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The Second Empress

by Michelle Moran

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1809. The French Revolution is over, but the bloodshed in Paris may continue under the rule of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. Based entirely on primary resources, this recreation details Napoleon Bonaparte's wildly promiscuous court and the women who tried to tame it.

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Much has been written about Napoleon's life, his loves, his court, his conquests both military and sexual. Moran, however, turns her attention to Austrian archduchess Marie Louise, who became Napoleon's second wife because of his desire for a male heir to the empire he was building.

It is a well-written historical fiction, plausibly illuminated characters, and good material and historical detail. Altogether a good bit of escapist literature. ( )
  fiverivers | Oct 29, 2019 |
i love michelle moran’s writing style; she manages to evoke every era she chronicles. however, i was pretty underwhelmed with this novel. the pacing and characterization seemed rushed and the alternating narrators didn’t add much to the story. also seemed a bit historically iffy, but i don’t know much about the french empire so Who’s To Say ( )
  sulla2 | Oct 13, 2019 |
Just when I thought the Tudors were the ultimate dysfunctional family, along come the Bonapartes. I will say that they were very resourceful! Also selfish, egotistical, and greedy. Napoleon was an unpleasant character, even if he was a military genius. Until he allowed his huge ego to stand in the way. This is the story of his second marriage to an Austrian princess, Marie-Louise. Comsidering her great aunt was Marie Antoinette, I am sure she truly had incredible misgivings about this marriage.
I have read some of the negative reviews of this book and I must respectfully disagree with them. I enjoyed the historical detail in the beginning. I also found the book extremely easy to read. The author switched seamlessly between three different personalities for narration: Marie-Louise, Pauline Bonaparte, and her chamberlain Paul Moreau.
This is the second of Michelle Moran's books that I have read. I will continue reading her other novels. This is a definite recommendation! ( )
  a1stitcher | Jun 22, 2019 |
I'm classifying Michelle Moran's The Second Empress as a historical romance because it strays so far from the historical record as to be almost a fantasy.  This book is set during the latter years of Napoleon's reign, from late 1809, when he divorced Josephine, to his exile to Elba in 1814.  The second empress is Marie Louise of Austria, who is one of the three narrators of this tale.  The other two are Napoleon's rakish sister Pauline Bonaparte, and Paul Moreau, the (fictional) Haitian mulatto servant and chamberlain Pauline brings back from Saint-Domingue after her first husband LeClerc dies there.

All of the audiobook readers use heavy accents (German for Marie, French for Paul and Pauline) in their reading, which makes them difficult to understand at times.  The actress who reads Pauline additionally gives her a languid attitude, perhaps fitting to the character, but I felt it made her even more difficult to comprehend.

I think the fact that this book is mostly fiction is another reason I nearly forgot about it after listening to it.  One example early on that really bothered me was Pauline complaining that she and her sisters were "sent to be maids in the grand Clary house" in Marseille and used for "sexual favors."  There's no proof for this whatsoever, in fact, Julie Clary, daughter of a silk merchant (not a nobleman) married Napoleon's brother Joseph.  Marie Louise's supposed love affair with Neipperg before marrying Napoleon also raised red flags for me - that would NEVER have happened with an archduchess in Catholic Austria!

This book *is* a novel, so it's okay if the story is not the whole truth, but to misrepresent history in the author's note at the end and imply truth where it does not exist is definitely *not* okay.  Moran states that she used primary sources; she did not.  Another reviewer did an excellent job outlining all the problems with this book, so I won't go into them here.  Suffice to say I really can't recommend this book.

© Amanda Pape - 2018

[This e-audiobook was borrowed from and returned to a public library.] ( )
2 vote riofriotex | May 1, 2018 |
It's official, I'm definitely a Michelle Moran fan for historical fiction. As with her first book, in this book Moran delivers somewhat obscure historical facts interwoven with well known historical facts. This book is about Napoleon and his family through three voices: that of his seemingly brilliant pollitician second wife, the Austrian princess who must have had the fate of her great Aunt Marie Antoinette formost in her mind all through her time in France; his sister Pauline - talk about family skeletons in the closet; and her chamberlain from Haiti whom she renamed Paul. There are also an abundance of quotes from letters between Napoleon and Josephine, as well as other quotes from the time. Interesting and page turner, this definitely fits if you are in need of good historical fiction read. ( )
  sydsavvy | Apr 8, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Michelle Moranprimary authorall editionscalculated
Alexi-Malle, AdamNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bering, EmmaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Franks, TanyaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Cairo, July 25, 1798. You will see in the newspapers the result of our battles and the conquest of Egypt, where we found resistance enough to add a leaf to the laurels of this army.
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1809. The French Revolution is over, but the bloodshed in Paris may continue under the rule of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. Based entirely on primary resources, this recreation details Napoleon Bonaparte's wildly promiscuous court and the women who tried to tame it.

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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.
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