Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Accidental Empress by Allison Pataki

"Empress, we are ready for you." She turns, a small nod and a flourish of her hand. "Time to assume the role." She slips her arms through the sleeves. The silken fabric, expertly stitched and tailored, molds around her curves. My, but she has never quite grown accustomed to how heavy these things are. Heavier it seems, than her own tired frame." Opening Paragraph

Synopsis: New York Times bestselling author Allison Patai follows up on her critically acclaimed debut novel, The Traitor’s Wife, with the little-known and tumultuous love story of “Sisi” the Austro-Hungarian Empress and captivating wife of Emperor Franz Joseph. The year is 1853, and the Habsburgs are Europe’s most powerful ruling family. With his empire stretching from Austria to Russia, from Germany to Italy, Emperor Franz Joseph is young, rich, and ready to marry. Fifteen-year-old Elisabeth, “Sisi,” Duchess of Bavaria, travels to the Habsburg Court with her older sister, who is betrothed to the young emperor. But shortly after her arrival at court, Sisi finds herself in an unexpected dilemma: she has inadvertently fallen for and won the heart of her sister’s groom. Franz Joseph reneges on his earlier proposal and declares his intention to marry Sisi instead. Thrust onto the throne of Europe’s most treacherous imperial court, Sisi upsets political and familial loyalties in her quest to win, and keep, the love of her emperor, her people, and of the world. With Pataki’s rich period detail and cast of complex, bewitching characters, The Accidental Empress offers a captivating glimpse into one of history’s most intriguing royal families, shedding new light on the glittering Hapsburg Empire and its most mesmerizing, most beloved “Fairy Queen.”

I truly enjoy reading books by author Allison Pataki and this one was no exception. She strikes a wonderful balance between presenting historical descriptions and moving the story forward. The prose is always effortless and the story always interesting. Her depiction of Sisi is terrific. She is charismatic, vivacious, energetic, a woman who grips life and is not afraid. Slowly, Sisi evolves from a passionate woman deeply in love with her husband, to a sad young woman who feels abandoned due to the politics that pull her husband away, creating a vast distance between them. Her domineering mother-in-law is harsh, and one cannot feel bad for poor Sisi who does her best to walk a fine line between duty and personal freedoms. 

I enjoyed the tidbits of mystery, forbidden love, the passion Sisi had for horses and riding. I loved Franz Josef too, how he fell for Sisi, and how he over-ruled his mother to marry Sisi instead of her sister, the bride that had been chosen for him. The Accidental Empress by Allison Pataki is one of the best historical fiction versions I have read about this fascinating woman's life. Beautifully rendered!

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