incapable of realizing that centuries of tradition have disappeared, and he pays dearly for his naïveté, losing his life at the hands of a savage mob that views him as a pivotal member of the aristocracy.

Scion of Sweden’s most esteemed nobility, Fersen came to be seen as an enemy of the homeland he loved. His fate is symbolic of the violent speed with which the events of the 18th century transformed European culture. Expertly researched and deeply imagined, The Queen’s Lover offers a fresh vision of of the French Revolution and of the French royal family, as told through the love story that was at its center.


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Quotes & Awards

  • “Set against the backdrop of royal opulence and revolution, du Plessix Gray’s richly detailed chronicle of love and loss provides startling insight into the complex and tragic inner life of the iconic and controversial French queen Marie Antoinette.”

    Amanda Foreman, New York Times bestselling author

  • “The story of the strange, then sad, then finally tragic life of Marie Antoinette has been told many times, but never with more humane feeling and historical point than Francine du Plessix Gray does in her new novel. Seen from the startling point of view of the Queen’s Swedish lover, Count Axel von Fersen, The Queen’s Lover makes a familiar story newly poignant, and, without ever being pedantic, places that story in a broader context of European politics, too often missed.”

    Adam Gopnik, New York Times bestselling author

  • “Gray has created fully developed, flawed, and complex characters in a way that would not have been possible within the confines of biography.”

    Wall Street Journal

  • “Deeply intelligent…Packed with names, dates, and research and bristling with a lively correspondence, du Plessix Gray’s book gives us fiction with a full dose of fact.”

    Washington Post

  • The Queen’s Lover is not only entertaining, but also an informative book portraying eighteenth-century life of the rich and famous, including details of the events swirling around the French Revolution and its effects elsewhere in Europe.”

    Washington Times

  • “Gray does a wonderful job of allowing us a peek into their personal lives, and they come across as believable, human, flawed, and, in the end, lovable…Prove[s] the amplitude of the historical novel at its best.”

    Boston Globe

  • “The author has expertly re-created the world of the French royal family, depicting them in print as they once existed in life: lighthearted, calculating, and complex. Gray’s subtle treatment of her characters allows them to come alive in this creative account.”

    Library Journal (starred review)

  • “A French Revolution–era tale of love, treachery, and death, reminiscent of Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther…Fans of history—both true and fictional—will revel in du Plessix Gray’s vivid evocation of turbulent times.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • A 2012 Washington Post Notable Book for Fiction

Listener Opinions

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Lynn | 2/12/2014

    " Meh. I was jazzed when I started reading the book...LOVE reading about this era of European history. However, as the book d.r.a.g.g.e.d on, I became increasingly disenchanted with the main character, Axel von Fersen. Although he had his moments, I just couldn't feel any real affection for the character...he was way too hung up on being Axel, for my taste. I also didn't think the author was able to clearly distinguish the voices of Axel and his sister Sophie, who also narrated part of the story. Not a total loss though...the history lesson imparted was interesting and, I believe, fairly accurate (from what I've seen on Wiki). "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Karen | 2/7/2014

    " The Swedish Count Axel von Fersen, alleged to be the lover of Marie Antoinette, is the principal character in this fictionalized retelling of the onset of the French Revolution and the end of the monarchy. The author has used real correspondence and other primary sources to construct the story. In doing so, the story gains the reader's credibility, but seems to lose the energy of the primary story line. Still, well written and worth reading, just not as gripping as some similar works. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Katrina | 1/30/2014

    " First Read Win. This to me was a disappointment. I love historical books, and this was just not what I am interested in. The only thing that was remotely interesting was that it was supposedly based off of notes or letters from Count Axel von Fersen, the Swedish diplomat with a romantic attachment to Marie Antoinette. I can give it some props. The writing style was in the form of a memoir. I loved the writing. I just felt it was really thought out. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Lois | 1/19/2014

    " This historical novel is about Count Ferson, Marie Antoinette's lover. It's written in two voices, that of the Count and his sister Sofie. The author used actual letters to add authenticity to the story. It provides an interesting perspective of the French Revolution and the true horrors committed by the people of France in the name of freedom. Though Count Ferson escaped from France, years later he met with an equally horrible death at the hands of Swedish revolutionaries. He is an interesting character, vain and yet principled. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Tgill | 1/11/2014

