Hello book lovers, welcome back! Today I’m really pleased to welcome author, Laura L. Sullivan to Alternative-Read.com today!
Today we discover the untold story behind the ‘Three Musketeers’ most notorious foe… don’t you just love this book cover?
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Milady by Laura L. Sullivan is the untold story of Milady De Winter. Anyone familiar with The Three Musketeers will know her story written by Alexandre Dumas, and if not, they can take a journey with this adventurous woman. This is a must read about a strong heroine that overcame life’s challenges against incredible odds. This action-packed story has espionage, murder, and betrayal with a touch of romance and some historical background.
Early in the story, Milady formerly known as Clarice is taken to King James’ Court by her father who hopes her beauty will gain favor with the King. This starts a sequence of events that cannot be undone turning her into a spy and assassin for Cardinal Richelieu.
Milady is not seen as the villainous, cold, and unyielding murderess/seductress character portrayed by Dumas. Sullivan has written her as a refreshing, no-nonsense, witty character who has an unapologetic attitude. She uses her beauty and intelligence to accomplish her goals, causing havoc to those men who come up against her including The Three Musketeers. But there is also a softer side to her where loyalty and duty stand out.
This novel is a marvelous compelling tale of love, loss, betrayal, and retribution as Milady forged her own path from the one that was forced upon her. Sullivan writes her as a very sympathetic character where readers feel her distress, anger, and love. The only thing that can make this better would be to have this book the first in a series featuring this female heroine adventurous spy.
Elise Cooper: Why write Milady’s story?
Laura Sullivan: I had first read The Three Musketeers superficially as a teenager when I was about fifteen. After this new translation came out a few years ago I read it again. I was shocked at some of the things I missed while reading it as a teenager including the rape by deception of Milady – by the supposed hero no less! I started to study her character some more and realized she is not a bad person at all.
EC: How would you describe Milady?
LS: The Dumas novel had her devious, treacherous, and heartless. I saw her more as an intelligent and practical civil servant. She was a spy for France who worked for Cardinal Richelieu, the defacto leader of France. Getting into her backstory I found that she was constantly betrayed and made to look as a bad person, which was not the case.
EC: She seemed to have a hard knock life?
LS: Everything that happened to her was not her fault but spun to be her fault. I wondered what the alternative explanations were to the The Three Musketeers book. I decided to write a story where the series of events would stay the same, but with different origins. She was betrayed, beaten, and branded, but overcame it all.
EC: Was she looked down upon because she was a woman?
LS: Being a woman affected how people thought of her, without a doubt. She was appropriating all the masculine roles. She was not staying at home or having a family, and challenged the men. Historically there was nothing more unnatural than a woman behaving in a way associated with the masculine. This included violence, treachery, sexuality, ambition, and self-confidence. In the era written, it would not have been easy for Dumas to present Milady in a balanced way.
EC: Her weapon of choice?
LS: Milady used methods men considered cowardly, such as poison. But that is understandable considering she went up against men who were 250 pounds with twenty years of sword fighting experience. This was the only way she could take the men down. She could not challenge them directly but had to use her intelligence to level the playing field.
EC: What was the role of women during the 1600s?
LS: They were basically under the control of their male relatives. Many went out to the world at the ages of thirteen or fourteen although I made Milady eighteen. They could rarely make decisions for themselves or own property. Milady was at the whim of her father, which can be seen when he sent her to the convent against her free will.
EC: Do you consider Milady a victim?
LS: I wanted to create the right balance of strength and vulnerability. Through much of the book she is a victim. Nearly everyone she trusts betrays her and she has no control over many of the situations she is drawn into. Each betrayal crushes her, yet Milady still is capable of intrigue that is very subtle and cerebral.
EC: Please describe Olivier, the Vicomte de la Fere aka Athos?
LS: A typical nobleman who considers himself a powerful master of his land and the peasants under him. In the original The Three Musketeers, he claims that he could have had Milady at any time, basically raping her. The reason given, he was the lord of the manor. He definitely has a high opinion of himself. His character can be described as proud, hasty, unthinking, tied to the aristocratic standard, with an underlying coldness.
EC: How would you describe Olivier and Milady’s relationship?
LS: She was hesitant to be involved with any man. Yet she learned to trust him. They both had an idealized version of each other. The second she did not conform to his standards he changed his attitude toward her. I think she was duped by his character. He wanted to kill her because she insulted his honor by marrying him even though she had a supposed past.
EC: How would you compare this to the original version?
LS: I tried to keep it as close as possible to the Dumas book – the same actions, but with vastly different motivations and results. I hope that those who read The Three Musketeers could believe the conclusions drawn in Milady. I wanted to write it with a woman’s voice. It is a study of the compromises and sacrifices made by her to be true to herself as she should stood firm. I did invent her mother and father. In the original story Milady is described as slipping seamlessly between the French and English cultures. This is why I gave her a birth place in England. George Villiers, Cardinal Richelieu, D’Artagnan, the Musketters, and of course Milady were characters in the original version.
EC: What role did religion play?
LS: I think Milady thought of herself as a person of logic and of the moment and did not think much about the next world. Once she escaped from the horrible conditions of the convent and became somewhat successful she funded a convent that would help women. I think she saw a firm difference between the humans who practiced the religion and the religion itself.
EC: Would you want to write this as a series?
LS: I would love to. I have not allowed myself to think too much about it yet because I want to see how this book does. I do have ideas for a storyline for another book.
EC: Can you give a heads up about your next book?
LS: I am co-writing a young adult memoir with a professor at Columbia. It is the story about her as a teenager surviving the Bosnian War from 1992 to 1995. I am also working on my next solo book involving the early 20th Century art world, about a woman on the fringes of the lives of great artists.
If you liked this article
From the glittering ballrooms of 17th Century England to the dangerous intrigues of the French court, Laura L. Sullivan brings an unlikely heroine to the page, turning on its head everything we’ve been told about The Three Musketeers and their ultimate rival.
I’ve gone by many names though you know me as Milady de Winter: Villainess, seductress, a secondary player in The Three Musketeers story. But we all know history was written by men, and they so often get things wrong. So before you cast judgment, let me tell you of how a girl from the countryside became the most feared woman in all of Europe. A target for antipathy, a name whispered in fear or loathing. I don’t need you to like me. I just need to be free. It’s finally time I tell my own story. The truth isn’t tidy or convenient, but it’s certainly more interesting.
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Okay, so… don’t hate me for disliking the cover of this book, because it does sound like an interesting read. Thanks!