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The Second Empress: A Novel of Napoleon's Court

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  8,470 ratings  ·  875 reviews
National bestselling author Michelle Moran returns to Paris, this time under the rule of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte as he casts aside his beautiful wife to marry a Hapsburg princess he hopes will bear him a royal heir

After the bloody French Revolution, Emperor Napoleon’s power is absolute. When Marie-Louise, the eighteen year old daughter of the King of Austria, is told th
Hardcover, 312 pages
Published August 14th 2012 by Crown (first published 2012)
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Asteropê There's a bunch on the author's website:
She has book club discussion questions for all her books - http://mi…more
There's a bunch on the author's website:
She has book club discussion questions for all her books -

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Full disclosure: I was provided with an Advanced Reader Copy of the book by the publishers.

I've read all of Moran's previous novels, and it's been a bit of a mixed bag for me. I didn't like her ancient Egypt novels at all - the protagonists were too one-dimensional, the plots were simplistic and implausible, she failed to capture the zeitgeist of the times, and all in all I was disappointed by how juvenile the writing was. Moran's previous novel, Madame Tussaud, offered a meatier plot, a more we
This is well written, interesting, well researched and fun. Napoleon and family were very weird.
Jun 20, 2012 rated it liked it
Where I got the book: electronic ARC from Edelweiss.

I don't think I've read a novel about Napoleon (this one doesn't really count) since Désirée , so Moran gets points for tackling what feels to me like a neglected historical niche (unless there's a whole slew of Napoleon books I don't know about somewhere). This story covers the latter part of the French Emperor's reign, when Napoleon starts getting dynastic ambitions and divorces Joséphine so that he can bring in Austrian princess Marie-Lou
*sigh* It seems as though Michelle Moran's novels are hit or miss for me. I absolutely loved Madame Tussaud and Cleopatra's Daughter, but cared little for Nefertiti or The Heretic Queen. Unfortunately The Second Empress will be joining the latter category, very disappointing.

The Second Empress has a number of issues, including the way in which it was told. Moran chose to have three narrators, alternating. I felt this was absolutely unnecessary. Marie Louise (the actual second Empress), Napoleon'
Rio (Lynne)
Jul 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
3.5 Stars

I enjoyed this book. Like Moran's other novels, it was easy and light to read. It was full of history, but at the same time not heavily detailed. Moran focused more on the relationships than the actual political wars. This being my first read on Napoleon, I wasn't sure of how accurate it was. I didn't want to google until I finished. Other's have mentioned in their reviews that this wasn't accurate, but from what I have now searched, except for some minor things (dates, etc...which the
Brittany B.
What an incredibly pleasant surprise! I ended up loving this book!

I have little interest in Napoleon up till now, but this book has sparked great curiosity. How did this family become so damned dysfunctional!? (And they really are a messed up crew!)

Between Napoleon and his sister Paulina, there is constant insanity in this book! Both are selfish, suspicion, jealous, very cruel, and conniving. Napoleon's greed brings him down, as we know. And Paulina's nymphomania seems the culprit for her demis
Sep 11, 2012 rated it it was ok
The Second Empress focused on the last few years of Napoleon’s reign. The author looked at this chaotic period through 3 people with different views – Pauline, Paul and Marie-Louise. After reading this book, I came to realize that I know so little about Napoleon’s rise and fall. After reading this book, I also felt that this book did not help me gain more insights to Napoleon’s rise and fall. The book is easy to read and fast paced. But it left me with a feeling of dissatisfaction. No substance ...more
Ashley Marie
Aug 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: histfic-misc, royalty
Pauline is delusional. I have no words for Napoleon than history hasn't already given him. Maria Lucia is everything and I'm so glad she was able to live her life the way she wanted, in the end. Paul was fascinating. The Bonapartes were truly something (something I wouldn't touch with a 99-1/2ft pole, but there we are). Shifted shelves because while this was a novel of Napoleon's court and they were in France for much of the book, it was very clear from the beginning that this was Maria Lucia's ...more
Dec 22, 2012 rated it it was ok
As with my last read, I'm really debating over a two- or three-star rating. I might change this one a couple times.

Why? Because as much as I can't get over "The Second Empress"'s many flaws, it ended up being a little addictive. (Much like Moran's super flawed "Nefertiti".)

