It is 1809, and while the French Revolution is over, the bloodshed in Paris continues under the reign of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. Although he has conquered much of Europe and is considered one of the most formidable generals in the world, Napoleon still lacks one important thing -- an heir. Convinced that his faithful wife Josephine will never produce one, he divorces her and begins the search for a new bride. His choice lands on the unwilling Austrian Princess, Marie-Louise, whose great-aunt, Marie Antoinette, suffered a terrible fate at the hands of the French. But once Napoleon makes his intentions known, not even Marie-Louise's father can save her from what is certain to be an unhappy marriage.
After Marie-Louise arrives in France, she is treated to a spectacle beyond anything she could have ever imagined in Austria. From lavish parties that would have made Marie Antoinette blush with shame, to temper tantrums thrown by the Emperor’s spoiled siblings, the French court is wild, juvenile, and extravagant. The worst offender of them all, however, is Pauline Bonaparte, Napoleon’s promiscuous sister who is doing everything she can to encourage Napoleon to divorce his new wife. Her dream is to take the imperial crown for herself--just as the Egyptians did--by marrying her own brother. When Marie-Louise uncovers the relationship that exists between her husband and his sister, she is horrified. Surrounded by duplicitous courtiers and untrustworthy family members, the new Empress finds two unlikely allies at court: Hortense, the beautiful daughter of Joséphine, and Paul, the insightful servant Pauline took away with her after visiting the island of Haiti.
Based entirely on primary resources, The Second Empress recreates Napoleon Bonaparte’s wildly promiscuous court--and the women who tried to control it.