Book Review of “The Second Empress” by Michelle Moran


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I have been all about some historical fiction lately. It’s one of my favorite genres but that’s all I’m wanting to read right now, primarily French court historical fiction. I didn’t own any books like that so I went shopping. One of my favorite authors is Michelle Moran so I knew I had to pick up her book, The Second Empress. Other amazing books by her are: Nefertiti, The Heretic Queen and Cleopatra’s Daughter. Anyways, I’ll give you the book synopsis and then my thoughts. This review will have spoilers but this book is closely based on history so it’s not like spoilers really matter.

The Synopsis

After the bloody French Revolution, Emperor Napoleon’s power is absolute. When eighteen year old Marie-Louise is told that the Emperor has demanded her hand in marriage, her father presents her with a terrible choice: marry the cruel, capricious Napoleon or refuse and plunge her country into war. To save her father’s throne, Mary-Louise is determined to be a good wife. But at the extravagant French court, she finds many rivals for her new husband’s affection, including Napoleon’s sister Pauline, who is fiercely jealous, utterly uncontrollable, and the only woman as ambitious as the emperor himself. When war once again sweeps the Continent and bloodshed threatens Marie-Louise’s family, the second empress is forced to make choices that will determine her place in history—and change the course of her life.

My Thoughts

Going into this book I really knew nothing about Napoleon or the French court during this time. This book was not only well written and entertaining but very historically accurate, which is a huge bonus in historical fiction. Once I finished the book I did some reading about the actual history and it’s obvious that Moran really did her research before writing this.

I think my only complaint with the whole story was when Queen Marie-Louise is giving birth to her son. This story is told through multiple narrators, not just the Queen, which makes the story multidimensional and interesting but it can take away some of the depth from the characters. The birth of Napoleon and Marie-Louise’s son is told from a different character’s point of view and you have no idea how Marie-Louise is feeling or what she’s thinking. After the birth there’s a time jump and the child’s birth really is never talked about. You would think such a momentous occasion would be more elaborated on, especially by the mother. It just felt rushed to me but in the grand scheme of the book it really didn’t matter.

If you like historical fiction I highly recommend Michelle Moran’s books. She’s accurate and entertaining at the same time which is something some historical fiction writers struggle with. Do you like historical fiction? Who’s your favorite writer? Thanks for reading and have a great day!

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