Annette Vallon: A Novel of the French Revolution

Annette Vallon: A Novel of the French Revolution

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by James Tipton

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For fans of Tracy Chevalier and Sarah Dunant comes this vibrant, alluring debut novel of a compelling, independent woman who would inspire one of the world's greatest poets and survive a nation's bloody transformation.

Set amid the terror and excitement of the French Revolution, James Tipton's evocative novel is the story of a woman who has for too long been


For fans of Tracy Chevalier and Sarah Dunant comes this vibrant, alluring debut novel of a compelling, independent woman who would inspire one of the world's greatest poets and survive a nation's bloody transformation.

Set amid the terror and excitement of the French Revolution, James Tipton's evocative novel is the story of a woman who has for too long been relegated to the shadows of history: Annette Vallon, William Wordsworth's mistress and muse.

Born into a world of wealth and pleasure, Annette enjoys the privileges of aristocracy, but a burning curiosity and headstrong independence set her apart. Spoiled by the novels of Rousseau, she refuses to be married unless it is for passion. Yet the love she finds with a young English poet will test Annette in unexpected ways, bringing great joy and danger in a time of terror and death.

Told in sparking prose, Annette Vallon captures the courage and fearlessness of a woman whose dramatic story illuminates a turbulent and fascinating era.

Editorial Reviews

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Reading Tipton's novel, it's easy to wonder why posterity has remembered William Wordsworth so well but largely forgotten his French lover. Annette Vallon gave birth to Wordsworth's daughter on the eve of the French Revolution and became a prime influence upon the poet's artistic development.

Here the headstrong Annette is brought vividly to life, a woman of deep feelings and ideals separate and at times in direction opposition to those of the famous English poet. Both antirevolutionary and progressive, guided by conscience and fury at her brother's execution, Annette forged a dangerous secret life as the masked Blonde Chouan -- a royalist raider armed with stiletto and gun who relieved revolutionary thugs of the money that oiled Robespierre's insatiable guillotines. Hiding refugees in a former hunting lodge, creeping at night past entombed bodies to engineer a prison break, saving a barge full of prisoners from drowning, Annette contrasted sharply in her deeds with Wordsworth's moody ramblings across the Lake District.

Annette however, believed in love, and in the mold of French heroines such as Joan of Arc, was distinctly ahead of her time. War separated her from Wordsworth for over a decade, yet throughout she remained true to him, a man naively committed to a movement that destroyed her family. In Annette Vallon, Tipton has achieved a tour de force of historical literature, fascinating for both the characters and the chaotic bloody era in which they lived. (Holiday 2007 Selection)
Publishers Weekly

Inspired by English poet William Wordsworth's continental romance on the eve of the French Revolution, Tipton's debut novel depicts the poet's lover, Annette Vallon (1766-1841), as a Loire Valley Scarlet Pimpernel. History records Wordsworth met Vallon while in France, departed for England when the revolution darkened, but came back to see her and their daughter, Caroline (born in 1792), even after he proposed marriage to an Englishwoman. Tipton begins this fictional account with 16-year-old Annette listening to her father and Thomas Jefferson discuss wine. Six years later, her virtue lost to a dance tutor and her father killed in a grain riot, Annette falls in love with the then unknown English poet. Their idyllic interlude inspires his best work, but soon his political associations place him in danger, forcing him to flee with Annette's help. Pregnant and on her own, Annette recalls early training in hunting and horsemanship to survive the Reign of Terror and beyond, with Caroline in tow. Tipton's descriptions, à la Tracy Chevalier, of how masterpieces are created alternate with the spirited heroine's adventures, making for an uneasy balance, but Annette-and those who help her along the way-are believable in their struggles through the best and the worst of times. (Nov.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

