By Jocelyn Buhlman
We all know the tale as old as time, but what happens after “happily ever after”? The new book, Queen’s Council: Rebel Rose aims to answer just that. The first book in The Queen’s Council series, an empowering fairy tale reimagining of the Disney Princesses—and the real history behind their stories, Rebel Rose tells the story of what happens when Belle becomes the queen while France is on the brink of revolution. Torn between her roots as a commoner, and her future as a royal, Belle questions her newfound power and what it means to be a queen. You can preorder The Queen’s Council: Rebel Rose here.
Check out the just-revealed cover and then read on for an exclusive Q&A with the author, Emma Theriault.
D23: The Official Disney Fan Club: This story finds Belle shortly after having broken the curse, and places her right into pre-revolutionary France. What was it like getting to reimagine Belle during the start of the French Revolution? What were some of the challenges?
Emma Theriault (ET): It was a time of great change. In France, Enlightenment philosophers had been espousing the ideas of equality, liberty, constitutional government, and religious tolerance for decades, so it was very easy to imagine Belle, a radical thinker in her own right, in the midst of it all. But it was a time when women were largely excluded from institutions and public spheres, so Belle’s biggest dream is to visit Paris and attend salons frequented by the likes of Olympe de Gouges and Madame de Montesson. Little does she know; she is about to be embroiled in the biggest political and social upheaval of her time.
D23: What kind of research did you do to prepare for writing a period piece like this?
ET: The very first thing I did was watch both the animated and live-action films closely, taking notes on setting, background characters, mannerisms, etc. Then I did historical research by reading books about the French Revolution, accessing online databases of political pamphlets, scouring the writings of the Enlightenment thinkers that Belle would have admired, studying the Palace of Versailles website (they have excellent information on design, architecture, furniture, decorations, etc.), and jotting down anything and everything I thought might be relevant. And finally, the best thing I did was go on an extremely well-timed and entirely coincidental trip to Europe in April 2019. We visited my boyfriend’s family in Austria (where I got a private tour of a castle!) and spent some time in Paris. Rebel Rose opens with Belle in a carriage rumbling over the cobbles of Pont Neuf, so it was really amazing to trace her path through the city that would have captured her heart and mind, at least in my imagination.
D23: Belle totally seems like she’d be a part of the revolution, but now she’s royalty. What kind of challenges does she face?
ET: At one point in the book, Belle realizes that she now occupies a strange position: she is not a commoner anymore, but she likewise isn’t noble. She is torn between two worlds, belonging to neither. In another life, Belle would have been debating in the gardens of the Palais-Royal, calling for change and demanding action. Now she feels an immense responsibility for her people in the principality of the kingdom of Aveyon. She wants to both protect them from the violence that comes with revolution (she witnesses the storming of the Bastille and the beheading of the marquis de Launay, after all), and enact sweeping changes in Aveyon to make the lives of commoners better. The challenge for Belle is that hers is not the only voice in Aveyon, and there are competing ideas about what way forward is best. Her journey through the book is one of discovery—discovering her voice, her power, her privilege, and how she can and must use all three to make her world a better place.
D23: In your opinion, what do you think fans of Beauty and the Beast can look forward to when reading this novel?
ET: I think the combination of Disney magic and real, gritty, bloody history is a unique one, and I hope readers enjoy the chance to revisit beloved characters as they grow into their new roles in an utterly changed world. Being chosen to expand and extend Belle’s story like this was an unimaginable privilege for me, a girl who once performed ‘Belle (Reprise)’ so vigorously she sent her framed Beauty and the Beast poster crashing to the ground (shattering it), and getting to expand her story against the backdrop of the French Revolution was such a gift for this former history major.