The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte

The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte

by Ruth Hull Chatlien


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Gold Medal Winner, Historical Fiction Personage, 2014 Readers' Favorite Awards

First Place Winner, Turn of the 19th Century, 2014 Chaucer Awards for Historical Fiction

Tell the emperor that Madame Bonaparte is ambitious and demands her rights as a member of the imperial family.

As a clever girl in stodgy, mercantile Baltimore, Betsy Patterson dreams of a marriage that will transport her to cultured Europe. When she falls in love with and marries Jerome Bonaparte, she believes her dream has come true-until Jerome's older brother Napoleon becomes an implacable enemy.

Based on a true story, The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte is a historical novel that portrays this woman's tumultuous life. Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte, known to history as Betsy Bonaparte, scandalized Washington with her daring French fashions; visited Niagara Falls when it was an unsettled wilderness; survived a shipwreck and run-ins with British and French warships; dined with presidents and danced with dukes; and lived through the 1814 Battle of Baltimore. Yet through it all, Betsy never lost sight of her primary goal-to win recognition of her marriage.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781937484163
Publisher: Amika Press
Publication date: 12/02/2013
Pages: 496
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Ruth Hull Chatlien has been a writer and editor of educational materials for nearly thirty years, specializing in U.S. and world history. She is the author of Modern American Indian Leaders for middle-grade readers. Her award-winning first novel, The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte, portrays the tumultuous life of Elizabeth "Betsy" Patterson Bonaparte. Her second novel is Blood Moon: A Captive's Tale.


Chatlien's debut historical fiction celebrates the drive and desires of the real-life Betsy Patterson, a Baltimore merchant's daughter who married a Bonaparte.

As a child and young woman, Betsy Patterson was precocious, lovely, dismissive of America and not terribly eager to sit around and do what she was told. Of her American suitors, she laments, "Marriage to any one of them would sentence me to a life...bearing child after child until my mind is rusted from disuse." When a European lieutenant comes to Baltimore, Betsy finds love and opportunity-the lieutenant is, after all, Jerome Bonaparte, Napoleon's youngest brother. The two wed, but when Napoleon refuses to acknowledge the marriage, which may hinder the potential for political alliances, the newly minted Madame Bonaparte discovers that a court life is not so easily attainable for an American girl. Her ambition doesn't subside, however. Instead, it underlies her new mission to receive recognition of her union, which means pitting herself against the most powerful man in the world. "Napoleon dismissed me as expendable because I am American and a woman," she says. "Someday I will make him see that he was wrong on both counts." Betsy is a captivating heroine whose independence and intelligence are given their proper due in Chatlien's novel. Against the backdrop of world events, such as the battle at Waterloo and the War of 1812, Betsy fights her own, smaller battles, ignoring censure from her stern father and other compatriots who criticize her tenacity and her scandalous French fashions. Her story has suspense, a rapidly moving plot and rich details of 19th-century life, from quotidian tasks to grand parties with Dolley and James Madison at the Presidential Mansion....It undoubtedly offers compelling insights into the minds of real, deeply engrossing individuals.

A fascinating account of one woman's fight to defiantly stray from her predetermined path.

