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The Second Empress: A Novel of Napoleon's Court - Michelle Moran Guys, I loved Michelle Moran's YA novel Cleopatra's Daughter. And ever since I've been dying to read more by her as I've heard nothing but good things about her writing. And while I did enjoy this novel, there was something stopping me from falling in love with it the way I did with Cleopatra's Daughter.

I think there were some clues in the summary, namely that it's just SO LONG! There's so much going on and it focuses on 3 characters that are so different that it takes a LOT of time to explain everything and get a good sense of who they all are. And the book itself wasn't that big, spanning 312 pages. So when I was finally feeling comfortable with the characters, the story was over.

I thought this would center more around Napoleon and Marie-Louise's relationship, but while there's a lot of talk of the emperor, he's not really present all that much. It's more focused on the relationship between Paul and Pauline and Marie-Louise, who are the 3 main characters.

I really liked Marie-Louise (or rather Maria Lucia). I liked that she wasn't a whimpering woman, she actually tried to do something about her situation. I loved her for sacrificing herself and understanding at that age that it was necessary for her family. And I really respected that while she could have taken a lover while she was married, she had made the decision not to and to stay true to Napoleon. Well, up until he was dethroned, but I was kinda ok with the way that worked out. It must have been hard for her to compete with Jos├ęphine, who was still very much alive and present in Napoleon's life.

Pauline was another story, GAH, I really, very strongly disliked that woman! She was just delusional and selfish and cruel... I wanted to slap her! I get that she was sick, but it started way before that spiralled out of control! I really didn't like reading the chapter from her POV.

I could respect Paul in all other things than his love for Pauline. And towards the end his disappointment in her made him somewhat cruel as well, which while I applauded him for sticking up for himself, made me uncomfortable. I did like that he seemed to be the voice of reason for Pauline and Napoleon at times.

While I did enjoy this story and the look it gave me into these historical figures, I didn't feel an urgency while reading The Second Empress. I didn't feel the stress and fear at Napoleon's imminent downfall. Michelle Moran's writing was really engaging, but the characters put me off a bit.

My rating: 3 stars