CommanderStrikeher’s #CBR4 Review #44: The Second Empress: A Novel of Napoleon’s Court by Michelle Moran
Ahh, Historical Fiction. The genre with which I have the strongest love/hate relationship. Difficult to do properly, and incredibly easy to dissolve into a bodice-ripping romance novel. However, the ones that are good tend to be worth the effort of seeking them out.
This book has three narrators and each chapter alternates between the three: Marie-Louise, Napoleon’s second wife, Pauline Borghese, Napoleon’s Sister, and Paul, Pauline’s half-black Haitian servant.
Napoleon was a total dick. He was completely obsessed with being seen as the rightful Emperor of France, so for his second marriage, he demanded the hand of the nineteen-year-old Austrian Archduchess, Marie-Louise. He figured that a princess of the incredibly prolific Hapsburg line would give him the son and heir that his first wife, Josephine, could not. Of course, she is already in love with someone else, so there can be the obligatory “tortured lovers” angle.
Pauline is nuts. She is completely obsessed with Egypt, and wants to marry her brother, Napoleon, just like the Pharaohs did. She hated Josephine, because she was jealous of her, and she hates Marie-Louise, because she could possibly give Napoleon a son. She has had dozens of lovers, and uses old ladies as footstools.
Paul is boring. His chapters contribute little to the story, other than to show what crazy crap Pauline was up to. I really didn’t care about anything that happened to him.
This novel was OK. Not something I would really recommend, but it kept me entertained while driving to work and doing the dishes. Michelle Moran’s Madame Tussaud was a much better novel.