Friday, September 21, 2012

Review- The Second Empress by Michelle Moran

Title: The Second Empress: An Novel of Napoleon's Court
Author: Michelle Moran
Genre: Historical Fiction
Release Date: August 14, 2012

I received this book from Crown Publishing, in exchange for an honest review.

Summary:  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.

Based on primary resources from the time, The Second Empress takes readers back to Napoleon’s empire, where royals and servants alike live at the whim of one man, and two women vie to change their destinies

Thoughts: When news reaches Napoleon that his beloved Jos├ęphine has betrayed him with another man - he is enraged and starts divorce proceedings. It isn't long before he wants (more like demands) the hand of Marie-Louise, Princess of Austria. Marie of course is devastated that she must marry the Ogre of France.  But to save her family and save her country from war, Marie sacrifices herself and accepts Napoleon's proposal.

The Second Empress was a good read and for the most part enjoyable. I wanted to love it as much as I did Nefertiti & Madam Tussaud... but I have to say this is my least favorite of Moran's novels. I'm not sure who loved them self more, Napoleon or his sister Pauline.  Both were unattractive characters that had me at times, putting down the book.  What I did enjoy was that there were several different character point of views. Then of course Marie-Louise herself. I liked her character and really felt bad for her.  While she sacrificed herself, she ended up being a survivor. I think historical fiction fans will enjoy this one especially ones that enjoy the era of the French Revolution.

Score: 3 Stars

Author Website:

Titles by Michelle Moran:
The Heretic Queen
Cleopatra's Daughter
Madame Tussaud
The Second Empress

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