The Second Empress: A Novel of Napoleon’s Court by Michelle Moran

10553215After 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. – Goodreads

Well, this wasn’t my favorite Michelle Moran book, but I still enjoyed it. It took me a while because it was a bit slow in parts and I never became totally attached to a character.

First of all, Napoleon is a total douche. I know, I know, we all knew that. But to read about his character…ergh. He made me so mad. He is power hungry and gives zero shits about anyone’s life but his own. Can you say narcissistic?

His sister, Pauline, was just as bad—though the clap made her actually nuts. Not only does she want to do her brother so they can conquer Egypt together (because she’s obsessed with the ancients), she’s materialistic and narcissistic. She also slept around a lot, but that didn’t bother me nearly as much as the other stuff (she did toy with mens’ emotions and send them to the front lines of battle to die when she was done seeing them. That’s a shitty way to break up with someone). The only nice thing she did was bring Sigi, Marie-Louise’s dog, to France for Marie-Louise.

My favorite POVs were through Marie-Louise and Paul (who is Pauline’s servant…who she renamed…after herself…)

Mary-Louise is an Austrian princess who has to marry Napoleon. She leaves behind the man and family she loves to fulfill her duty. Napoleon (who is no thin mint himself) is constantly commenting on her weight and even shoves her face into some food. Asshole.

We get a pretty good glimpse into how Mary-Louise feels and what’s happening to her, which I appreciated. I did feel that she could have been developed more.

Paul was my favorite. He’s a little bit obnoxious in the lovesick-for-Pauline kind of way, but he is down to earth and smart.

The worldbuilding was alright. I thought that it could have been fleshed out more. I had a hard time picturing Paris, the castle, their attire, etc.

In all, it was a good read, but not my favorite. I rated it a 3/5 on Goodreads.

L

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