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Publisher's Summary

National best-selling 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 18-year-old daughter of the King of Austria, is told that the Emperor has demanded her hand in marriage, her father presents her with a terrible choice: marry the cruel, capricious Napoleon, leaving the man she loves and her home forever, or say no, and plunge her country into war.

Marie-Louise knows what she must do, and she travels to France, determined to be a good wife despite Napoleon’s reputation. But lavish parties greet her in Paris, and at the extravagant French court, she finds many rivals for her husband’s affection, including Napoleon’s first wife, Joséphine, and his sister Pauline, the only woman as ambitious as the emperor himself. Beloved by some and infamous to many, Pauline is fiercely loyal to her brother. She is also convinced that Napoleon is destined to become the modern Pharaoh of Egypt. Indeed, her greatest hope is to rule alongside him as his queen - a brother-sister marriage just as the ancient Egyptian royals practiced. Determined to see this dream come to pass, Pauline embarks on a campaign to undermine the new empress and convince Napoleon to divorce Marie-Louise.

As Pauline’s insightful Haitian servant, Paul, watches these two women clash, he is torn between his love for Pauline and his sympathy for Marie-Louise. But there are greater concerns than Pauline’s jealousy plaguing the court of France. While Napoleon becomes increasingly desperate for an heir, the empire’s peace looks increasingly unstable. When war once again sweeps the continent and bloodshed threatens Marie-Louise’s family in Austria, the second Empress is forced to make choices that will determine her place in history - and change the course of her life.

Based on primary resources from the time, The Second Empress takes readers back to Napoleon’s empire, where royals and servants alike live at the whim of one man, and two women vie to change their destinies.

©2012 Michelle Moran (P)2012 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"Compelling fiction.... Ostensibly the portrait of Marie-Louise of Austria, who became Napoleon's second wife, the novel's title could as easily apply to the emperor's sister, Pauline.... Another enjoyable historical from Moran." (Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.3 out of 5.0
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  • 2Ponds
  • Somerset, CA United States
  • 04-13-14

Good story, poor performance

I did like this story, although I found the accented narration very distracting. Granted they're Corsicans in France, but speaking with an accent that obstructs the narration doesn't make the story more authentic. Some parts were difficult to understand.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Distracting Performance

Would you try another book from Michelle Moran and/or the narrators?

Yes - I've read Moran's Egyptian series and loved those!

What didn’t you like about the narrators’s performance?

The pacing was incredibly slow.

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

It was interesting to hear about Napoleon's court, in particular his second wife and sister Pauline. I'd like to know more about these two women; Napoleon himself sounds awful.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Benoibe
  • New Orleans, LA, United States
  • 12-08-12

A brilliant novel!

I was so pleasantly surprised with this book! Concentrating on Napoleon's last 6 years, this book is a remarkable historical fiction novel. Based on actual facts, the author did an amazing job bringing these characters to life!

I stayed up all night to finish this! A must buy for anyone who enjoys historical biographies and historical fiction.

7 of 10 people found this review helpful

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Loved it!

The story and the narration of this book are outstanding! The narrators nailed the accents and made the story come to life. Very well done!!

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Overall interesting and educational

I really enjoyed this book as I know little about Napoleon or Marie Louise. Having read many of Michelle Moran's other books, this one was not my favorite. That speaks more to how good the others were than puts this book down. I wish there was more detail about Napoleons battles, but the book is more about the perspective from his court than him. Some reviews put down the performance but I really liked it. I thought the book was well told but the narrators, and despite accents, I had no trouble understanding anything that was said. Over all I would recommend this book!

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Fell flat for me...

I'm glad I got the audio book for this one because I needed to read it for a book club and I wouldn't have finished reading it otherwise. I tuned out a lot, the story was a little flat - expected without a lot of depth or surprises that kept me wanting to hear/read more. I also only really liked the male voice actor (he sounded more genuine and made it easier for me to know the different chracters by how he changed his voice), for some reason the other two didn't make it as believable or as easy to follow who was speaking when. I ended up returning it.

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interesting & captivating

Read by several narrators, this is a very interesting peek into the past & lives of Napoleon and his wives.

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Didn't want it to end

Really interesting characters and story. Wanted to learn more about them after the book was finished.

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  • Camille
  • ODENTON, MD, United States
  • 01-04-14

History Lesson/Soap Opera!

Well done! Michelle Moran does it again. She really knows how to find the most interesting stories of our world's history and keep the subject matter moving and juicy. The female narrators talked a little slowly for my tastes but I got used to it.

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meh

What did you like best about The Second Empress? What did you like least?

I know the french accents are supposed to provide atmosphere, but I would prefer a flat american acccent.

Would you recommend The Second Empress to your friends? Why or why not?

No. I don't think any of them would care about this time period.

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of the narrators?

Don't know any

Could you see The Second Empress being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

probably

0 of 6 people found this review helpful