In Marci Jefferson’s debut novel, the courts of Louis XIV of France and Charles II of England come to vibrant life through one remarkable woman: Frances Stuart. Known as the face of the iconic Britannia who appeared on English currency for centuries, Frances Stuart was one of the great beauties of her age. Girl on the Golden Coin is the story about how she captivated two kings and ended up torn between her love for one and her loyalty to the other.
As a young woman, Frances comes to the French court to be with her close friend and cousin, the English princess Henriette Anne, who marries King Louis XIV’s younger brother. While at court, she catches the eye of the king. Louis soon offers Frances the opportunity to become his official mistress, but she refuses.
Enraged, Louis forces Frances to pledge her loyalty to France and sends her to England for his political gain. She is instructed to become King Charles’s mistress so she can influence him to form an alliance with Louis. King Charles’s own mother—the Queen Mother, Henrietta-Maria—has her own plans for Frances that also involve seducing her son.
However, Frances has a family secret that she is trying to prevent from coming out into the open, and the political machinations that brought her to Charles’s court threaten to ruin both her and her family. She must do what she can to preserve her family’s reputation while satisfying the wishes of the French king and the Queen Mother. But while she must do her duty and tempt King Charles, she did not expect to fall in love with him.
Girl on the Golden Coin is thoroughly enjoyable and engaging. Rich with 17th-century detail, this novel introduces 21st-century readers to one of the women who defined the age. Frances Stuart is portrayed as a complex and intelligent woman who was so much more than just a beautiful face. Anyone who loves historical fiction filled with monarchs, courtiers, and political intrigue will find much to love about this book.