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The Queen's Dollmaker - Christine Trent When I first picked up this book I was expecting a smutty, intrigue-filled historical drama à la Phillippa Gregory. What I got instead was a Cinderella story of an orphaned young girl who makes a name for herself as a dollmaker. However, I would like to stress here that my review is not influenced by the fact that the book wasn't what I was expecting. For what it was, it was pretty good.The story begins when teenage Claudette, the daughter of a renowned Parisian dollmaker, is orphaned in a fire. She travels to England where she and her friend--a young widow named Béatrice and her daughter, Marguerite--finds employment as servants in the home of a wealthy, social-climbing family. With the help of an enterprising young servant, Claudette sells her dolls until she saves enough money to leave the Ashbys and start her own doll shop with Béatrice. Eventually, Claudette's dolls receive such renown amongst the English aristocracy that word travels to France, where Marie Antoinette herself commissions some of Claudette's creations.One of the big selling points of this novel (at least if the blurb on the back is to be believed), was the backdrop of the French Revolution. I was expecting to see the historical events unfold as told through the eyes of a fictional character close enough to the historical figures to witness them. This book... wasn't that story at all. I would say it's mostly a story about Claudette making a name for herself as a dollmaker, and her subsequent struggle between the life she'd initially wanted in France and the life she made for herself in England. Much of this conflict plays out in her relationships with William Greycliffe, a young English aristocrat, and Jean-Phillippe, her French childhood sweetheart. But those relationships were both extremely chaste and rather clichéd so I didn't even get some good smutty fun, yo. When the events directly preceding the revolution do become relevant, it isn't until we're over halfway through the book, and Claudette is still too distant of a character for us to witness most of the events through her eyes. Rather, they are related to us in info-dump chapters that simply present the author's fictionalized account of history.What was of interest were the parts about dollmaking. It was clear a lot of research went into that and I give the author props. That was pretty much the only historical detail of the book that felt genuinely entwined with the main plotline. If the blurb on the back of the book hadn't assured me that Claudette would eventually become swept up in the events of the Revolution (and only in an extremely peripheral manner for most of the book), I probably would've been wondering why the hell the author insisted on wasting our time with these info-dump chapters.Which brings me to another one of my beefs with this book--the characters. I couldn't get into any of them. Claudette herself makes a rather bland heroine, and a bit of a Mary Sue at that (and I'm not using the term the way most of online fandom seems to use it, as synonymous with "I don't like this character." Because I do like Claudette--but she does possess some Sue-ish qualities). Her only real character flaw seems to be being too trusting (and kind of dumb, but I believe this was unintentional), and that's right up there with Bella Swan's klutziness in flaw-but-not-really territory. If a character's flaw is something that should be virtuous and/or endearing of not for the meen, meen people who take advantage of it, sorry guys, but that ain't a flaw. The supporting characters are not much better. Béatrice is ever the trusty sidekick and William is ever the dreamy, if bland, love interest, and Jean-Phillippe is just a tool. Seriously. I could not figure out why Claudette kept such a girl boner for this guy, because he was just that lame. He gets mildly more interesting when she dumps him during her visit to the Queen and he goes all Fatal Attraction on her, but even that plotline is too rushed and too late. You know you're a serious tool if you can't even make the Evil is Cool trope work for you. The only remotely interesting character turns out to be another villain, and meets an end so demeaning and depressing even I was disturbed by it, and I am a regular viewer of Criminal Minds.That said, I still gave this book 4 stars b/c it kept me entertained and I mean genuinely entertained and not that "oh-gooodddddd-why-do-I-torture-myself" compulsion that got me through as much of the Twilight series as I did. The dollmaking parts were genuinely interesting. I only docked one star because a lot of what I was complaining about might also be personal taste. I like intrigue. I like soap opera melodrama. I like smut. I like complex and deeply flawed characters, sometimes to the point of being difficult to sympathize with. This book contained none of the above. It was all very capable in a novel-writing 101 way, but nothing that would make me re-read it over and over, and I'll probably be taking my copy to the used bookstore in my whenever-my-shelves-get-too-full purge. But I get that those things are not everyone's cup of tea, so if you want an entertaining read with some interesting historical deets, you'll probably dig this.