The Second Empress: A Novel of Napoleon's Court

The Second Empress: A Novel of Napoleon's Court

by Michelle Moran
3.8 32

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The Second Empress: A Novel of Napoleon's Court 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 32 reviews.
Maria_de_Madrid More than 1 year ago
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.
kopsahl More than 1 year ago
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)
B-2 More than 1 year ago
Basically, a soap opera which happen to be set in the Napoleonic era. It’s not that the book is particularly bad or boring. It’s just if you read any good recent non-fiction (ex.”Napoleon” of Andrew Roberts), the same events and personalities will show themselves to be much more complex, multidimensional and interesting, instead of black/white melodramatic caricatures presented here. I grade books as Buy and Keep ( BK), Read a Library Copy (RLC) and Once-I-Put-It-Down-I-Couldn’t-Pick-It-Up (OIPD-ICPU). This one was a light-weight RLC.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fitst book of Michelle Moran I have read. It is historical fiction, and so the author has taken liberties with her story, but thats why its fiction. I purchased this book around 5pm: finished it about 1am that night. The story was so vivid, I couldn't put it down! I wish it would have been a trilogy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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!
pagese More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Just enough history with a fantastic story line. Would recommend to anyone,
LaughingMagpie More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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."
Mirella More than 1 year ago
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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BooksMania More than 1 year ago
Having read Madame Tussaud, of course this one has to follow ! I deeply enjoyed it, and the only thing that spoiled it a little was Pauline's  incestuous thoughts toward her brother. The first half of the book reminded me of another novel, The Queen's Confession by Victoria Holt. Marie Antoinette's preparation for marriage and trip to France and adjusting to the new Court is very much alike. For whom enjoyed  this , I recommend other similar books.  So far, my second favorite after Madame Tussaud, followed by Nefertiti.
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ToReadPerchancetoDream More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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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