By: Michelle Moran
Release Date: August 14, 2012
Source: publisher in exchange for an honest review
(may differ from final copy)
You will see in the newspapers the result of our battles and the conquest of Egypt, where we found resistance enough to add a leaf to the laurels of this army.
The Second Empress is the story of Napoleon’s second wife, Maria Lucia, the daughter of the Emperor of Austria. Napoleon sets aside his first wife, Josephine, due to the fact that she was unable to bear children for him and probably another contributing factor could well have been her numerous rumored affairs. If it is one thing most people know about Napoleon is he doesn’t liked to be made a fool of. Moran portrayed Napoleon just how history portrays him, egotistical.
Maria (later renamed Marie Louise) has no choice but to obey the summons by Napoleon, even though her heart belongs to Count Adam Neipperg. I found that Marie was a very determined woman. She knew exactly how to appease the volatile Napoleon without facing her great-aunt Marie Antoinette’s fate. Moran did a wonderful job staying true to how history recounts Marie Louise’s life. She appeared meek, but she was a very clever woman and knew her duty. After bearing the heir for Napoleon, she cements her position. There was never any love between the two, mainly because they each loved another. Napoleon, even after casting Josephine aside, remains devoted to her as the letters between them that Moran incorporates into the story proves and of course Marie loves Adam.
The Second Empress is also told from the POV of Pauline, Princess of Borghese and Napoleon’s conceited sister. There were many speculations about Pauline and Napoleon’s relationship. Pauline thought very highly of herself and thought that she and Napoleon should rule together as the Egyptian royal families did. After her brother got rid of his first wife she really thought that he would ask her to marry him and rule with him. When it became known that he was going to wed in Austrian princess, Pauline is livid. This begins the downward spiral of Pauline, whether it is because of her illness (from her many liaisons with men) or her jealously or a combination of both. Not the most likable character but then she wasn’t the nicest person so job well done on . Moran’s part.
The third narrator is Paul Moreau, Pauline’s half-Haitian chamberlain. He provides a unique perspective into the lives of Pauline, Napoleon and Marie. His voice provides the reader with more information that otherwise would not be achieved with only using characters on the inside of the royal family. Paul and Pauline’s relationship is strictly friendship and towards the end you see the strain Pauline’s vanity puts on this friendship.
Moran’s novels are always rich in detail and her characters are historically quite accurate. I loved that she focused on Napoleon’s personal life and how his military strategies actually tear it apart. There were times that I didn’t care for the short choppiness of the chapters towards the end that made the story feel rushed, but all in all this was an enjoyable read.
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