This debut novel by a literature teacher relates the romance between English poet William Wordsworth and Annette Vallon, his French mistress, about whom little is actually known. Tipton attempts to fill in the blanks, exploring Annette's early life and first meeting with Wordsworth and following their relationship through the French Revolution and beyond. An exciting enough premise, but the key to strong historical fiction is rich characterization and stirring description; Tipton's effort, unfortunately, falls flat. The war is largely relegated to the background, presented with surprisingly little fanfare or drama; its existence is used only as a convenient means of separating the lovers. Further, while the romance between Vallon and Wordsworth is meant to be the main focus here, it is too often eclipsed by a love for Wordsworth's poetry and Anglo-French linguistics, presumably the author's own passion. While fans of Wordsworth's poetry will find much to love here, few others will find anything to hold their interest. Recommended only where literary fiction is popular.
—Leigh Wright

Kirkus Reviews
An adventuresome debut novel starring William Wordsworth's true-life mistress recast as a heroine during the Reign of Terror. Tipton creates a life of intrigue for Annette Vallon, present as a mere footnote in literary history, known primarily as the mother of Wordsworth's illegitimate daughter Caroline. Raised as a member of the upper bourgeoisie, Annette lived a life of privilege until the Revolution. Annette meets Wordsworth at a fete, where the young poet has been introduced into society to help improve his French. Having walked about the continent, Wordsworth has remained in France to support the noble revolution, though too soon its ideals become compromised by the paranoia of the new republic, and an Englishman is now viewed with suspicion. Nevertheless, Wordsworth and Annette begin an affair built around poetry and a mutual love of the wilds of nature, but soon enough it becomes too dangerous for Wordsworth to stay in France (his friends and associates are outraged by the increasing excesses of Robespierre's government and are soon targeted). By now Annette is pregnant and staying with her older sister, uneasy about Wordsworth's dangerous journey back to England but secure that their love is genuine (they perform their own impromptu riverside marriage vows). Caroline is born; Wordsworth is gone; and Annette must move out of the family house into a modest cottage, where Annette's real adventure begins. Soon she is hiding those in danger of being subjected to the brutality of the revolution, freeing prisoners from jail during the Reign of Terror, performing feats so courageous she becomes a virtual folk hero, known as the Mother of Orleans. Wordsworth finally returns ten yearslater, but to tell Annette of his impending marriage to an Englishwoman. The romance of the novel is secondary to Tipton's portrait of Annette as a spirited heroine in a time of desperation and danger. Though the number of great escapes she's involved in begins to veer into implausibility, Tipton is able to balance the action with the history. A pleasing literary fancy set against the terrors of the French Revolution.
Chicago Tribune
“A romance novel, an adventure novel and a concise history of the French Revolution all in one.”

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Annette Vallon

A Novel of the French Revolution
By James Tipton

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2007 James Tipton
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780060822217

Chapter One

Remember That

But may you never have a revolution in this country," the tall American said.

We were dining at the grand house of my older sister and her husband. The American gentleman had come down from Paris in a golden carriage on some business regarding my brother-in-law's vineyard. I had not paid attention to what it was: I was only sixteen and fresh out of convent school.

"In France you enjoy the most graceful lifestyle in the world," he continued. "You value philosophy, literature, art, music, all the sciences, more than any culture I know, including my own," and he laughed. "But your ­people do not have any representation in the government. To that end, I hope they may be educated, but gradually—for if they were thrust headlong into a freedom which they have never known, it would be chaos. A revolution here would not be as it was in my country, against a foreign power; a revolution here would be . . . a disaster. But forgive me for presuming to speak on a subject of which you know far more than I. What do you think, Mademoiselle?" And his blue eyes suddenly looked directly at me.

I frantically tried to think of something, oneline from Rousseau that I had talked about with the girls because I had applied it to the despotic Sister Angèle.

"I think that since Might cannot produce Right, the only legitimate authority in human societies is agreement."

The American laughed. "That must be an enlightened convent school your parents sent you to," he said.

"I'm afraid, Monsieur, that some of us read Rousseau in secret."

"Well, for now," he said, "Rousseau may be best kept behind closed doors in France and pondered upon by fine young minds." And he turned to the men.

