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 ...

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Opening her new novel (after Madame Tussaud) in 1809, Moran studiously applies her research into Napoleon and his family to compelling fiction. Ostensibly the portrait of Marie-Louise of Austria, who became Napoleon’s second wife, the novel’s title could as easily apply to the emperor’s sister, Pauline. Her sexual exploits, unnatural closeness to her brother, and obsession with ancient Egypt contribute delightful color. She badgers Napoleon to ignore Russia, divorce his new wife, and establish their kingdom in Egypt, which, following the example of the Ptolemies, they could rule as both brother-and-sister and husband-and-wife. Effortlessly switching the point of view from Marie-Louise to Pauline to Pauline’s Haitian chamberlain, Paul, the picture of Napoleon that emerges is less than favorable, unlike that of Marie-Louise. Great-niece of Marie Antoinette, she was raised to serve as regent for her younger brother and educated like a king. When Napoleon left her as regent, she exhibited a remarkable ability to rule. The empire brought great wealth to France, and Napoleon and his family spent it with abandon. Another enjoyable historical from Moran. Agent: Daniel Lazar, Writers House. (Aug.)
From the Publisher
"Moran has once again proven her skills as a mesmerizing storyteller with The Second Empress. She gathers her readers into the heart of the story and takes them on an adventure into a world where most would never dare venture. Moran's characters are engaging and her use of historical facts, bits and pieces of correspondence and ephemera tie this story together to create a fascinating tale that won't soon be forgotten.”  —Times Record News

“Stunning in form, theme, and plot. . . Don’t hesitate to purchase this beautifully written gem, which is certain to shoot to the top of the charts, if not start a craze for everything Moran.” —Library Journal

“Colorful… [a] nicely crafted work of historical fiction.” —Romantic Times

Red Hot Book of the Week, SheKnows.com: “Michelle Moran is beloved by readers of historical fiction for her lively and well-researched novels. . . Marie-Louise may be the character that readers will love, but it is Pauline they will love to hate. . . Moran describes the end of Napoleon's empire in vivid, realistic terms. She wastes no time attempting to make the reader sympathetic for the megalomaniac Napoleon, instead providing compelling — if not always entirely likable — characters who must make difficult choices: What is the best way to be loyal to one's family? When does self-respect and self-worth require giving up the person you love?” —SheKnows.com

“Compelling fiction. . . Ostensibly the portrait of Marie-Louise of Austria, who became Napoleon’s second wife, the novel’s title could as easily apply to the emperor’s sister, Pauline. . . Another enjoyable historical from Moran.” —Publishers Weekly

“This book covers the last six years of Napoleon’s reign… If you like French history you will enjoy this novel.” —British Weekly

“The Second Empress is a masterful work of fiction portraying the little known history of Napoleon’s desperate attempt to acquire an heir… The Second Empress is another wonderful read by a fantastic author.” –RomanceJunkies.com

