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The Second Empress: A Novel of Napoleon's Court Hardcover – Deckle Edge, August 14, 2012

4.2 out of 5 stars 213 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"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

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; First Edition edition (August 14, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307953033
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307953032
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (213 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #541,774 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
After finishing Michelle Moran's fantastic novel of the French Revolution, Madame Tussaud, I did something I very rarely do: I immediately put another of her books on hold at the library. Usually I like to space out an author's novels, as I get bored with reading similar works close together; but that particular book was such a treat that I could not resist one more of her offerings before I dove back into another busy school year. To say that I am disappointed in Ms. Moran's latest release, the story of Marie Louise, the second wife of Napoleon Bonaparte, would be a serious understatement. It barely made three stars for me.

All of the elements that made Madame Tussaud so powerful are seen only in bare glimpses in this novel-in fact, when they shimmered around the edges of the prose I only felt more frustrated by Moran's inability to adequately develop them here. For instance, character development. To use Napoleon as an example-courtiers were endlessly talking about his personality and actions, as opposed to writing more actual scenes in which he appeared and showing him for what he was. This book, like her previous novel, uses multiple narrators. Personally, I would have given Napoleon a voice, in order to flesh out his relationship with Marie Louise more fully and show us their interactions from his perspective. One narrator, Paul, Pauline Bonaparte's chamberlain, seemed a very unnecessary voice to me, and I could have done without his viewpoint. By the time I finished Tussaud I cared about those people, because Moran had woven me into their psyches, but with this book, the writing just felt like tabloid gossip which never drew me into caring about the characters as human beings.

Her handling of the setting left me feeling similarly flat.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I enjoy historical fiction when it is well-written and, above all, well-researched. Because I am a historian with a specialty in the French Revolution and Napoleonic era, the kind that teaches college classes, and writes books and articles with lots of endnotes and bibliographies, reading historical fiction is a pleasure. However, I generally avoid books about the Revolution and Napoleon because I'm hypercritical and tend to throw them against the wall or in the garbage at the first sign of a factually challenged scene. So why did I read this one? I read it because the reviews were amazing, most of them, and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

The fuss, unfortunately, was about nothing at all. This book can be charitably described as the National Enquirer version of the brief life of an utterly forgettable Austrian teenager who married into a Corsican mafia clan, whose don was a misogynist with no manners and an ego the size of Mars, and whose female family members were casting extras from Jersey Shore.

If Moran had stated her objective in the beginning of this book, rather than in the completely misleading "Historical Note" at the end, I still might have saved my time and money. She states she is harsh in her treatment of Napoleon because "the evidence warrants it," and that "even the most outrageous aspects of this book were taken from primary sources." I do not believe Moran would recognize a real primary source if she met it in a well-lit room, and she certainly does not have the ability to discern which sources, primary or otherwise, are credible and which are not. She cites memoirs by Marie-Louise, who never wrote any herself, Hortense de Beauharnais, who never wrote anything herself, and Napoleon, who certainly never wrote his memoirs.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
THE SECOND EMPRESS covers the last six years of Napoleon's reign and specifically touches on his relationships with his second wife, Maria-Lucia of Austria and his sister, Pauline. It is told through the alternating voices of Maria-Lucia, Pauline, and Pauline's chamberlain, Paul Moreau who came to serve her after Haiti was freed from French rule. According to the author's historical notes, the novel is based almost entirely in fact from letters and memoirs that were written by Napoleon and the people around him.

The novel begins just after Napoleon's divorce from his one great love, Josephine, who he has discovered has been having an affair and who has been unable to give him an heir. He takes the opportunity to legitimize his rule by marrying into royal blood and chooses Maria-Lucia, Princess of Austria, to be his bride. She does not want to go, but he blackmails her by threatening to depose her father, the king, if she refuses to become his wife. And so Maria-Lucia unwillingly travels to France to face not only the petulant and grandiose emperor, but his vain and equally grandiose sister. There, she is given everything she might desire in exchange for giving Napoleon a child. Pauline is incredibly jealous of Marie-Louise (her name has been changed by Napoleon to sound more French) as her ambition is to rule alongside Napoleon as his consort, just as Egyptian brothers and sisters did. She is self-centered and mentally unstable, but does as her brother orders and tolerates having Marie-Louise in the palace.

Marie-Louise has been in love with Adam Neipperg, an Austrian Count for many years and is heartbroken to leave him behind, but he, along with her father, promises to come for her.
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