We were on to the duck with orange now. Our guest took a bite of the meat but held back on the sauce. I was impatient for the steaming sauceboat, placed in front of him, with its mélange of caramelized sugar, lemon and orange juices, white wine, and red currant jelly.

A servant poured a ruby wine into the one glass I was allowed at dinner. I was sure it was my brother-in-law's vintage, which he said smelled of green peppers and pea pods. He was championing a red wine in the land of famous whites. I reached for my glass, then caught Papa's eye and became aware of a curious tension at the table. Our guest, my father had told me, was the finest wine connoisseur in the New World and had a peculiarity about trying new wines. He thought they were only truly appreciated in the context of food, so he waited until dinner to make his final decisions. He had come all the way from Paris now for this moment. All his pleasant and insightful conversation, all of my sister's dinner plans and Cook's lengthy preparations, were leading to this.

The American drank some water, raised his wineglass, inspected the color within—I noticed a flame from the hearth reflected, shimmering, in the burgundy depths—swirled it gently, tipped, sniffed it—would he smell peppers and pea pods? He closed his eyes, sipped, held, and almost chewed the wine. He seemed oblivious to us, in a world of pure concentration.

I could smell the sauce, see its curling steam, and very much wanted him to pass it to me. But there was no rushing the moment. A smile gradually spread across his handsome face. He opened his blue eyes. "Monsieur Vincent," he said, "it exceeds all expectations. It must be those cool limestone caves you keep it in."

The table relaxed. Maybe he would now pour the sauce. But he held the eye of my brother-in-law. This was a moment of business transacted between gentlemen, at a table laden with duck and wine. "I will take ten cases and, with your permission, the soil samples I collected today back to Paris," the foreigner said.

I liked his hair. My father and brother-in-law had powdered wigs, and here was this bright red hair that seemed to shine in the candlelight.

Our guest lifted the porcelain boat and discreetly lavished his duck with the sauce that was now coming my way. He paused a moment and took in the fragrance. Then he returned to business. "And I will accept your offer to ship some vines to Virginia."

"I would be honored," my brother-in-law said.

"I will call it," said the American, "the Shenandoah grape."

I liked the name. "Pardon, Monsieur?"

"Yes, Mademoiselle?"

"Could you please say that name again?"

"Shenandoah," he said. "It is the river that runs near my home. Like your great river here. It is very beautiful, and I miss it. When I think of America, I do not think of the vast Atlantic seaboard and of our victory against the British Empire; I think of one small patch of rocky land on top of a cliff overlooking the river. So you remember that, Mademoiselle," and he looked at me again, his eyes twinkling.

"Remember what, Monsieur?"

"To thine own land be true," and he smiled, and my brother-in-law asked him to sample another wine, and their conversation went on, but it isn't part of my story.


Excerpted from Annette Vallon by James Tipton Copyright © 2007 by James Tipton. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

James Tipton holds a Ph.D. in English literature and teaches in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he lives with his family.

