The great-niece of Queen Marie Antoinette, Maria Lucia of Austria, becomes Napoleon’s unwilling second wife in Michelle Moran’s look into this second empress of France. Maria Lucia is Austrian, of the celebrated Hapsburg line, and Napoleon wants a wife of royal blood to give him the heir Josephine has long denied him. Now Marie Louise, Empress of France, she is stunned by the goings on in the Bonaparte households. Napoleon, prone to violent mood swings, flawed logic, and a kind of emotional dependence on his first wife, uses Marie Louise as a broodmare until she successfully produces their son, Franz. Napoleon’s gregarious, promiscuous sister Pauline takes numerous lovers, probably suffers from venereal disease, and entertains thoughts of marrying her brother to from a brother-sister monarchy like those in Egypt. But Europe has had enough of Napoleon’s bullying ways. When Waterloo fells Napolean’s titanic ambitions, Marie Louise is released, anxious to return home to Austria to her first love and a life away from Napoleon’s demonic, destructive ambitions.
Michelle Moran picks up where her “Madame Tussaud” novel (reviewed here) leaves off. The author skillfully balances the POVs between Marie Louise, Pauline, and Paul (Pauline’s loyal chamberlain). From their eyes, you see the madness and ambition which consumed the Bonapartes, the courage with which Marie Louise faces her destiny, and the happy ending everyone experiences once the exiled Napoleon finally breathes his last.
Amazon link is here.