Library Journal
With last year's Madame Tussaud, the author of saga favorites like The Heretic Queen left behind Egypt for France. This book is not a sequel to Moran's portrait of the celebrated wax sculptor but a re-creation of Napoleon's famously bawdy court, focusing on three women: Napoleon's stepdaughter, Hortense Beauharnais; his sister Pauline, who bedded everyone, including, quite likely, her brother; and his wife, Marie-Louise, eager to be quit of her capricious husband. Moran draws extensively on the liberal documentation all three women left behind. Lots of publicity.
Kirkus Reviews
The last six years of Napoleon's empire, as witnessed by Bonaparte's sister, her Haitian retainer and the Hapsburg princess Empress Marie-Louise, Joséphine's successor. Title aside, this is an ensemble piece in which the above three narrators carry equal weight. Marie-Louise, daughter of the Austrian Holy Roman Emperor Francis II, tries to avoid a match with Bonaparte, whose conquest of Europe has bankrupted her father's kingdom. However, no one dares refuse Napoleon, even though he is not yet divorced from first wife Joséphine, who still has the title of empress. Brought to Napoleon's palace in the Tuileries, Marie-Louise is shocked by the degree to which his large, squabbling Corsican family holds sway over the conqueror. His sister, Pauline, who may be suffering from the mentally debilitating effects of mercury treatment for gonorrhea, pictures herself as Cleopatra, surrounded by the spoils of her brother's victory in Egypt, dreaming of ruling at his side as his incestuous consort. Although she initially befriends the young second empress, Pauline continues to machinate against her, particularly after Marie-Louise gives birth to Napoleon's longed-for male heir, Franz. Pauline's devoted chamberlain, Paul, son of a French planter and an African slave, is at first devoted, even infatuated with Pauline, who rescued him after his family was massacred during the Haitian revolution. However, her antics (she uses female courtiers as footstools, bathes in milk and is unabashedly promiscuous) and scheming erode Paul's admiration. After Napoleon's ill-fated Russian campaign results in his disgrace and temporary exile to Elba, all three narrators return to their true homes: Marie-Louise to Austria and her lover, Count Adam Neipperg; Paul to Haiti; and Pauline to her brother's side to help him plan his short-lived return to power. With excerpts from Napoleon's and Josephine's (always cordial, even post-rupture) correspondence thrown in, the novel is mostly unfocused, other than to demonstrate how fortunate (and undeserving) Napoleon was to be surrounded by such loyal, or at least dutiful, women. Richly detailed but diffuse.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307953032
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/14/2012
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.60 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.18 (d)

Meet the Author

MICHELLE MORAN’s experiences at archaeological sites around the world motivated her to write historical fiction and continue to provide inspiration for her novels. She is the author of the national bestseller Nefertiti, The Heretic Queen, Cleopatra's Daughter, and Madame Tussaud. Visit her online at michellemoran.com.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Maria Lucia, Archduchess of Austria

Schonbrunn Palace, Vienna

November 1809

I study Maria Ludovika's face in the fresh light of our studio, trying to determine whether I should paint her with or without the golden diadem in her hair. A few steps away, almost close enough to touch, she is holding up a paintbrush and studying me. The courtiers in my father's palace call us the Two Marias, since we share nearly everything together: our shoes, our hobbies, even our names. We are second cousins, but whereas I am tall and buxom, with pale gold hair and wide hips, Maria Ludovika is small and thin. Her dark hair falls in waves around her shoulders, and she has not inherited the Hapsburg lip as I have—full and slightly protruding. Anyone looking at the two of us would think that I am older, because of my significant height. But I am eighteen to her twenty-two, and while she is the empress of Austria now, I am simply an archduchess.

When she came from Italy, I imagined it would be strange to have a stepmother only four years older than me. She is my father's third wife, my mother having died two years ago. But since her arrival in Vienna we have been like sisters, laughing over foolish palace intrigue, arranging trips to the Christmas markets in the city, and painting portraits in our cozy artist's workshop overlooking the winter gardens of Schonbrunn Palace. I have never had another woman my age for entertainment, since I am the eldest. My sixteen-year-old brother, Ferdinand, is the closest in age to me, but he was born dull-witted, as was my little sister, Maria-Carolina. So even as a child, I was lonely.

"Shall I put Sigi in your picture?" Maria asks, looking down at the small spaniel sleeping at my feet.

"I don't know," I say. "What do you think, Sigi? Would you like to sit for a portrait?"

My little Schnuckelputzi opens his eyes and barks.

"He knows you're talking about him!" Maria laughs.

"Of course he does." I put down my paintbrush to pick up Sigi, cradling him in my lap. "There's not a dog in Vienna that's smarter than him. Isn't that right?" Sigi buries his head under my arm. In all of Austria, I have never seen another dog with ears covered in such long, fringed hair. He was a gift to me from Maria when she first arrived at Schonbrunn, and now he goes wherever I do.