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Annette Vallon: A Novel of the French Revolution 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 39 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Wow! What a great story - I LOVED it! James Tipton's heroine is Annette Vallon, a French woman who lives during the Revolution period. She loves, lives and survives, but she does more than just survive! She soon finds a way to fight back and performes a service with a heroic purpose. Facing grave danger and risking all she holds dear, she follows her heart and shows us what being a hero is all about. It's a fabulous adventure and a passionate love story. I hope it becomes a BEST SELLER for it is very thought provoking and a good read. Annette Vallon lingers on the soul like fine French wine on the tongue.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I would love to learn more about Annette Vallon! She is truly an amazing individual - such courage and spunk. This novel was long but it described her entire life so by the end I felt as if I really knew her. It was partly a passionate love story and partly an adventure. There were some moments throughout the book where I was holding my breath waiting to see what would happen next. James Tipton's writing style is very eloquent and descriptive which makes the plot even more believable. I highly recommend it.
Stacie0408 More than 1 year ago
The only French history I'd ever read was from the British-side of things. Reading Tipton's book and going through the challenges Vallon faced in life was fascinating and gave a different meaning to the previous historical fiction books I'd read. The characters have great depth and you feel as if you're in the middle of the war with Vallon and Wordsworth. Wonderful book!
LyndaT More than 1 year ago
This fact-based historical romance/adventure takes you back to the French Revolution through the eyes of an upper-middle class woman who leads a double life. Her romance with poet William Wordsworth is interesting and painful. Annette's thrilling exploits (and those of other women) keep you turning pages long after you meant to stop. The discussions of French politics are informative.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was very pleasantly surprised - sometimes historical novels get caught up in just dramatizing factual events. Sometimes they are all fluff. This was neither - it was dynamic, interesting, but not a lesson book at all. It contained much more action than I expected; it was less of a love story of Wordsworth than the story of a woman and her life during the French Revolution - and this woman happened to be in love with a poet. I highly recommend this book - it got better and better the farther I got into it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Highly recommend this beautifully written book. One of my favorites.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed reading this book. Its not only a beautiful romance, but it taught me a lot about the French Revolution. If you like historical fiction and romance, you will love this too!
b33 More than 1 year ago
i enjoyed this book because of the idea that it showed having take place during the french revolution. it showed how women were treated and how some were lucky and unlucky including the main character annette vallon. through her trials she learns true love in helping her country and protecting her child. the ending i felt could have been better but you wonder what you could expect with an indescretion with a poet from another country.
Dshill More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. It is historic fiction, which is my favorite. It is set in France during the French Revolution. Annette meets and falls in love with William Wordsworth. They marry in a secret ceremony and Annette has their child. They are separated during the the Revolution because William is English and may be mistaken for a spy so he has to go back to England. During their separation, Annette becomes a hero of her people. She is very brave and helps many escape death. Wordsworth, on the other hand, turns out to be a wimp. I was very disappointed in what he does later in the book. I don't think that he was worthy of Annette. It was a great read.
susreview More than 1 year ago
Loved this book. I had never heard of Annett Vallon before. This story takes place during the French Revolution. William Wordsworth is over in France visiting before the outbreak of the war.

Scholars of Wordsworth have thought most of his best work was created during this ten year period.

You'll have to read this book yourself to find out what happens. This is a real page turner- the one where you start reading, and keep turning the page, and you are still going at 1am without realizing you have just gotten lost in this book and must see what happens next.

I would recommend this to those who love real heroines and historical fiction.

A great read! You will recommend it to your friends.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
        A Spellbinding Excellent Book! I discovered this book recently and so glad I did. It  definitely is in the couldn't put it down category. I hadn't heard of the major characters and knew little if  anything about the French Revolution and had no curiosity about it, but I was curious about how this woman's life and leadership would interact  with an English poet.  The revolution was so much of this beautifully written book that I became fascinated by the history, the way of life during these times, lost  in the story of these two amazing people, Annette and William, following them  through dramatic, suspenseful, touching lives. This is one of the best historical fictions I've ever read.    
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the best books I ever read. Amazing woman and love story!!! A real treasure.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book, took me awhile to get to the end but overall not bad.
EVKendall More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book very much until the end. It's a shame that history never changes nomatter how we might like the characters in these historical novels to meet with happier endings. Annette devotes her entire life to a man whom she shares the most passionate and fulfilling love, however they do not marry and have the kind of life together that they, and we as readers wish them to have. Still, it's a diverting story, entertaining and informative.
HBella More than 1 year ago
This is my all time favorite book. Ever. It is the best book I've ever read. It made my heart ache it was so romantic and heartbreaking. I was extremely sad when I finished the book because it was over! I can't vouch for historical accuracy, but for a genuinely good read, this is your book. I haven't read it in 2 years, probably time for a re-read!
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Kailyn Murray More than 1 year ago
could not put it down. loved it! read it twice
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