The Bee and the Orange Tree by Melissa Ashley
In Marie Catherine D'Aulnoy's fairy story "The Bee and the Orange Tree", the heroine is a wild girl who is separated from her family, sails to an island with a boat of ogres, and is raised as a 'wild girl'. The ogres threaten to eat her if she doesn't behave, so she has to be very canny and assertive. She rescues a prince, and saves him from being eaten by the ogres. Marie Catherine, who lived in 17th century Paris, didn't find a prince, unfortunately, and her fame as the first writer of fairy tales was long forgotten.
Melissa Ashley restores her reputation in this beautifully written story which captures the world of 17th century Paris. Marie Catherine and her daughter Angelina live in the glittering atmosphere of opulent Paris with its literary salons, concentration on fashion and philosophical conversations. But there is a dark side. Marie Catherine has had to struggle for her independence from an arranged marriage, and her husband still leans on her for money. It is even worse for her friend Nicola. Accused of killing her abusive husband, she may face the death sentence with the powers of the State , the Church lined up against her.
Angelina, newly arrived from the convent, and ambitious herself, finds it difficult to cope with this strange new world. She wonders whether her parents are telling her the truth about their relationship, and she is puzzled by her feelings for the mysterious and competitive Alphonse. She helps Alphonse with his stories, but she starts to wonder if she is doing too much of his work.
This is a luminous story with much depth and many interesting characters which inspired me to want to find out more about Marie Catherine. I didn't enjoy it as much as The Birdman's Wife, but only because it was much more miserable.