"If you make him sit still, I'll paint him on your lap."

"Sigi, behave yourself," I say sternly. He rests his chin on his front paws and looks up at me.

"Exactly." Maria dips her brush into the black oil, but before she can apply the paint to the canvas, he has already moved. "Oh, Sigi." She sighs. "What's the matter with you?"

"He's nervous," I say. "He's been like this since the emperor came," I whisper.

"I'm not surprised. Even the animals despise that man." She means Napoleon, who came to us last month with the humiliating Treaty of Schonbrunn, determined that my father, the Emperor Francis I, should sign it. Our English allies were bitterly against my father's surrender. But in his war against Napoleon, three million lives had already been lost.

The terms of Napoleon's treaty were harsh, demanding that we cede our cities of Salzburg to Bavaria, Galicia to the Poles, East Galicia to Russia, and much of Croatia to France. So four hundred thousand citizens who speak only German, eat only German food, and know only German customs woke up to find themselves belonging to four different nations. Yet the rest of the kingdom remained intact, and for this, my father owes Prince Metternich. They say there has never been another diplomat like him in the world. That if not for Metternich, the great Hapsburg-Lorraine empire would have been reduced to nothing.

When the treaty was signed, I heard courtiers whisper, "Better to be a beggar in the streets than a coward." They believed my father had sold the Adriatic coast for the price of his crown. But they were not the ones with sons or husbands in the army. They did not have to receive—week after week, month after month—the terrible lists of the dead. I did. I was there, in my father's Council Chamber, as one day I will be regent when Ferdinand takes the throne. I know the price Napoleon exacted on Austria. But the courtiers seem to have forgotten what the French are capable of. How only sixteen years ago they beheaded my great-aunt, Queen Marie-Antoinette.

There are few people who understand the true cost of this treaty to my father, but Maria is one of them. She was still a child in Italy when Napoleon's army appeared thirteen years ago. The soldiers swept through the streets taking whatever they pleased: carriages, villas, valuable china, women. Her father, who was the governor of the Duchy of Milan, gathered her family together, and they escaped with only the clothes on their backs. When they arrived in Austria, he was made the Duke of Breisgau. But Maria has never forgotten the loss of Milan, her childhood home, and it was with great unhappiness that she watched her husband sign the Treaty of Schonbrunn, surrendering to her family's most bitter enemy for a second time.

"And do you remember how small he was?" Maria asks, and I know she is about to continue with a familiar tirade.

"I only saw him from a distance," I remind her. I refused to enter the Council Chamber when my father was forced to sign away parts of his empire.

"Like a little gnome. Prince Metternich says that in France his enemies call him the King of Diamonds, a squat little emperor wrapped in red velvet and fur. Who is he?" she demands, and her voice is rising. "Where does he come from? And to think we had to bow to that man! A Corsican. Do you know what they do in Corsica?" She doesn't wait for me to answer. "They send their daughters to brothels to earn extra money. Even the nobles!"

I don't know if this is true, but Maria believes it.

"Just look at his sister Pauline." She leans forward, and our painting is forgotten. "What sort of woman poses nude for a sculptor? Nude!" It was a scandal all across Europe, that the emperor of France could control an army of three hundred thousand men but not his own family. First Jerome Bonaparte married without Napoleon's approval and fled to America to escape his brother's wrath. Then Lucien Bonaparte took a wife without his brother's consent. Now Pauline has left her second husband in Turin to pursue the life of an unmarried woman in Paris.

They are not a family fit for any throne. I think of my father's continuous sacrifices to be a Hapsburg king his people can respect: the nights he has stayed up balancing accounts, the mistresses he has refused in order to be a moral husband, and his vigilant oversight of the nation's treasury. It is not exciting work, and it is hardly glamorous. But a people are a reflection of their monarch, and we must provide a good example for them. My siblings and I have all been taught to keep records, so that we know exactly how much was spent keeping us in silk slippers and warm cloaks. For the month of November, I cost my father nearly twice as much as Maria-Carolina. Next month I will be more careful. "A king who rules without watching his treasury is a king who will soon be without a crown," my father says.

