We’ve got a copy of Marci’s novel, GIRL ON THE GOLDEN COIN, up for grabs today. See the entry form below for details.
One of the challenges of writing historical fiction is the impossibility of on-site research. There are no photographs of Whitehall Palace as it was when Charles II ruled England. I can’t walk old London Bridge and listen to seventeenth century watermen’s calls echo across the Thames. To feel the French and English Baroque royal courts, I had to read a ton, study paintings, and run my imagination into overdrive. GIRL ON THE GOLDEN COIN took years to write, and a constant quest for inspiration to keep my creative juices flowing.
About a year into my endeavor, at a moment when I was overwhelmed with learning both how to write salable fiction and conduct historical research, my mother sent me a special gift. This is a 1675 British copper farthing. On the un-pictured reverse is the head of King Charles II of England. His queen should be pictured on the tail you see here. Instead, the king minted this infamous portrait of the woman he loved posed as Britannia. Her name was Frances Stuart.
The ancient Romans used the term Britannia to define islands on the edge of the known world. They minted coins using a female figure to personify the distant reach of their Empire. Charles II reintroduced Britannia as a symbol of Great Britain on a golden medal, struck to commemorate the end of his war with the Dutch. Later, he used the very same engraving to mint his copper coins, and it didn’t alter much over the next few hundred years.
GIRL ON THE GOLDEN COIN is about Frances Stuart, praised by diplomats and diarists for her beauty, beloved by kings and dukes, and chosen by Charles II to symbolize his nation. Having this three hundred year-old farthing in hand made her story come to life for me. There she sits in all her glory, with all her secrets, the enduring embodiment of an era.
Why isn’t my coin golden? Well, the gold version is actually that peace medal, now housed at the British Museum, and my mom just couldn’t afford that one. But I treasure this coin all the same, and I hope She Reads readers love Frances Stuart as much as I do.
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In 1660, the Restoration of Stuart Monarchy in England returns Frances Stuart and her family to favor. Frances discards threadbare gowns and goes to gilded Fontainebleau Palace, where she soon catches the Sun King’s eye. But Frances is no ordinary court beauty—she has Stuart secrets to keep and her family to protect. King Louis XIV turns vengeful when she rejects his offer to become his Official Mistress. He sends her to England with orders to seduce King Charles II and help him form an alliance with England. The Queen Mother likewise orders Frances to become her son’s mistress, in the interest of luring him away from the Protestant mistress he currently keeps.
Armed in pearls and silk, Frances maneuvers the political turbulence of Whitehall Palace, but still can’t afford to stir a scandal, determined to keep her family from shame. Her tactic to inspire King Charles to greatness captivates him and the two embark on a tenuous relationship. Frances survives the Great Fire, the Great Plague, and the debauchery of the Restoration Court, yet loses her heart to the very king she must control. A startling discovery will leave her with no other choice but to break his heart, while the fate of England hangs in the balance.
In the tradition of Philippa Gregory, debut author Marci Jefferson brings to life a captivating woman whose beauty, compassion, and intellect impacted a king and a nation, in Girl on the Golden Coin.