Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Review - The Second Empress by Michelle Moran

The Second Empress: A Novel of Napoleon's CourtTitle: The Second Empress
Author: Michelle Moran
Series: Stand Alone 
Pages: 448
Published: August 14th 2012 by Crown 
ISBN:  9780307953032
Source: Publisher via Netgalley

Description: After the bloody French Revolution, Emperor Napoleon’s power is absolute. When Marie-Louise, the eighteen year old daughter of the King of Austria, is told that the Emperor has demanded her hand in marriage, her father presents her with a terrible choice: marry the cruel, capricious Napoleon, leaving the man she loves and her home forever, or say no, and plunge her country into war.  Marie-Louise knows what she must do, and she travels to France, determined to be a good wife despite Napoleon’s reputation. But lavish parties greet her in Paris, and at the extravagant French court, she finds many rivals for her husband’s affection, including Napoleon’s first wife, Jos├ęphine, and his sister Pauline, the only woman as ambitious as the emperor himself. Beloved by some and infamous to many, Pauline is fiercely loyal to her brother. She is also convinced that Napoleon is destined to become the modern Pharaoh of Egypt. Indeed, her greatest hope is to rule alongside him as his queen—a brother-sister marriage just as the ancient Egyptian royals practiced. Determined to see this dream come to pass, Pauline embarks on a campaign to undermine the new empress and convince Napoleon to divorce Marie-Louise.  As Pauline's insightful Haitian servant, Paul, watches these two women clash, he is torn between his love for Pauline and his sympathy for Marie-Louise. But there are greater concerns than Pauline's jealousy plaguing the court of France. While Napoleon becomes increasingly desperate for an heir, the empire's peace looks increasingly unstable. When war once again sweeps the continent and bloodshed threatens Marie-Louise’s family in Austria, the second Empress is forced to make choices that will determine her place in history—and change the course of her life.

I Give This ...

I confess, I don't recall a lot about Napoleon besides what I was taught in history.  And lets face it, I don't think the history books are very nice to him.  I'm not saying he was a great man, because I'm sure the truth lies somewhere in the middle.  I wanted to read this to gain a little insight on the man, and well because I love Michelle Moran.

I enjoyed Marie-Louise and the voice she gave this book.  I admire those women from this time period who know their duty (even if I disagree with it) and do it with very little complaint.  She marries Napoleon to save her father's kingdom.  She's heard all the stories, and I think it helps her to better prepare for the type of man Napoleon might be.  He wants heirs and loyalty and nothing more.  She holds on to hope that maybe one day she can return to her kingdom and marry the man she truly loves.  I admired her for that hope and for being the loving wife.  I'm sure that Napoleon was a hard man to please.  

I had a hard time liking Pauline.  But, I think she's suppose to be that way.  She comes across as arrogant and selfish.  She expects those around her to bow to her every whim.  I'm glad we don't much visual when it comes to her sexual life, but wow.  I wonder how much of that was true.  Her relationship with her brother was a little odd, and I'm curious if they really had an incestuous relationship.  I don't think the normal family bonds existed for them.  She was as drunk on Napoleon's power and he was.  I did find her relationship with her servant Paul to be interesting.  I think it was the closest thing to normalcy and she didn't know how to handle it. 

I enjoyed both women's insight on Napoleon himself.  He doesn't come across as quite so harsh in this book.  From the author's note, it seems like she toned down how he treated women.  I'm beginning to think I'll like him about as much as I do Henry VIII.  I do have to admit that both men had a powerful effect on their respective counties.  

I enjoyed this novel and Michelle Moran has proves once again why she is on my must read list.  I'll be eagerly awaiting her next novel.  I'm wondering if it will be about Queen of my favorite British Monarch's!

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