I received this book as a first read from goodreads.com.
I was pleasantly surprised while reading this book. Being that the author is a descendant of the main characters, as well as being known as a reality TV show bachelor, I wasn't too optimistic as to the quality of the story and writing style. I was sorely mistaken! This was a very well written and intriguing story and the author did not try to paint his ancestors in rosy colors. It is not only a loose history of the Napoleonic era in France and Italy it is also a tortured love story with two people who seem to love to hate each other (and vice versa). Also, the story is told mainly through a character removed from the immediate action of the storyline, which gives an intriguing "fly on the wall" sort of detail. My opinion and feeling for the characters seemed to shift often, which is exactly what I love to happen when reading a story.
Sophie Leclerc is sent to live with the recent widow of a relative. Her own mother is dead and the widow's brother, who happens to be Napolean Bonaparte, seems to think it will be beneficial for both Sophie and is sister, Pauline. Sophie arrives and finds that her cousin is not only extremely spoiled and self-centered but also unbelievably beautiful and appealing. Sophie just can't keep from being fascinated by this creature. Not long after Sophie joins Pauline Bonaparte's household, a suitor steps up that captivates Pauline as well as all the powerful people surrounding her: Camillo Borghese. He is a prince of Italy and would make a great match for this highly sexual and recently widowed mother. Afterall, it doesn't look good for Napolean's sister to be having lovers all over the city.
Life with Pauline isn't easy for anyone, though, including Camillo and Sophie. Over the course of decades both have to deal with Pauline's whims and wishes, none of which take anyone else into consideration. It doesn't make life any easier that, every once in a while, Pauline seems to show a kindness to those close to her that surprise and captivate the receiver. Will Pauline ever learn to truly care for anyone other than herself?
A great read for anyone wo loves historical fiction and a love story that is anything but traditional.