“Antoinette, I have known you for 20 hours, but count on me for all eternity! As long as there is breath in me and blood in you, my breath shall find your blood!”
And that exalted sort of romance is the hallmark of “The Count of Lavernie,” one of Auguste “Auggy Mack” Maquet’s unjustly forgotten post-Dumas novels.
(Truly, Maquet’s solo work of any interest are this Count, its sequel “The Fall of Satan”; “La Belle Gabrielle” and its sort of sequel “The Maison de Baigneurs”; and I am curious about “L’Envers and L’Endroit.” These works are all decent. In the way Paul Mahalin’s Dumasian novels are decent.
“The Count of Lavernie” is a typically lengthy saga, set at the end of Louis XIV’s reign (post “Vicomte de Bragelonne” and pre-“Chevalier of Harmental,”) “The Count of Lavernie” follows the love affair between brave, militarily-inclined Gerard of Lavernie and orphaned Antoinette de Savieres. She’s on her way to the nunnery in Saint-Ghislain, he’s on the way to the army, but after they collide, love does its first-sight thing. Are there any number of secrets relating to both Gerard and Antoinette’s births? You betcha! Will Gerard rescue Antoinette from celibacy before she says her vows? Maybe, but that’s merely the beginning of a grand tale involving the villainous Monsieur Louvois, the Minister of War, and his intrigues against the King’s mistress / secret wife, Madame de Maintenon. In the bigger world theatre, Louis XIV and William of Orange, King of England, face each other. Due to the vagaries of monarchic nomenclature, William of Orange has the distinction of being both William III (of England) and William II (of Scotland.)
The novel sticks to the standard Dumas (or should I say Dumas / Maquet) tactic of letting the actions of fictional characters reverberate all the way up to the real life game of thrones. While Gerard and Antoinette are typical handsome knight / beautiful maiden material, the secondary characters shine: Jaspin the shy abbot; Belair the horny guitar player and his girlfriend, the sassy Violette. Playwright Jean Racine has a cameo.
And then there is the comedy relief villain “Desbuttes.” I can not substantiate this, but Desbuttes, a “thief” of no talents who rises to grand aspirations, totally sounds like Maquet is throwing shade at Dumas. This is some John Lennnon / Paul McCartney post-Beatles acrimony. This passage REALLY sticks out tonally in the novel. Maybe “Desbuttes” ISN’T “Dumas”, but I can GUARANTEE that Maquet felt like this about Alexandre at some point. After a physical depiction that fits this Marzio Mariani caricature to a T…
“He always jammed himself into expensive clothes, smiled at his friends as long as they played along, talked about them behind their backs. He always acted like a bon vivant, but he came from a long line of bankrupt, bragging lackeys. He was greedy, but he appeared to people as if he was generous with money- because the money he played with wasn’t his. He spent fortunes prodigiously, but on his passions and vices. He always lied, to others and to himself. Even though he was accidentally rich, he preferred to be a debtor, and he took it up as a profession. He owed money to his best friends, his mistresses, and his servants, and he never paid them back.”