The General's Mistress
As a spirit of change overturns Europe’s old order, strong-willed Elzelina Versfelt enters her own age of revolution. Married as a romantic young girl to a man who wanted only her money, but neither loves nor desires her, Elza refuses to be chained any longer. Leaving Amsterdam, her marriage, and her home, she flees to France—where the old rules no longer apply, debauchery is not a sin . . . and nothing is forbidden.
Yet Elza finds herself bound in a new way, to the ambitious General Moreau. And while they share pleasure, pain, and carnal adventures, she dreams of another man, an unruly red-haired soldier she first saw in the promise of a Tarot card. Drawn by this half-real, half-imagined hero, Elza defies her relationship with Moreau, and begins a perilous search across war-torn Europe. . . . But will this woman with the instincts of a survivor, the passion of a courtesan, and the gift of second sight ever find the destiny for which she has risked it all?
This stunning novel blends history with the language of the heart to tell a sensual story of an era of upheaval . . . and of the clamoring, dangerous desires of a woman’s soul.
Read an Excerpt
Charles van Aylde was not a nice young gentleman. His fair hair was powdered, swept back from a high, flawless brow. His eyes were blue. Blue eyes were common enough, but his were midnight, the color of sapphires, the color of secrets. His coat was midnight too, his collar reaching to his chin, the shoulders padded wide, the very height of fashion. His cravat was ruched with Valenciennes lace; his hands were long and white. He affected a small quizzing glass, and he wore a diamond on the last finger of his left hand.
I considered him in the mirror, my own reflection, but no longer a girl. In the drawing... see more
Reading Group Guide
The General’s Mistress invites readers into the world of Elzelina, a young woman living through the turmoil and excitement that followed the French Revolution. Based on the historical figure, Elza—sometimes known as Ida St. Elme, sometimes as Charles Van Aylde—follows her passions, her heart, and her own independent spirit as she flees her coldhearted husband in Holland for a series of fiery romances in Paris, Italy, and Germany. Her adventures take her into the arms of General Victor Moreau, a tryst with a coy and ambitious socialite, a turn as an acting troupe’s “second girl” and casual prostitute, a foray into fortune telling, and even a taste of war when she disguises herself as a man and joins the French military campaign in Germany. Throughout it all, she is haunted by two mysterious obsessions: General Michel Ney, a man she loves before ever meeting him, and the seductive, protective, and dangerous presence she senses in her dreams and in psychic trances: the Archangel Mi see more