And it doesn't help that the Treaty of Schonbrunn has bankrupted our empire, forcing my father to make reparation payments to Napoleon of more than fifty million francs. Napoleon had wanted a hundred million, but no kingdom in the world can afford such a sum. So he settled for half, and my father has had to abandon silver coin and begin printing our money on paper. If there are hungry women and children in the streets, it is because of this treaty. It is because Napoleon could not be satisfied with Croatia, or Salzburg, or even Tyrol. He wanted the world to know that the Hapsburgs had been defeated, and now the German people must suffer for daring to believe they could stop him from consuming all of Europe. And even Europe was not enough.

Eleven years ago Napoleon marched an army of nearly forty thousand soldiers into Egypt. We were told he wanted to take control of the Indian Empire from the British. But the truth was something different. Prince Metternich lived in Paris as Napoleon's ambassador for more than three years, and he has told my father that the French emperor went to Egypt for one reason—glory—and that nothing is more important to him. He wanted to rule the land once conquered by Alexander the Great. He wished to hear his name echoing around the world.

To rise so high, so fast, you would think that God Himself was on his side, pushing him to even further greatness. But how can that be when his actions have deprived our people of food? When his treaty has impoverished the most benevolent empire in Europe? The Hapsburg-Lorraines have ruled for almost eight hundred years. Who is this man who thinks he can conquer the world before he's even forty?

I am about to reprimand Sigi for not staying still when a sharp knock on the door sends him jumping from my lap. I frown at Maria, since no one disturbs us in our artist's retreat.

"Come in," she calls.

Sigi growls at the door, but it is my father and Prince Metternich who enter, and immediately we rise. They are two of the most handsome men at court, with thick golden hair and slender waists. Even at forty-one and thirty-six, they are the picture of vitality, and both have the famous Hapsburg skin that made Marie-Antoinette so admired.

"The Two Marias," my father says in greeting, and although we are standing, he waves this action away. "Keep painting," he tells us. "That's why we've come."

"For a painting?" I ask.

"Your most unattractive portraits."

I am about to laugh, but there is no humor in his face.

Prince Metternich explains. "Napoleon has requested paintings from every noble house in Europe. He is particularly interested in Europe's unmarried princesses."

"But he's already married!" Maria exclaims.

"There is talk of a divorce," my father says quietly.

Maria and I exchange looks.

"It will likely come to nothing," Metternich says smoothly, "but he has made the request, and we cannot deny it." As usual, Metternich's voice is calm. If Napoleon had asked for nude statues of us, he would have passed this along in the same even tone.

"You are to choose your least attractive portrait," my father says.

My hands are shaking. "But I thought he loved Josephine," I protest. After all, he forgave her even after all of Europe came to know of the affairs she conducted while he was in Egypt.

"Certainly he loves her," Metternich replies. "But the emperor needs an heir."

"And he has gotten a child on his mistress," my father says contemptuously, "proving he's not infertile."

"Do the scandals never end with this family?" Maria stands. "We shall send him the very first portraits we made of one another. Then he will never look to Austria for a bride." I follow her across the room to the wall where all our efforts at portraiture have been framed. "That one." Maria points. Aside from my blond hair and blue eyes, I am unrecognizable.

Prince Metternich clears his throat. "Mockery may be inadvisable," he says.

"This is no mockery!" my father shouts. "Does he think he can do away with his wife as easily as he did away with Egypt's mamelukes? The pope will not have it. Europe will never consider another wife of his legitimate!"

"Then he might choose to proceed without the pope," Metternich replies.

The three of us stare at him.