"The Second Empress" tells the tale of a chunk of history I know very little about: Napoleon's reign, and specifically his second marriage. Truth be told, I didn't even know the name of Napoleon's second wife until I heard ab
This book follows the last 6 or so years of Napoleon’s reign, from the point of view of his second wife, his sister, and his sister’s chamberlain. The POVs vary from interesting to boring (Wife->sister->chamberlain) and likable to unlikable (Wife->chamberlain->sister), but as this was a period of history I know less about, I found it enjoyable and appreciated the historical note at the end. I know I have more Michelle Morans on my bookshelf and will probably gravitate towards them soon.
Dec 06, 2012 rated it it was ok
Thanksgiving is next week. My sister is arriving in three days and we’ll be busy with some planned activities. On Dec 8th I am having surgery done on my hand, which will then be useless for 4 – 6 weeks. Christmas is coming on fast, and I have nothing done… no cards written, no gifts purchased, and the house is not decorated.

And I have been reading ‘The Second Empress’ for what seems to be FOREVER. So even though there were TONS of other things I should have been doing, I set myself a deadline an
Oct 12, 2017 rated it did not like it
The Second Empress is set in the court of Napoleon Bonaparte, after his divorce from Josephine, and until his defeat at Waterloo. It is not a novel exclusively about the "second empress" - that is, Napoleon's second wife, Maria-Lucia of Austria (Marie-Louise).

This novel spans many years, and is told from the perspective of Empress Maria-Lucia, Napoleon's sister Pauline, and her servant Paul. However, for an "historical" novel, major events (especially the politically-motivated ones) are frustra
Jo Anne B
Aug 19, 2012 rated it liked it
The best part of this book was all the history of Napoleon Bonaparte. I think the author lured readers into this book by putting a woman on the front cover but she wasn't even the focus of the book, whereas Napoleon and his sister Pauline were. I did not like how the story was told by three narrators alternating each chapter. These were Napoelon's wife the Empress Maria-Lucia, his sister Pauline, and Pauline's servant Paul that loved her. I thought Paul's narration was pointless and made the sto ...more
Read It Forward
Jul 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Michelle Moran is my favorite historical fiction writer - her novels are so sexy and smart. She's great at fleshing out those little-known characters that help her tell a much larger story. I'm always left a little obsessed after reading one of her novels, and The Second Empress: A Novel of Napoleon's Court is no exception. Now I have to read more about Napoleonic France. And I'm especially obsessed with Napoleon's sister Pauline Borghese. You will be too! ...more
Nov 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed this book very much. The various viewpoints offered as the book progressed made the story richly enjoyable, as well as giving a whole picture to this turbulent historical time.
Dec 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
While I don't claim to be an expert on French history, I enjoyed reading how one author saw the times based on her assessment of what she gathered to support her story line. The Second Empress was an intense, well-written novel that I thoroughly enjoyed. I found it very intriguing for a variety of reasons. For one, it held my attention because of the rich historical setting and many details included in each chapter. Even though the story was set in early 1800s France, in some ways the scenario M ...more
Aug 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This was one of those novels where I couldn't wait for a quiet hour so I could read what happens next. What will the vicious Pauline do to embarrass Marie-Louise and will Queen Caroline show herself up as a Corsican peasant beneath all her furs? The story doesn’t get bogged down with military manoeuvrings, territorial claims or battles either, all of which tend to happen in the background, but concentrates on the dynamics of Napoleon’s court and the women who vie for his attention.

Napoleon doesn
Jun 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012-reads
The Second Empress is the story of an ambitious Emperor and the women who surround him during a volatile time in French history.

Since I was a teenager, I have had an infatuation with the love affair that was Napoleon and Josephine. I have read many books that contain their love letters and have found them and their story fascinating. I never gave much thought to the other women in his life. This book brought those women to light.

Told from various character perspectives, all of which are outstand
Laurie • The Baking Bookworm
This review, as well as many more, can also be found on my blog

Synopsis: The terror of the French Revolution is still fresh in the minds and hearts of France when Napoleon is at his peak of power in the late 1800's. A ruthless and powerful ruler Napoleon is feared by many but there is one thing that Napoleon still needs. An heir.

After Josephine's downfall Napoleon is focused more than ever on having a legitimate heir for his empire. He casts aside Josephine and
Laura Tenfingers
I found this book to be readable but I didn't connect with any of the characters nor did I get a sense of place or feeling for the setting. It was also barely about the second empress like the title suggests. Two thirds of the story and PoVs were about Napoleon's psycho sister! She was probably the only slightly developed character but not who I wanted to read about.

Shame. This is my second uninspiring Moran book and probably my last.
Disclosure: I received a free proof copy of The Second Empress through a First Reads giveaway in exchange for a review.

This story is told from the points of view of three characters: Marie-Louise, the Empress of France; her sister-in-law, Pauline Bonaparte; and Pauline's chamberlain, Paul (originally Antoine, but renamed at Pauline's command). Napoleon is divorcing his first wife, Josephine, and on the hunt for a new bride. He chooses a Hapsburg princess, Maria Lucia, seemingly against everyone
I quite enjoyed this historical fiction, provided by netgalley. I tend to be more of either a historical romance or a straight history reader, so this represented a bit of a change for me.

