Wednesday, August 01, 2012

The Second Empress by Michelle Moran

Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication Date: 14th August 2012
Pages: 448
Book Source: Crown Publishing & NetGalley

Synopsis: It is 1809, and while the French Revolution is over, the bloodshed in Paris continues under the reign of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. Although he has conquered much of Europe and is considered one of the most formidable generals in the world, Napoleon still lacks one important thing -- an heir. Convinced that his faithful wife Joséphine will never produce one, he divorces her and begins the search for a new bride. His choice lands on the unwilling Austrian princess, Marie-Louise, whose great-aunt, Marie Antoinette, suffered a terrible fate at the hands of the French. But once Napoleon makes his intentions known, not even Marie Louise's father can save her from what is certain to be an unhappy marriage.

After Marie-Louise arrives in France, she is treated to a spectacle beyond anything she could have ever imagined in Austria. From lavish parties that would have made Marie Antoinette blush with shame, to temper tantrums thrown by the emperor's spoiled siblings, the French court is wild, juvenile, and extravagant. The worst offender of them all, however, is Pauline Bonaparte, Napoleon's promiscuous sister who is doing everything she can to encourage Napoleon to divorce his new wife. Her dream is to take the imperial crown for herself--just as the Egyptians did--by marrying her own brother. When Marie-Louise uncovers the relationship that exists between her husband and his sister, she is horrified. Surrounded by duplicitous courtiers and untrustworthy family members, the new empress finds two unlikely allies at court: Hortense, the beautiful daughter of Joséphine, and Paul, the insightful mulatto servant Pauline took away with her after visiting the island of Haiti.
  
Based entirely on primary resources, The Second Empress re-creates Napoleon Bonaparte's wildly promiscuous court--and the women who tried to control it.


My Thoughts:
Swept away; Michelle Moran's writing never fails to captivate me and The Second Empress is no exception. This fascinating novel spans the last 6 years of Napoleon's reign, beginning with his divorce from Josephine & subsequent marriage to Austrian princess Marie-Louise.  

Told from the alternating and diverse viewpoints of Marie-Louise, Napoleon's sister Pauline, and Paul, Pauline's chamberlain, I enjoyed seeing Napoleon and his court through their eyes. The quotes from letters and 19th century memoirs throughout the novel and the authentic letters between Napoleon and Josephine give the reader insight into a not so public side of Napoleon.  

I needed little reminder of what an egotistical despot Napoleon was but the megalomania/sociopath gene must have run in the Bonaparte family as Napoleon's sister Pauline was a piece of work. Bizarre, freaky even but she sure made for interesting reading. I knew next to nothing about Napoleon's second wife but quickly learned there was more to Marie-Louise than these 'complimentary' words from Napoleon show.

"This is the marriage I was destined to have. A Hapsburg princess as fertile as a sow." 

Michelle Moran conveys a true sense of time and place in The Second Empress, what a compelling way to receive a history lesson ... love it!! My only complaint, the last third of the book felt a little rushed, I could have easily devoured another hundred pages. While there's plenty of juicy historical detail, it's not too weighty, making this a fast, thoroughly entertaining read that I really didn't want to put down.

Where's Michelle Moran taking us next? I can't wait!


UK cover


Check out Michelle Moran's awesome website and blog.





22 comments:

  1. India is apparently where Michelle Moran is taking us next! I need to read this one!

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    1. India hmmm thanks Marg, now that's not somewhere I've read a lot about.

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    1. I'm surprised by how easy this one was to read Julie :)

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  3. She always tackles a character/era that I've always assumed I wouldn't be interested in. And I've always been wrong. Love her books! Great review!

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    1. Nice when that happens lol. I'm a huge fan, hope you get to read this one soon Mary!!

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  4. I didn't realize this was what this book was about. I enjoy Moran's writing and she always does right by her subject material. thanks for the scoop :)

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    1. You're welcome Jenny, I love Moran's writing and you're right she certainly does historical fiction with respect and class :)

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  5. I just read that she is writing about Laksmi who fought the British in India. Ok so no idea who that is but yay more books

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    1. me either B but I'm up for anything that Michelle writes :)

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  6. This sounds terrific. I haven't read this author yet though I've heard nothing but good things about her novels.

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    1. you'll love them Stephanie ... I especially loved all the Egypt novels!

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  7. Looking forward to this one! I have loved everything by this author!

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    1. me too Nise, Michelle Moran is on my auto-buy list :)

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  8. So intriguing with the bizarre behavior. You've put this one on my radar!

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    1. I'm glad Marie, hope you enjoy it too!

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  9. Oh oh oh. So glad you liked this book. It is on my kindle ready for my holidays in Oct. I love Moran's books and the way she writes. She has quickly turned into an auto buy for me (that is a very limited list these days).

    I saw a comment Moran is going to India next? I hope so as India has a fascinating heritage and some interesting Queens.

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    1. YAY I'll keep an eye out for your review in October. Michelle is an auto buy for me too, there isn't a book of hers I haven't enjoyed.
      I'm not at all well read on Indian history so her next book should be interesting.

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  10. oh and PS like the UK cover better. Not sure why but the US one just seems boring.

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    1. maybe it's the pretty pink lol, it caught my eye before the US cover

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  11. Okay, now this is a book that is screaming to me to read it!! I actually have 2 books by this author and I haven't read them yet....(smacks head!). I really need to just get my ass in gear and read books of my shelf because I'm missing out o some great authors! Awesome review!

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  12. I loved the covers of Michelle's books and have had a couple of them on my to read list. I really need to get to them esp since you rated this one so highly!

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