The Second Empress
A Novel of Napoleon's Court
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National bestselling author Michelle Moran returns to Paris, this time under the rule of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte as he casts aside his beautiful wife to marry a Hapsburg princess he hopes will bear him a royal heir
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, Joséphine, 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.
Publishers Weekly Review
© Publishers Weekly
The Second Empress is the story of an ambitious Emperor and the women who surround him during a volatile time in French history.
Since I was a teenager, I have had an infatuation with the love affair that was Napoleon and Josephine. I have read many books that contain their love letters and have found them and their story fascinating. I never gave much thought to the other women in his life. This book brought those women to light.
Told from various character perspectives, all of which are outstanding, the Second Empress, Marie-Louise, comes to the foreground in this sweeping tale.
Pauline, Napoleon's sister, is a constant in his life. Someone he turns to and that is faithful to him to a fault. Josephine, cast aside for want of an heir to the throne, remains his one true love. Marie-Louise, the Second Empress, comes to him, bound by duty to her own family, never to love or even respect the man who seeks to control all of Europe.
The author does a tremendous job mixing history and storytelling to weave an intricate tale spanning the last 6 years of Napoleon's reign. The pace is quick which made it a fast read I had a hard time setting aside. Sometimes, with historical novels, too much detail weighs the story down. Not in this case. The author does a wonderful job giving enough detail to make the story come to life and uses enough discretion not to cause an overkill of the senses. The reader gets a sense of who these people are, where they have come from and where they are going and why.
If you're a fan of historical fiction, this one is a must read!!!!
I found this shorter than the Egyptian books, but it was very entertaining.