I love Michelle Moran's work since she blends an interesting story with significant historical events. I was lucky enough to win an ARC copy/First Reads giveaway of Moran's second novel involving the French Revolution. "The Second Empress" focuses on Napoleon's second wife, the Austrian princess Marie-Louise. I just finished "Madame Tussaud" so I was ready to get into this story. One complaint I have about this book is that Moran condensed quite a bit for this time period to the last six years of Napoleon's reign. Marie-Louise's story is told in first-person by three different characters: Marie-Louise herself, Napoleon's sister, Pauline Bonaparte (Princess Borghese), and Pauline's chamberlain, a former Haitian named Paul Moreau. Personally, I get a little annoyed when there are so many points of views, and I think Paul Moreau's narrative was unnecessary. I didn't find him very interesting.
Realistically, I knew very little about the French Revolution and then Napoleon. To be honest, my only knowledge of Napoleon comes from "The Count of Monte Christo" with him being exiled to Elba and then escaping to create a new army. Marie-Louise is from the Hapsburg line and a niece of Marie Antoinette (who unhappily lost her head fifteen years prior). She is very kind with smarts that only a Royal can have. Her father molded her to be the ruler of Austria, so you really enjoy her as a character. Marie-Louise does not like the fact she must marry Napoleon since she is already in love with someone else, but she knows she must do her duty for her country.
Since I tend to like villains, I really enjoyed the chapters narrated by Pauline, Napoleon's sister. Since Moran has written many books about ancient Egypt, I thought it was interesting Pauline wanted to rule as the Ptolemy's did with her brother as ruler and husband. Poor Pauline was a whore and had the clap to prove it. She was very over the top, but again, I always like a sexy villain. Her love and need for her chamberlain, Paul, seemed out of character for this bourgeois character who felt entitled to be the most beautiful and perfect woman in all of France.
Jen's Rating: ****