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The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
JimStr More than 1 year ago
A great story well told! The main character, Betsy, is delightfully complex. The plot is nicely intertwined with American history. The writing is engaging. All in all, a great  read. 
ReadersFavorite More than 1 year ago
Reviewed by Lit Amri for Readers' Favorite The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte by Ruth Hull Chatlien tells the true story of Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte, better known as Betsy. She was the daughter of a Baltimore merchant, William Patterson, and was the first wife of Jérôme Bonaparte and sister-in-law of Emperor Napoleon I of France. I enjoyed learning about Elizabeth ‘Betsy’ Bonaparte as my knowledge about her is almost non-existent. Getting to know one of the historical figures famously known as the ‘Notorious Belle of Baltimore’ through this novelized fact-based book is pleasant and enlightening at the same time. Betsy attended Madame Lacomb's Academy and studied history, culture, mathematics and French – knowledge that would later serve her well. I personally think that Odette, Madame Lacomb’s slave, was an important catalyst for choices that Betsy made in her life – regardless whether Odette’s prophecy was legit or not in the first place. It still amazes me what we can learn from someone back in the past. Betsy’s determination transcends time because she was a strong-minded woman who shaped her own destiny, despite the obligatory limitations that society and her family tried to impose on her. Her choice to be with the man she loved, her fight for her marriage, plus her daring French fashion sense showcased her strength, charisma and wit. This is a laudable work from Chatlien. Her writing resonates with elegance, yet is simple and clear. It is easy to become absorbed in this well-written historical novel. The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte will appeal to all avid readers of the genre.
MariaD1 More than 1 year ago
Enjoyable historical fiction. I received a complimentary copy of this book as a part of a book tour in exchange for a fair and honest review. I rated it 4 out of 5 Stars. I’ve always enjoyed reading about women who are ahead of their time; women who impact society and improve themselves, the role of women and how women are perceived so I looked forward to reading The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte, a story about Elizabeth “Betsy” Patterson Bonaparte, the woman who became the wife of Napoleon’s younger brother, Jerome. Knowing nothing about Napoleon’s family, other than they enjoyed a positions of wealth and power while Napoleon was in control, I was pleased by the author’s, Ruth Hull Chatlien, attention to the historical and political details throughout the retelling of Betsy’s life. While not every character in the book is likeable, Ms. Chatlien does a wonderful job bringing Betsy, Jerome and many of the prominent people of their day to life. The oldest daughter of a socially, politically and wealthy businessman, Elizabeth “Betsy” Patterson, was born and raised while America, the nation, was being formed. While she and her family lived in Baltimore, they regularly entertained and were visited by prominent members of our early government. A well educated young woman, and beautiful to boot, Betsy was full of life, adventure and a desire to be recognized for her wit and opinions. Somewhat hampered by the role of women at the time, her own mother had limited power in her own home due to her husband’s dominating personality and the expectations society placed on women, Betsy was determined to be more. Ms. Chatlien does a wonderful job developing Betsy’s character as she ages throughout the book; she brought out Betsy’s strengths and weaknesses in equal light and lets the reader develop their own opinion about her. One element of Betsy’s character which Ms. Chatlien showcases is Betsy’s love and devotion to her husband and her family, while Betsy and Jerome had their differences and occasional disagreements, Betsy truly loved Jerome and their marriage became the reason for her life. While Betsy and Jerome’s marriage was accepted and even lauded as a social coup in the U.S., Betsy is treated to a hard dose of reality when she and Jerome travel to France and Napoleon refuses to acknowledge their marriage. It didn’t help that Jerome had neglected to inform his new wife that he wasn’t of legal age to marry without his family’s consent (he was only 19 when they married and the legal age was 21). While Napoleon dismissed Betsy, “because I am an American and a woman”, she fought to get her marriage recognized and to make political alliances. Set against the backdrop of world events, the Battle at Waterloo and the War of 1812, Betsy deals with her father’s disapproval, those who criticized her tenacious social mobility and daring French fashions. A vivid, well written historical fiction, The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte by Ruth Hull Chatlien introduced me to a strong woman who proved she had the right and ability in shaping her society. Showcasing that charm, wit, a flair for fashion and a healthy dose of political suaveness are strong weapons in a woman’s arsenal, Betsy was a feminist before her time. I look forward to reading more of Ms. Chatlien’s work.
Griperang72 More than 1 year ago
I thought this was a very good book and am glad I decided to read it. This is the first book written by Ruth and I will watch for others by her. The author did a good job with the historical detail of this book. This book will keep you engrossed and turning the pages as the author does a very good job of holding your attention. I did not even know about the Bonaparte so it was nice to read and learn about a new to me historical figure. Betsy was a strong woman and it really showed in the way this story was told. If you are a fan of historical fiction and/or strong women characters then this book is for you. 
wordsandpeace More than 1 year ago
Lively portrait of a strong woman, victim of history and of her milieu. Elizabeth Patterson was born at the end of the 18th century. She grew up in Baltimore. She was very beautiful, was very smart, and had an amazing memory. And her heart was full of dreams, of living abroad in Europe and marrying some dashing rich noble. One day, she meets just the one: Jerome Bonaparte, none other than Napoleon’s brother. And they do marry, and I won’t tell you more about how her life turned out. I will only say, probably not at all the way you might imagine . But keep in mind the spirit of the time, when women had to respect their father’s mind and will – and Betsy’s father has definitely a mind of his own. And things get much more complicated as Napoleon‘s mind was quite formidable as well. The book will show you how he tried to dominate as a tyrant not only over France but also over every member of his own family. The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte is very well done. It gives you an excellent background of the socio-economic and political context of the time, in France, Europe (with Napoleon’s doing and undoing), and in the United States. The description of culture and literary life in Paris is excellent as well. It certainly depicts very strong and determined characters, sometimes to the point of obsession, especially if you consider Betsy’s life long fight for herself and then for Bo, projecting on him all she could not attain for herself – I will let you meet Bo yourself. It seems her desires were so strong that they blinded her many a times to what was certainly going to happen. Betsy was for me a very dreamy and tragic figure, never totally at ease in the world that was hers, never totally feeling at home for long in any country she tried to settle, always fighting for her place in a world of culture and respect of all. Fittingly, the book ends with a vivid scene produced by Betsy’s powerful imagination. VERDICT: I highly recommend this book to all who enjoy historical fiction, strong women, and/or reading about the Bonapartes. On a very detailed and informative background, Chatlien manages to draw the lively portrait of a strong woman, victim of history and of her milieu. You will want to accompany Betsy all along and discover what fate has in store for her and those she loves.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Through meticulous research and deft writing, Ruth Hull Chatlien brings to life two lesser known, but incredibly fascinating, historical characters—Betsy and Jerome Bonaparte. At a time when women had few options and little say in their lives, Betsy forges her own path and follows her desires. While you admire her courage and drive to follow her dreams, and you initially love her for her persistence, as the tale unfolds, you dislike her, become exasperated by her, and then fall in love with her again. To make characters so dynamic and relatable is a gift that few authors have. These compelling characters, the intriguing plot, and the richly detailed prose make it impossible to stop reading. For anyone who loves historical fiction, it's a must read.