"He is a bold man, Your Majesty. Nothing can be discounted. I would consider sending that one," Metternich suggests, indicating a large, oval painting from three months ago. It is the best likeness of me: my wide-set eyes are a vivid blue, and in life they are probably my best feature. But it also captures my too-strong jaw, the length of my nose, and my Hapsburg lip.

"No," my father rules. "It is too pretty."

Metternich looks from the painting to me, and I flush. "He will want a good likeness" is all he says.

"And how should he know?" Maria demands. "He has never laid eyes on her!"

"Your Majesties, this is a man who may choose to visit Vienna tomorrow, or next week, or even next month. What will he think if he sees the archduchess and realizes that you have made a fool of him? Please, give him something that will not make him suspicious."

"Send whichever one you want," my father says. "Just do it quickly, so we may stop talking about this man."

Metternich bows. "There is still the matter of your wife, Your Majesty. He also wishes to see every member of the royal family. Is there a painting you prefer—"

"Yes. Whichever's cheapest. And do not send him anything in a gilded frame." My father pauses at the door, then looks around. "That one," he says, pointing to the unfinished canvas on my easel. I have already painted Maria's black eyes, her small, pretty lips, and the abundant curls that hang in dark clusters on either side of her head. Although her dress remains to be done, there is no one who will look at this without thinking that my father has chosen well.

"When will you be finished?" Prince Metternich asks.

I feel the heat creep back into my cheeks. "Another five days. Perhaps a week."

He crosses his arms over his chest, scrutinizing the painting. Then he looks up at me. "You have talent."

His sudden interest makes me uncomfortable. "Not much. Not like Maria."

"How long have you been painting?"

"Three years."

"And how many languages do you speak?"

"What is this about?" My father steps back into the room.

"Nothing." Prince Metternich is quick to add, "Just idle curiosity." But when he looks back at me, I feel compelled to answer.

"Six."

He smiles widely. "As accomplished as any Hapsburg archduchess should be."

Chapter 2

Pauline Bonaparte, Princess Borghese

Fontainebleau Palace, south of Paris

November 1809

I stand in front of the mirror before he comes in, and as usual, I am shocked to see just how beautiful I am. I don't mean beautiful in the way that Josephine is beautiful. All that woman has are her great cow's eyes and a head of thick curls. I mean exquisitely beautiful, like one of Bartolini's marble statues. At twenty-nine, you would think I would already be losing my looks. But my waist is long and slender, and because I only gave birth once, my breasts are still high and taut. I turn, so that I can admire the effect of my Grecian gown from behind. In the candlelight, it is perfectly transparent.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 25 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 19, 2012

