Marie and Hortense Mancini, two of five nieces of Cardinal Mazarin are gorgeous and affluent. Fresh from Rome, the girls amaze the French Court of the Sun King. Marie, the elder sister, catches the eye of the King. Their love is forbidden by her uncle and the Queen Mother. To help Louis forget Marie, she is sent to Rome to marry the Prince Colonna. Though the marriage is a happy one at first, it decays into a relationship fraught with distrust and tension. The dying Cardinal bestows the title of Duchesse of Mazarin on Hortense. But the title comes with a price, a boring husband. The unhappy couple take possession of Palais Mazarin, home to sumptuous quarters and one of the largest art collections. Hortense begins to cause a scandal in France, stemming from her desire to be rid of her husband and his fanatical behavior. Escaping France, she returns to Italy and her sister. The two quickly become the scandal of Rome. When the tension in Rome becomes unbearable, the two sisters begin their lifelong journeys around Europe, dodging jilted husbands, jealous women and the law.
These educated females became the envy of women everywhere. They fought the main stream conviction that women were subservient to men, deciding their own destiny and escaping for freedom. Marie seems more docile at first, but puts up a harrowing fight to preserve her life. Hortense, the wild child sister, never gives up or compromises. Even when she is out of options, she still fights. I have to say, while both sisters were relateable, I loved Hortense. Both lived fascinating lives, accomplishing many deeds. Both published memoirs in their own names, and fought for the right to live free of their husbands' will.This nonfiction book reads like fiction, as the sisters' antics keep the reader engaged.