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The French Lesson by Hallie Rubenhold

The French Lesson

Part of the Henrietta Lightfoot Series
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May 2016 Book of the Month.

This wonderful, bawdy, fictional memoir began with Mistress of My Fate which eventually saw Henrietta Lightfoot fall for the daring Lord Allenham. Here they are off to Belgium when he gets called on to Paris leaves Henrietta. She receives a letter from him urging her to return to England but the impulsive adventurer follows her love … only this is 1792 Revolutionary France. She falls in with two powerful women and forms a number of dangerous liaisons. The author, Rubenhold, is brilliant. Lots of historical detail, lots of drama and intrigue and a fast, compulsive pace is given a light touch by the first-person narrative. It is a pure charmer. If you saw The Scandalous Lady W on TV you will know what to expect for this is the same author. ~ Sarah Broadhurst

A 'Piece of Passion' from the publisher...

A Tale of Two Cities meets Dangerous Liaisons - lovers of historical fiction are in for a treat with THE FRENCH LESSON. It tells of a young English woman on her own in the perilous times of the French Revolution in Paris. Henrietta Lightfoot is a single woman whose possessions have all been stolen. She stumbles into the opulent home of the most famous courtesan of the 18th century, a real historical figure – Grace Dalrymple. Little does she know that Grace has imperious plans of her own, and Henrietta becomes a pawn in a vicious power game between the most powerful women in France.

Most of the protagonists in this novel, the rulers of France, the mistresses and wives, artists and revolutionaries, really did exist, and Hallie, an 18th century historian and author of THE SCANDALOUS LADY W (a hit BBC drama) has researched primary sources to tell this fabulous story, which roars with such pace, plot, detail and sensuousness. There is even a hint of murder, and all played out on a canvas of authentic bloody revolution. ~ Jane Lawson, Editorial Director, Doubleday Transworld Publishers

If you like Hallie Rubenhold you might also like to read books by Katie Furnivall, Michel Faber and Gillian Bagwell.

Reader Reviews

In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title. You can click here to read the full reviews.

  • Lorraine Blencoe - 'This is a delightful book that absolutely grips from the first word to the last. It is beautifully written and tells the tale of the French Revolution from an absorbing perspective'
  • Angie Rhodes - 'With fact mingling with fiction, this is a wonderful gallop through the Revolution with dry humour, spies and plenty of passion.'
  • Jennifer Moville - 'The book follows the tales of woe and joy for Henrietta as she tries to gain some sense of who she is in a game of female power.'
  • Joy Bosworth - 'It's different - it's not a cosy romance.'
  • Nicola Lowes - 'Enjoyable and believable with plenty of period detail.'
  • Edel Waugh - 'was very uneasy and unpredictable making this story hard to put down, I needed to know if love was going to prevail or if after everything Henrietta went through was for nothing.'
  • Evelyn Love-Gajardo - 'A very enjoyable, well-paced novel with a feisty and likeable heroine...Historical fiction of a high standard.'
  • Bev Farningham - 'a tale wonderfully told of friendships and betrayal and the dangers of the French revolution.'
  • Lesley Hart - 'I really enjoyed this book about, Englishwoman, Henrietta Lightfoot finding herself in the midst of the French Revolution in 1792 whilst searching for her lover, rather than returning to England.'
  • Jane Brown - 'A real romp of a read set in the heady days of the French revolution.'
  • Jan Kirkcaldy - 'Knowing quite a bit historically about the French Revolution and what terrible things happened during that time, I felt those facts were probably well researched and reported as accurately as we will ever know.'
  • Glenda Worth - 'An exciting novel which takes many unpredictable turns keeping the reader engrossed and wanting to read further. Plenty of period drama and gruesome detail adding to the plausibility of a great read.'
  • Cathy Small - 'This book throws us into the middle of the French revolution but with a difference. We follow Henrietta as she searches for her lover but the journey takes her into the heart of the revolution.'
  • Susan Mooney - 'Absolutely fabulous book. I couldn't put it down.'


The French Lesson by Hallie Rubenhold

Compelling, playful, exuberant - a grippingly imagined adventure of aristocrats and adventuresses in the age of the French Revolution. (Simon Sebag Montefiore, Author of Catherine the Great & Potemkin). Henrietta Lightfoot's exploits in Revolutionary France are irresistible. She's a heroine you can't put down. (Lucy Worsley). Paris, 1792. Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette have been arrested. Paris is at war with itself. Neighbours fear neighbours, masters whisper before servants...Henrietta Lightfoot, a young Englishwoman fleeing from a dishonourable past in London, finds herself alone in a foreign city in the middle of the French Revolution. The great love of her life, Lord Allenham appears to have disappeared forever. To her assistance comes Grace Dalrymple Elliot, the celebrated Scottish mistress to the most influential men in France. But Mrs Elliott's assistance comes at a price, and Henrietta soon finds herself a pawn in a vicious rivalry of powerful women. Determined to unravel the mystery of her lover's disappearance, Henrietta must form a number of dangerous liaisons. But within the mirrored rooms of the Palais Royal, nothing is as it seems. As the ways of the aristocratic old order crumble, politics and passion lead Henrietta into a deadly game, where the life she is striving to save may not even be her own.


'Henrietta Lightfoot's exploits in Revolutionary France are irresistible. She's a heroine you can't put down.' LUCY WORSLEY

About the Author

Hallie Rubenhold

Hallie Rubenhold is an historian and broadcaster and an authority on British 18th-century social history. She has written two works of non-fiction to critical acclaim: The Covent Garden Ladies and Lady Worsley's Whim: An Eighteenth-century Tale of Sex, Scandal and Divorce. Hallie lives in London with her husband.

Author photo © Johnny Ring

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Book Info

Publication date

21st April 2016


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Doubleday an imprint of Transworld Publishers Ltd


368 pages


Historical Fiction
Books of the Month
Literary Fiction
eBook Favourites

Historical fiction



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