What did I like about this one?

- The writing style: first person all the way, but written from multiple characters' points of view. I really liked this. It could have been a bit confusing and a bit tedious but for the fact that the characters are very diverse and it really does give you the sense that you are i
Jul 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
Maria-Lucia, Archduchess of Austria, is planning to marry the man she loves and to one day rule Austria as regent for her ailing brother. Unfortunately for her, she is instead shipped off to France to be rechristened 'Marie-Louise' and become Napoleon’s “second empress” (replacing his beloved but barren Josephine). Once there she must contend not only with Napoleon, who is unsurprisingly pretty horrible as a husband, but also his eccentric family…most notably his sister Pauline, who spends much ...more
Margo Tanenbaum
Aug 07, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: france, 19th-century
I loved Moran's earlier novel about Madame Tussaud but found her new novel which takes place at the court of Napoleon less compelling. The novel takes place from 1809 to 1815, and alternates between three narrators, Maria Lucia, Princess of Austria, Pauline Bonaparte, Napoleon's sister, and Paul Moreau, a mulatto from Haiti who has come with Pauline Bonaparte to France as her chamberlain. Maria Lucia becomes a political pawn, much like her great aunt Marie Antoinette, when she is selected by Nap ...more
Jan 10, 2012 rated it liked it
I read Michelle Moran's 'Madame Tussaud' when it first came out and thoroughly enjoyed it. She brought the period of the French Revolution to life in a realistic and believable way, I felt like I had been transported back in time. I expected to find a similarly engrossing story in 'The Second Empress'.

While I did like this story, it was entertaining and easy to read, it doesn't have the same well-polished quality that 'Tussaud' has. The characters are not well developed and the period and the s
Having previously read and enjoyed Moran's novel Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution, I was looking forward to what I thought would be another enjoyable read.


Unfortunately this novel was boring, and completely unmemorable. It never grabbed my attention, and the characters all felt like stereotyped cardboard-cutouts. I went in hoping to learn something about the Napoleonic era, but all I got was a psycho, controlling, short bloke with management issues and petty in-fighting amo
Aug 14, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was published the day I left for Vienna so I downloaded it to my Kindle before I left. How appropriate to read this novel while I was in Austria as the main character, Marie-Louise, the second wife of Napoleon, was born and raised in Vienna as the eldest daughter of Emperor Franz I of Austria. While I was in Vienna, I visited Hofburg Palace and Schönbrunn Palace where Marie-Louise grew up. I also visited the Imperial Crypt where she was buried. I very much liked the structure of the pl ...more
Oct 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
This was 3.5 stars. I will round up because I feel like I learned something. I don't know much about Napoleon and his rise and fall. Actually, I still don't after reading this, but I do feel I know more than before.

This was an interesting read. I loved the research the author provided and the way it was personalized with private letters. After reading this, I think I'm going to have to throw some books about Napoleon on to my TBR pile. It surprises me though, that so many people lived in a perp
MaryannC. Book Freak
I truly enjoyed this. There is something special in the way Michelle Moran writes, it's straight-forward, no complicated frou-frou words, but engrossing. Sometimes I get a little bored with the whole Napoleon/Josephine rehash. Dont get me wrong, I love reading the history about the era and a good Historical Fiction thrown in also makes it very interesting. But, for me this was pretty entertaining, I loved Marie-Louise's strength and character. ...more
4.5 stars, I thoroughly enjoyed this book! I had been waiting for a book on Marie-Louise for ages, and I surely loved this. It might be a somewhat lighter, girlier read, but I learned a lot regardless! It has certainly whetted my appetite for the other books on the Bonapartes (what a family!) and the other books by Moran in my collection.
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
Sinopsis en Español // Synopsis in Spanish 1 1 Nov 20, 2014 10:23AM  
¿Por qué no una traducción al Español? 1 1 Oct 22, 2014 12:22PM  
Translation to Spanish, why not? 1 3 Jul 07, 2014 04:10PM  
Interview with Michelle Moran 6 47 Oct 14, 2013 03:27AM  
European Royalty: The Second Empress, Overall 6 31 May 30, 2013 01:09PM  
European Royalty: The Second Empress, through Chapter 21 4 17 May 30, 2013 12:54PM  

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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Michelle Moran is the international bestselling author of six historical novels, including Madame Tussaud, which was optioned for a mini-series in 2011. Her books have been translated into more than twenty languages.

A native of southern California, Michelle attended Pomona

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“The Empress Marie-Louise once asked me if I believed in ghosts.
'I find it hard to believe in something I've never seen,' I told her.
But perhaps ghosts aren't meant to be seen. Perhaps they are meant to be felt.”
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