The French Blue - Plus a Giveaway!

I love Natural History Museums.  I've long been a fan of The Field in Chicago and, of course, The Smithsonian, and one of my favorite portions of any natural history museum is geology and gemstone collections.  I've often joked I'm part magpie with my love of shiny objects, but it's hard not to be awed when surrounded by precious stones that sparkle, shine, and dazzle (and are worth more than several years of my salary).  I recently came across a book by an author with an extensive background in buying and selling gems, and with careful research and masterful storytelling, he drew inspiration from an adventurous historical figure to construct an amazing book.

Jean-Baptiste Tavernier was a gem trader in the seventeenth century who completed six voyages through Persia and India and is perhaps most widely remembered for his discovery of The French Blue; an enormous blue diamond that was eventually recut into The Hope Diamond. Tavernier's life and astounding adventures form the basis of Richard W. Wise's historical fiction work The French Blue: An Illustrated Novel of the Seventeenth Century.

Wise did a magnificent job in choosing the subject for his book, as Tavernier proves to be a fascinating protagonist. From the pearl divers of Persia, to the diamond mines in India, and the splendors of the court at Versailles, the story is ripe with action and information and peppered with romance and politics. The tale moves at a perfect pace and Wise's skill at research is equal to his mastery of prose.  The fictional and factual characters are seamlessly blended together - and sometimes nearly indistinguishable. The inclusion of figures and illustrations also add wonderful seasoning to an expertly constructed work.

The French Blue was a highly enjoyable novel. Much like the gems described throughout the plot, this is a book that is eye-catching, intriguing, and overall a stunning treasure.

I can't say enough how much I enjoy books that teach me something new while still telling an engaging and entertaining story, and The French Blue did just that.  And perhaps the highest recommendation I can give is that this book made me want to learn more about Tavernier, the era in which he lived, and the history of various precious stones.  

Coming soon, my blog interview with author Richard W. Wise! 

AND - I've been given the opportunity to host a giveaway for The French Blue (the book, not the diamond).  If you'd like to read this great historical fiction work, leave a comment below telling me something about your favorite gemstone or famous artifact.  Contest is available to US mailing addresses only and closes on July 20, 2010 at 11:59 PM Central Standard Time.  Winners will be contacted by email so be sure to leave an email address (spam protected format preferred - ex: herbookself AT gmail DOT com).  The winner will have three days to respond via email with a mailing address, if no reply, a new winner will be drawn.  Also, as a reader loyalty bonus, if you've commented on this blog BEFORE this post you will be given one extra entry. Good Luck!

(This book was provided by the author in exchange for a review;
this review represents my honest and unbiased opinions.)

16 Response to "The French Blue - Plus a Giveaway!"

  1. Lady Dragoness says:
    July 13, 2010 at 11:39 AM

    As an entry to win The French Blue:
    My favorite gemstone is Tanzanite. The valuable and gorgeous stone is a deep blue color; gazing at this stone (for me) invokes an incomparable feeling of peace and serenity. There are less valuable specimens of Tanzanite in a lighter shade of blue, and they are still lovely but do not quite hold the appeal of the darker blue stones.

    1dragones AT delphiforums DOT com

  2. biblioholic29 says:
    July 13, 2010 at 2:54 PM

    Like you, I love the gemstone and minerals section of Natural History Museums. While I don't necessarily have a favorite, I've always had a partiality to malachite. My parents met in what was then Zaire, and when my father proposed, it was with a malachite ring. Whenever I come across malachite anywhere, it brings to mind my parents' story and the amazing relationship they've shared for 35 years.

    hhop114 AT gmail DOT com

  3. Chris Gardner says:
    July 13, 2010 at 2:57 PM

    I really like Peridot. Olive green in color and fairly rare with the most expensive being dark olive green. Peridot is sometimes found in meteorites. The only gemstone found in meteorites.

    tcgardner AT gmail DOT com

  4. Bonnie says:
    July 13, 2010 at 4:34 PM

    I love Amethyst. I have been attracted to the color purple in the last few months and have fallen in love with this gorgeous stone. As far as my favorite artifact goes, I would have to say the Crown Jewels of England. I had the honor to visit London and see them in person at the Tower. They are gorgeous and full of beautiful gemstones.

    cm_08 AT comcast DOT net

  5. Unknown says:
    July 13, 2010 at 5:42 PM

    I don't think this is technically a gemstone, but my favorite "stone" for jewelry is green amber. My husband bought me a huge chunk of it in the form of a necklace pendant in Ireland on our honeymoon. I love it! And I would also love to read this book! :)

    MuchAdo330 AT hotmail DOT com

  6. Greg McConnell says:
    July 13, 2010 at 9:07 PM

    Nice. This sounds like a book I'd want to read, Lisa.