    " Boooooorrrrring "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 False Millennium | 12/5/2013

    " I've always been a sucker for this portion of Marie Antoinette's history, so there was no way I wasn't going to enjoy this book. She accurately portrayed hidden love, thwarted passion and a lifetime commitment to another individual, and the sacrifice, and the solitude and loneliness. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Debbie | 11/23/2013

    " I should have picked up a history book instead. The historical nature of the book (the life of Marie Antoinette as queen) intrigued me, and that was interesting, but the framework (narration by, mostly, her foreign lover) was far from compelling. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Charlene Bergan | 10/14/2013

    " Full of great history and the time period of 1780. Really liked it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lori | 10/8/2013

    " Good book! really explained what happened to Marie Antoinette and the man who tried to save her. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Nae | 8/8/2013

    " It was an okay read. The writing was stilted though and made it hard to really get into it. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Suzanne Singer | 8/7/2013

    " It was a very good historical fiction. Most of the book was taken from journals and letters. There were a couple of his sexual encounters that were very brief but overly descriptive. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Kathyred | 7/31/2013

    " This is fiction? I've read non-fiction less dry than this. Not compelled to finish. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Cathy | 7/10/2013

    " I loved this book! Who knew this side of Marie Antoinette? And seeing the French Revolution from another angle was fascinating. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Kathryn | 6/20/2013

    " This reads with the emotion of a DIY kit from IKEA. I gave up after 50 pages. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Jennifer Sands | 5/19/2013

    " very slow book. the facts were good but i just was not as enthralled as i'd hoped. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Erika | 1/26/2013

    " The beginning held me, but I was drowned in detail for the last 2/3ds. I've read enough about M. Antoinette to think she was very misunderstood by the citizenry in this horrible and cruel revolution. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Denise | 12/31/2012

    " I enjoyed seeing Marie Antoinette through the eyes of her lover. Lots of interesting stuff about Fersen's life apart from her, about which I knew next to nothing prior to this. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Suzanne | 12/12/2012

    " An enjoyable romp with Marie Antoinette brought to you by a student of Black Mountain College. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Amanda | 12/3/2012

    " Great read if you want a blow by blow account of the downfall of the French monarchy and like reading large snipets of letters. Terrible read if you were looking for a spellbinding romance. No character development, no relationship development, by the end, I was begging for the author to be beheaded "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Andrea Zsigmond | 11/11/2012

    " I have to say I was a little disappointed. I love books about the French Revolution as it is one of the most fascinating periods in history, however, I didn't love this one. I found it quite slow and just didn't connect with the characters. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jane | 11/8/2012

    " I received this book for free from Penguin Canada as part of their exclusive reads program. I enjoy historical fiction however this book was not the best historical fiction I have read. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Rhea | 8/7/2012

    " This book is so confused about whether it's a novel or historical text. I love historical fiction, but you actually have to write some prose in order for it to be considered fiction! You can't just paste in letters and retelling of battles. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Hilary | 7/10/2012

    " I made it about 1/3 through this book. Then I got bored and gave up. Life is too short to read bad books! "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Erin | 6/30/2012

    " Beautiful imagery and descriptions of life at Versailles, but histrionic storytelling. I wanted so much to enjoy it. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Lauren Maiolo | 6/24/2012

    " Really wish this was better "

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About the Author

Francine du Plessix Gray is a regular contributor to the New Yorker and is the author of numerous books, including Simone Weil, At Home with the Marquis de Sade, Rage and Fire, Lovers and Tyrants, and Soviet Women. She lives in Connecticut.

About the Narrators

Edoardo Ballerini, an American writer, director, film producer, and actor, has won many awards for his audiobook narration. Within only a few years after beginning his narrating career, he won several AudioFile Earphones Awards for his work and has twice won the prestigious Audie Award for Best Narration. He has narrated two hundred audiobooks, from classics to modern masters, from bestsellers to the inspirational, from Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners to spine-tingling series, and much more. In television and film, he is best known for his roles in The Sopranos, 24, I Shot Andy Warhol, Dinner Rush and Romeo Must Die. He is also trained in theater and continues to do much work on stage.

Tandy Cronyn was born in Los Angeles in 1945. She has appeared in many plays both on and off Broadway, and has also made several film and television appearances, including Twisted and Law & Order: Cruel and Unusual.