A Prelude to Versailles

Love and Intrigue at the Paris Peace Conference

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
280 Pages
Reviewed on 06/25/2023
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite

A Prelude to Versailles: Love and Intrigue at the Paris Peace Conference by Mark Anthony Sullivan is a thrilling post-World War I spy story, neatly wrapped up in a heartwarming romance. In the latter years of the First World War, all American Lieutenant George Murphy saw of Europe was the hellhole and mud of the trenches on the Western Front. Seriously wounded whilst performing heroic duties in no man’s land, Murphy found himself in a Paris hospital as the armistice was declared at the end of 1918. When the powers were gathering for the Paris Peace Conference, Murphy was seconded to the American delegation to assist with translation due to his knowledge of French. Although a minor administrative functionary, George soon finds himself in the middle of treacherous and shifting international intrigue and diplomatic waters. When he meets Fiona McDermott, a beautiful young Irishwoman representing the yet-to-be-recognized country of Free Ireland, he is immediately attracted to this bright, intelligent, and mysterious woman with a murky past, a dangerous present, and an uncertain future. Together they must solve the mystery of why they seem to be the target of assassins before they can even consider the possibilities of a future together.

A Prelude to Versailles is an absolute roller-coaster ride of adventure and emotion. Mark Anthony Sullivan has penned this narrative in a fast-moving, action-packed style, reminiscent of old-school spy novels. I was particularly intrigued by the details of the Peace Conference itself and how the major powers were seeking to undermine Wilson’s original ideas of nation-building and democratic sovereignty by using the conference as a means to grab more land. The exclusion of the Germans from their peace conference, as well as many other deeply interested countries, goes some way to pinpoint the reason why so soon after the Treaty of Versailles was signed, the maniacal Hitler and his Nazi party were able to find fertile ground for their ultra-nationalist beliefs. Historical fiction built around significant events in history is such a joy to read as it educates and informs as much as it entertains. This story does both exceptionally well. I particularly enjoyed the passion and power of the relationship between George and Fiona. Fiona was a wonderful character who was able to rise above her chequered past and her total commitment to “Home Rule” and a free, independent Ireland was a tribute to the many Irish women who fought alongside their men folk to achieve their freedom from the British yoke. This is a wonderful read with plenty of twists and turns that one would expect from a good spy thriller. I enjoyed it immensely and can highly recommend it.