SUMMARY -Eliza Monroe - daughter of America, innocent and young, desiring romance and handsome generals, wanting to be accepted.
Hortense de Beauharnais - daughter of Josephine Bonaparte, beautiful young woman, one who loves deeply, one who has a secret she cannot deny, but must try to escape from.
Madeleine - actress in the Comedie Francaise, treated like a slave by her own famous mother, in love with the son of Josephine Bonaparte, waiting for someone to take her away.
Three girls, three paths of life, intertwined and tangled. When thrown together, their lives will never be the same.
MY THOUGHTS -I was hoping to love this book...but even though I didn't, its still a good historical fiction that I enjoyed. It started out with 5-star material, and ended 3 star. But that's not bad. I appreciate it for what it was. However, there were definitely some major points that stopped me from loving the story. One thing was Susanne Dunlap's style. i was okay with telling apart three 1st person voices...until they were all thrown together into the same place. For the last 100 pages they were frustratingly similar.
CHARACTER NOTES -Eliza, Hortense, Madeleine, Caroline, Josephine, Napoleon, Eugene.... The list goes on. This is one large cast. Surprisingly, it wasn't hard to keep track, except maybe a little with Josephine and Caroline. Caroline is Napoleon's sister, and Josephine is married to Napoleon, and has two kids - Hortese and Eugene - from a different way. So...in a way, Caroline is Hortese's step-aunt. But they're around the same age. This could have been super confusing, but it was only a tiny bit confusing at first, and as time went on it got easier to understand. I appreciate this very very much.
Putting that mess aside, I really did like most of the characters because they were human. Eliza was a brat, doing the most infuriating things until finally she saw sense. (So don't give up on her!) Madeleine was mysterious...I suspected the twist about her at the end but wasn't too sure.
Hortense and Eugene, siblings, step-children of Napoleon, were by far my favorites. They were consistent, selfless, and people I could relate to because they weren't all about the ridiculous society rules that their parents/cousins followed.
Caroline was fascinating, but less consistent and I felt there were holes about her development in the end. She changed suddenly, it seemed. But maybe it was just my perception.
STORY NOTES -I like historical books that have reality and fiction mixed together. So, while Eliza, the Bonapartes, and all the stuff about France were real, Madeleine and Eugene and the events surrounding them were fabricated. I found this interesting and it kept my attention throughout.
For the most part I was totally glued to the story, but there were a few anticlimactic scenes that should have been riveting. The outcomes (Eliza's first kiss - which was weird, for who she kissed - Hortense's visit to the music teacher's house, and Caroline just disappearing) made me go, "Wait, where were we?"
I didn't love the climax because 1. it seemed a bit pointless; and 2. it was SO SAD. Thinking about it even now, I can't help but shudder at the thought of the events. However, the very end did sum up the story well and I liked the lessons the characters learned from their experiences.
SUMMING IT UP -A good mix of real life and good story-telling. I wish it had been better, but that's just me. I'm sure tons of readers will eat this book up like a gourmet dessert. And if I happen to come across one of Dunlap's other books, I'll definitely give it a try!
For the Parents -
A kiss or two, talk of affairs/lovers; an antagonist is addicted to opium; some brief but very saddening violence. Recommended 12+
*This ARC copy was provided by NetGalley (thanks a million!!) in return for an honest review. I was in no way compensated; all thoughts and feelings expressed are my own.*