    I am surprised by the number of reviewers on other sites who cla

    I am surprised by the number of reviewers on other sites who claim this
    book is "historically accurate" and thus informative. I'm
    equally surprised about the dearth of comments concerning the author's
    "sources," most of which have been discredited over the
    decades by legitimate scholars of the period. This book is not
    historical fiction because it is replete with blatant factual errors and
    substitutes a tabloid-like fascination with sexual escapades for any
    attempt at real characterization. For example, Marie-Louise,
    erroneously referred to as Maria Lucia, is alleged to have begun an
    affair with Count Neipperg before she was betrothed to Napoleon. Anyone
    with the slightest familiarity with the Hapsburg court, or anyone who
    had even bothered to consult Wikipedia on the subject, would know that
    Marie-Louise was guarded day and night by governesses, ladies in
    waiting, and her own family, her books were rigorously censored, and her
    pets were all female. For her to have an affair under these
    circumstances is ludicrous. While it is entirely possible to demonize
    Napoleon, and many authors past and present have done so, why is it
    necessary? What does it add to the story? What does painting Pauline
    Bonaparte as a scandalous, possibly incestuous, woman do to enrich what
    should be, after all, Marie-Louise's story? What does the viewpoint
    of a mulatre servant add to the mix? The major problem is the author's
    obvious inexperience and equally obvious inability to recognize source
    material. She cites alleged "memoirs" in her "Historical
    Note" at the end of the book by individuals, to include
    Marie-Louise, Hortense de Beauharnais, and even Napoleon, who never ever
    wrote any memoirs. Apparently Moran could not distinguish between
    memoirs written about an individual but by another person from those
    written by the person him or herself. She is also unaware that some
    sources that she claims are primary are not primary because they were
    written much later. The historical inaccuracies are legion, from the
    Neipperg issue to the presence of Hortense as an alleged Mistress of the
    Robes to Marie-Louise to the burial place of Marie-Louise's son. The
    blatant misinterpretations of basic historical events range from the
    reasons for Marie-Louise's marriage to Napoleon through then number of
    Frenchmen killed during the Revolution to the number of soldiers killed
    during the Russian Campaign--or the reasons for their deaths--to the
    events surrounding Napoleon's abdication. I understand the need to
    modify history a little, here and there, to invent conversations, for
    instance, or add a few minor characters, when one writes historical
    fiction. But to write about such well-known individuals as these, about
    whom so much has already been written, and then commit so many
    historical faux pas is beyond the pale, I think. It certainly does a
    disservice to readers who think they've just enjoyed an historically
    accurate portrait of Marie-Louise, Napoleon, or anyone else in this
    book. If you want to know about Napoleon's second wife, read another
    book, or wait for someone with a scintilla of historical competence to
    write one. Moran's book is nothing more than historical fantasy, and
    not a good one at that. Save your money and your time.

    6 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 13, 2012

    This is the first book by Moran I've read. I want to improve my

    This is the first book by Moran I've read. I want to improve my English so I read a lot of books - not only historical fiction, but also biographies and History books -, as I do with French or Italian. The main reason because I chose The Second Empress is that I know pretty well the Napoleonic Era, so reading it would be easier to me.
    Marie Louise of Austria is one of the less favored figures of Napoleon's court. Of course there are several biographies on her. But as historical fiction is concerned, la bonne Louise - as Napoleon called her - doesn't get many love. Everybody prefers to write about Josephine, Marie Walewska or Desirée. So an historical novel about her seemed a refreshing and very original take on Napoleon's reign. And besides that, making her likeable is a challenge, for she was not. I know historians have been harsh on her, and probably is unfair to expect a weak-minded and easily manipulatable woman like Marie Louise could have reacted in any other way. However... however, the thing I cannot stand about her it's her behavior, rather indifferent, to her eldest child, Napoleon II. After his father's downfall the poor boy lived the rest of his short life as a prisoner in Vienna, stripped of his name, his heritage, his language and being virtually abandoned by his mother. By the way, I was surprised to read in the final note that the King of Rome is buried in Vienna, because his remains are in Paris since 1940. Intrigued by how the author would tell Marie Louise's story I was waiting eagerly to read the book.
    What a disappointment! What bothers me the most is the claim - see the historical note at the end of the book - of being accurate and close to the actual facts. I could not recognize the historical figure in Moran's character. First, her name. She never was known as Maria or Maria Lucia. Her family called her Luisl. As I said before, Napoleon called her Louise, so the story about 'oh, lets change her name to some more French' is one of the many liberties Moran has taken. No, I don't expect historical fiction being completely accurate. But I do expect some resemblance to historical, well-know facts. Of course she was not Neipperg's lover before 1814. They first met on 1812 by the way, during the empress stay in Dresden. Years later, in 1814, Neipperg was sent to Marie Louise's side to observe - or rather, spy - her and prevent her reunion with Napoleon in Elba, something that she was more or less determined to do.... Until she fell in love with Neipperg. The fact that both of them were married and with young children didn't prevent Neipperg and Marie Louise to go ahead with their relationship. The count's wife died in 1815. Few months after Napoleon's death, the former Empress became Neipperg's wife. By that moment she was the Duchess of Parma, and had two children with her beloved Neipperg. They didn't live with her, for she was afraid of the scandal. They didn't even know she was her mother until several years later. After Neipperg's death in 1829, Marie Louise married a third time with Count Charles-René de Bombelles.
    Being Spanish, I know very well all the negative aspects of Napoleon. Despite all this, what I learned at the school and what I have after years of research is a balanced view about him. In The Second Empress, this historical figure, so complex and fascinating, is reduced to a mere caricature. Even for a historical novel, this biased and unbalanced portrait remains too superficial.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 14, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    The Second Empress is the story of Napoleon’s second wife,

