THE SECOND EMPRESS
Moran delivers a novel based on Napoleon’s second marriage to Marie-Louise of Austria, using the dominant women in his life to tell the story. She centers the tale on these women, making for a colorful but light read. Focusing more on fashion and the dynamics between them than history (she notes that she has twisted events to suit her fictional purpose) makes this ideal for those seeking a simplistic but nicely crafted work of historical fiction.
After Napoleon’s divorce from Josephine, he bullies Marie-Louise, Princess of Austria, into becoming his wife, hoping a child will legitimize his claim to royal status. Though young, Marie-Louise faces Napoleon’s jealous and manipulative sister, Pauline, and his stepdaughter Hortense with grace and a level head. In reality, she is awaiting the day Napoleon falls, so she can be reunited with her beloved Austrian count. Once the emperor is banished to Elba, Marie-Louise is free, but when he makes his escape she is torn and has no idea where her life will take her. (CROWN, Aug., 300 pp., $25.00)