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 Joséphine, 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