The Disenchantment

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This radiant and thrilling debut follows a passionate love affair between two noblewomen who wish to free themselves from their repressive society, whatever the cost.

In 17th century Paris, everyone has something to hide. The noblemen and women and writers consort with fortune tellers in the confines of their homes, servants practice witchcraft and black magic, and the titled poison family members to obtain inheritance. But for the Baroness Marie Catherine, the only thing she wishes to hide is how unhappy she is in her marriage, and the pleasures she seeks outside of it.

When her husband is present, the Baroness spends her days tending to her children and telling them elaborate fairy tales, but when he's gone, Marie Catherine indulges in a more liberated existence, one of forward-thinking discussions with female scholars in the salons of grand houses, and at the center of her freedom: Victoire Rose de Bourbon, Mademoiselle de Conti, the androgynous, self-assured countess who steals Marie Catherine's heart and becomes her lover.

Victoire possesses everything Marie Catherine does not--confidence in her love, and a brazen fearlessness in all that she's willing to do for it. But when a shocking and unexpected murder occurs, Marie Catherine must escape. And what she discovers is the dark underbelly of a city full of people who have secrets they would kill to keep.

The Disenchantment is a stunning debut that conjures an unexpected world of passion, crime, intrigue, and black magic.

About the Author

CELIA BELL has written short fiction for VQR, The White Review, The Sewanee Review, The Southern Review, and Bomb Magazine. She is the winner of the 2018 VQR Emily Clark Balch Prize for Fiction and holds an MFA from the New Writers Project at the University of Texas. She lives in Austin, Texas.

"A powerful, atmospheric debut."
--The Sunday Times (UK)

"There's a deliciously hothouse feel to Celia Bell's slow-burn, smouldering debut. . . . this beautifully detailed novel . . . [is] brimful of black magic and dead poisons, secrets and sorceries. . . . Even love is dangerous. . . . in this beguilingly dark fairy tale."
--The Daily Mail (UK)

"While this compelling portrayal of aristocratic life in 17th century France is rich with detail, it is the timeless female struggle to find and sustain a self able to withstand the metamorphoses and disguises required for survival which captivates the reader. A combination of history and fairy tale, The Disenchantment exposes unsuspected relationships and ambiguous boundaries as it follows its characters through a dream world of sorcerers and blue-stockings, servants and savants."
--Susanna Moore, author of The Lost Wife

"As rankly sensuous as a twilit Parisian street in winter, Celia Bell's The Disenchantment is a rare historical novel that gets under your skin not only for its period details (all that poached fish and spears of asparagus swirled in smears of yellow butter sauce) but for its swooning falls, without narrative safety nets, into the eternal now of deceit, desire, and the violent weather of love. Set amid the disinformation of the seventeenth-century Affair of the Poisons--a Salem Witch Trial hysteria of the court of Louis XIV--this tale of the hot passion between cross-dressing Victoire and married Baroness Marie Catherine tampers with themes of gender fluidity as relevant today as in yesteryear. Celia Bell practices both black and white magic in this remarkable first novel."
--Brad Gooch, author of Rumi's Secret

"Bell's inventive debut. . . . excels at creating a hothouse atmosphere in which depravity, sensuality, and duplicity reside side by side . . . a rousing feminist fable. It's a bold and inspired mix of Les Liaisons Dangereuses and The Crucible."
--Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Gripping, filled with a quietly persuasive tension that kept me turning the page and beautiful, moody description, both evocative and authentic."
--Crystal Jeans, author of The Inverts

"The writing has the quality of velvet about it, so lusciously rich that it folds you into a thrilling love story . . . Beautifully researched."
--Sally Gardner, author of Maggot Moon

"A shimmering, sexy, thrilling tale of intrigue and desire, and the dark paths we walk to keep our secrets safe. Bell has written a shining debut."
--Kiran Millwood Hargrave, author of The Dance Tree

"The is historical storytelling at its most captivating. Celia Bell puts the body itself back in time: smells, sights, fears, sensation propel us into the epicentre of a 17th century Paris where breaking out of the prison of arranged marriage is only one of the many challenges confronting women. I couldn't put it down."
--Lisa Appignanesi, author of Everyday Madness

Publisher: Pantheon Books
Pub date: May 16, 2023
368 pages
Format: Hardcover