    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.

    (e-ARC was received from publisher in exchange for an honest review)

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2013

    I like the writing and the characters in this book. She got me

    I like the writing and the characters in this book. She got me hooked into wanting to know what happened next to the characters. I have read most all of her books.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2013

    Quick read

    This was a highly entertaining and well researched novel. With two young kids, I was able to read this in three nights! It was easy to follow, learn from, and I really loved the character development. The only thing I would have liked was a map of where the battles were and islands of excile. Great overall read!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 31, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    I confess, I don't recall a lot about Napoleon besides what I wa

    I confess, I don't recall a lot about Napoleon besides what I was taught in history. And lets face it, I don't think the history books are very nice to him. I'm not saying he was a great man, because I'm sure the truth lies somewhere in the middle. I wanted to read this to gain a little insight on the man, and well because I love Michelle Moran.

    I enjoyed Marie-Louise and the voice she gave this book. I admire those women from this time period who know their duty (even if I disagree with it) and do it with very little complaint. She marries Napoleon to save her father's kingdom. She's heard all the stories, and I think it helps her to better prepare for the type of man Napoleon might be. He wants heirs and loyalty and nothing more. She holds on to hope that maybe one day she can return to her kingdom and marry the man she truly loves. I admired her for that hope and for being the loving wife. I'm sure that Napoleon was a hard man to please.

    I had a hard time liking Pauline. But, I think she's suppose to be that way. She comes across as arrogant and selfish. She expects those around her to bow to her every whim. I'm glad we don't much visual when it comes to her sexual life, but wow. I wonder how much of that was true. Her relationship with her brother was a little odd, and I'm curious if they really had an incestuous relationship. I don't think the normal family bonds existed for them. She was as drunk on Napoleon's power and he was. I did find her relationship with her servant Paul to be interesting. I think it was the closest thing to normalcy and she didn't know how to handle it.

    I enjoyed both women's insight on Napoleon himself. He doesn't come across as quite so harsh in this book. From the author's note, it seems like she toned down how he treated women. I'm beginning to think I'll like him about as much as I do Henry VIII. I do have to admit that both men had a powerful effect on their respective counties.

    I enjoyed this novel and Michelle Moran has proves once again why she is on my must read list. I'll be eagerly awaiting her next novel. I'm wondering if it will be about Queen Victoria...one of my favorite British Monarch's!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 23, 2012

    good!

    Just enough history with a fantastic story line. Would recommend to anyone,

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 19, 2012

    Worth Reading at Least Once

    That Bonaparte family was bonkers. It really makes you reevaluate your opinion on the kind of man Napoleon was. My favorite part of the book is reading Moran's historical notes at the end. I like how she fesses up to the things she changed or added in to make the story flow.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 9, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Michelle Moran has written a novel about the courtly life of Nap

    Michelle Moran has written a novel about the courtly life of Napoleon Bonaparte and his family. The story is told from the point of view of Maria Lucia, Princess of Austria, who will become Napoleon's wife after he discards the cheating Josephine; Pauline, Napoleon's sister, who really believes she is like Cleopatra and in truth would like to marry Napoleon and be Empress; Paul Moreau, Napoleon's Haitian chamberlain, trusted by all and serving almost like a Greek chorus in this evolving tragedy; and other characters who have forgotten their origins and become ambitious and proud beyond the mere definition of those words. This is a stunning story!