    I forget exactly what type of gem or rock it was... but when I was a kid I once got to go to Brazil with my parents. Toward the end of the trip we were at a gem store and my parents let me pick out one that I liked (from the cheap section, no doubt). I picked out this dark, mostly non-shiny and really jagged stone. My parents tried to convince me otherwise, but I wasn't going to change my mind. And I was really happy to take home this stone. The only bad part came a few months later when I tried to take the stone out of my tight jean pocket--and sliced open my finger. Ouch!

    gjmc90 AT gmail DOT com

  7. Teddy Rose says:
    July 13, 2010 at 10:20 PM

    Amethyst is my favorite! I am addicted to purple and the purple in amethyst is the best.

    This book is on my TBR and I would love to win. Thanks for the giveaway.

  8. Carol says:
    July 14, 2010 at 7:36 AM

    I've been a rock hound since I was a child. My favorite gem is a diamond because, after all, they are a girl's best friend, but my favorite rock is the one I picked up while visiting my mother-in-law in Michigan. Although not too large and rather non descript, it sits in the shade reminding me of the presence she was in my life before she developed Alzheimer's. Maybe not "famous" to the world, it is priceless to me.

  9. Tina says:
    July 14, 2010 at 1:43 PM

    I remember taking my then 7 yr old daughter to the Smithsonian to see the Hope Diamond. She was quite enthralled, but also very upset when I wouldn't buy her anything....she thought it was a giant jewelry store.
    We'd both love to read this one.

    tbranco AT hughes DOT net

  10. Richard W. Wise says:
    July 16, 2010 at 12:14 PM

    Great to read the comments of all the gem lovers out there and good luck with the giveaway. Writing is my hobby, gem dealing is my day job. If you want to see more:


    Richard W. Wise

  11. Ellen aka Ellie says:
    July 18, 2010 at 12:32 PM

    My favorite gemstone is the one on my left hand.

    I know that's overtly sentimental, but it's true.

    Very well done interview Lisa. I am so proud of you!

  12. Anonymous Says:
    July 18, 2010 at 9:06 PM

    I have just discovered your page and was very pleased. I really had to think about my favorite gem or artifact. Its a ring of opals and rubies with high finger tongs to hold the gems. my father brought it home during WWII and gave it to my mom. I lost both my parents during that time along with the ring ( it vanished) it turned up at a family reunion. (thats another story ) my great-grandfather had put it away for me and over 60 years later it was returned to me. I look forward to reading your page
    and thank you for having this contest.
    Gail Miller (grams of 20)

  13. brokenteepee says:
    July 19, 2010 at 1:42 PM

    I make jewelry so I have a love for gemstones but I think my favorite has to be the pearl. So simple yet so mysterious.

    thank you
    kaiminani at gmail dot com

  14. Beverly Says:
    July 19, 2010 at 5:29 PM

    My favorite stone is a diamond. I love the way it glitters in the sun and casts off different colors.

  15. Amy says:
    July 20, 2010 at 3:23 PM

    A famous artifact? How about the blue topaz my mom bought me in Brazil, which is too large to look real, so it actually looks cheap, and she keeps nagging me to get it put in a setting but I don't want to spend the money on something that looks really, really cheap? LOL

    No easy answer....
    Please enter me, it looks great...
    gingercatranc at gmail dot com

  16. lisa :) says:
    July 21, 2010 at 8:15 AM

    This contest is now closed. Thank you all for taking the time to enter, I really appreciate your blog support and have enjoyed reading your comments and anecdotes here. My favorite gem has always been a sapphire since blue is my favorite color (although you likely would not guess that from this blog...) and I love how different gems will have different levels of richness, tone and depth to the color blue.

    Anyway, I will be drawing a contest winner soon (with some help from and will announce the winner in a new post. The winner will be contacted by email and will have three days to respond; if no response, a new winner will be drawn and contacted.

    Thank you again to all who entered!

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