    The reader will be hard-pressed not to have severe reactions toward these selfish and sad characters. Pauline seems like a crazed, delusional woman who becomes the master manipulator and shows very little "care" except to Paul and the Empress. Paul has achieved his freedom at the cost of a sacrifice beyond bearing; ironically he is respected and heard by Napoleon as the latter realizes the fawning lies he hears from all others in his court.

    The tension increases as the desired peace, after so many years of war, eludes France and war looms large, forcing changes and decisions that will show the essence of truth of each character herein.

    Michelle Moran has an exquisite gift of depicting characters. Yes, some are stock characters who are just plain nasty people, but others show an educated, compassionate, and cultured side that is the beauty lying behind this tale of pride that goeth before a grand fall!

    Masterfully told, Ms. Moran. No, it's not full of historical events but it does portray the personalities shaping those same events that have already been told numerous times in other places. Great historical fiction!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2012

    An overlooked figure in history

    Enjoyable book and an easy read. Characters are believable and there is plenty of actual history here to keep the read interesting. I am grateful someone finally wrote Napoleon's story, especially of his later years when his megalomania was totally out of control, from the viewpoint of "The Second Empress."

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 5, 2014

    I thought this book would be interesting because I honestly didn

    I thought this book would be interesting because I honestly didn't remember much I had learned about Napoleon in school except he was short and grumpy. The Second Empress by Michelle Moran does include the basic history of Napoleon and his two wives. The novel is separated into chapters in which one of three characters narrate. I don't like books written this way because I ALWAYS get confused about who is "speaking" at the time. I muddled through that and found the book an enjoyable read.


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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2014

    Great Read

    This was a quick read on the Napolian French period. The story gives life to key players during Napolians final years. It makes you want to know more while framing the three person narrative of Napolians second wife,his sister, and her lover. If you loved Cleopatra's Daughter you should enjoy this

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2013

    Interesting story of little known queen

    Pretty good book.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2013

    So good

    I loved this book!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 16, 2012

    Read it in one day!

    Another great book from Michelle Moran!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 9, 2012

    Second Empress five stars

    Another great book of Michelle Moran, can't wait for her next book The Empress of India

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 26, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Enjoyable

    Napoleon Bonaparte gained fame for rising from the dregs of poverty to conquer most of Europe in the late 18th to early 19th century. To do so, in addition to fighting many successful campaigns, he married family members to prominent members of his family to European nobility. Napoleon loved and married Josephine, but after several years of not being able to have children with her, he dissolves his marriage to her, allowing her to keep the title of Empress. This made him free to marry Marie-Louise of Austria. This novel focuses on this second marriage and the final days of his empires as his power diminishes and he loses his grip on the empire he controlled. The novel is written in the points of view of Marie-Louise, Pauline Bonaparte Borghese, and Paul - Pauline's Haitian servant.

    At the heart of the story is the animosity between Marie-Louise and her husband's sister, Pauline, adding interest and conflict. Paul is a charismatic character who loves and is loyal to his mistress. Throughout, he provides readers with a "sensible" view as the conflicts abounds. To write a novel in this era is a definite challenge. There are numerous characters, political machinations, and nobles from various countries. After having read the novel about Pauline's life by her descendent, Prince Lorenzo Borghese, I'm not certain Pauline was depicted accurately in Michelle Moran's novel. I didn't find it believable that she would desire to marry her own brother, Napoleon, in order to rule the world. There are a few other small details of historical inaccuracy those familiar with the era may identify. However, this is historical fiction and for those more interested in reading a good story rather dwelling in historical fact, the book is an entertaining and compelling read. Michelle Moran's interpretation of the characters provides a different slant and the conflicts between them makes for an interesting read.

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    Posted December 30, 2012

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    Posted October 26, 2012

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    Posted April 20, 2013

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