Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Gracelin O'Malley

Ann Moore brings to life the haunting beauty of nineteenth-century Ireland and its tumultuous, heartbreaking history in the first novel of her critically acclaimed trilogy

Gracelin’s father, Patrick, named her for the light of the sea that shone in her eyes. But joy and laughter leave the O’Malley clan when Gracelin is six-and-a-half and tragedy befalls the family. Less than a decade later, Gracelin must put her romantic dreams aside and marry a local landowner, the son of an English lord, to save her loved ones from financial ruin. Although she is a dutiful wife to capricious Bram Donnelly, Gracelin takes dangerous risks. With political violence sweeping through Ireland and the potato blight destroying lives, she secretly sides with the Young Irelanders, among them her brilliant brother, Sean, and the rebel leader Morgan McDonagh. Set against the rise of the Irish rebellion, with a cast of unforgettable characters led by the indomitable eponymous heroine, Gracelin O’Malley weaves a spellbinding story of courage, hope, and passion.

Opening Sentences:  Campfire flickered in the woods along the far bank of the River Lee. It was early spring and the tinkers had come. If they had waited but another day, they would not have witnessed the terrible thing that happened there. 

First, let me say that this is one of the finest books I have ever read - and that's saying a lot because I read one or two novels every week. At the heart of the story is Irish born Gracelin O'Malley who is one of the most endearing, memorable characters I have encountered. I have ever read about. Just as fascinating are the other characters in the story, chiefly, her family. This is a tightly-bonded family that works hard not only to survive, but to succeed. For the benefit of the family, Gracelin's father betroths her to Squire Donnelly, a wealthy nobleman. Gracelin enters willingly into the marriage with the promise that her family will be looked after. At first, everything goes well, but it does not take long for Donnelly's dark side to show. Angry and evil, he physically abuses Gracelin and their child. His crude and callous personality creates enemies wherever he goes, whoever he encounters. Despite the horrendous cruelties Gracelin endures, she does all that she can to help her family and people who suffer immense devastation by the potato famine that is ravishing Ireland. The story brings to light the aloofness of the English and their direct contribution to the starvation and hundreds of thousands of Irish. The story is powerful, poignant, and gripping, accurate in historical detail, and vibrant in its telling. Ann Moore is truly a masterful writer  who has penned a true epic in three novels, of which Gracelin O'Malley is the first. This extraordinary trilogy is definitely one to be savoured and kept in the personal collections of readers everywhere. 

I have not yet read the other two books in the trilogy, Leaving Ireland and 'Til Morning Light, but rest assured, they are on my list! Incredibly delicious - you have to read this book! I can't rave enough about it.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Legend of the Candy Cane

Ever wonder why candy cane's are associated with Christmas? Here's the legend!

Historical Novel Review wishes all our readers, authors, and publishers, 
a very Merry Christmas and a joyous New Year. 

A Christmas Wish for you all!

What the Dickens! History and Women loves these charming Dickens Carolers!

As we all hunker down to prepare for our Christmas celebrations with your families, History and Women wishes you all a safe and joyous Christmas and best wishes for the New Year. As a small little gift, here's a delightful little carol from these Charles Dickens style singers. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Elena de Cespedes - A Hemaphrodite persecuted for lesbianism

One woman's fight for her sexual identity and freedom!  

In 16th century Spain, Elena de Cespedes was the child of a Moor slave. She was sixteen when she got married, but the marriage did not last very long and her spouse soon abandoned her, leaving her pregnant and alone. Somehow, she fended for herself long enough to give birth to a son. To support herself and her son, she left him in the care of her mother, and went to Granada to seek work to support them all. As a woman, however, Elena would find it very difficult to survive, and that worried her. But Elena had an explosive secret! Beneath her skirts, in a addition to her female organs, she was hiding a penis. So she decided to become a man. 

Chaning her name to Eleno, she dressed as a man, and set off for Granada where she aquired some modest lodgings. The landlord's wife took an interest in Eleno, and before long, things got heated and they began an affair. As luck would have it however, their affair was discovered and in the heat of a scandal surrounding his gender, Elena was forced to flee. 

Proud of her manly prowess and strength, she joined the army and fought successfully for several years. She even got wounded in battle. Tired of war, still dressed as a man, she travelled to Madrid, hoping to learn how to be a tailor. She found lodgings in the home of a surgeon. Instead of cutting and sewing cloth, the surgeon took her under his wing and she was taught to trim hair, amputate limbs, and let blood. She earned great respect as a healer.  

Elena fell deeply in love with a young woman and proposed marriage to her. But the affair with his landlord's wife continued to haunt him and Elena was forced to succumb to a gender examination, and then another. In both, she passed the test and was confirmed a man. Elena and his bride were married by a Catholic priest. 

The rumors about her gender would not die, and Elena was forced to endure yet another gender examination. This time, the results were vastly different and it was determined she was indeed a woman. Now she became truly an object of curiosity and earned great celebrity not only because she was a hemaphrodite, but also because she was a miraculous healer. Elena and wife were charged with lesbianism. Elena was further charged with fraud and sent to face the dreadful Spanish Inquisitors. Her marriage was immediately annulled and Elena was brutally whipped with 200 lashes. She was convicted of devilry and was sentenced to death by burning, but her sentence was commutted to 10 years in a hospital working as a nurse.     

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Royal Kisses of Death

With great power can come great corruption and evil. Here are two royal women who gave the kiss of death to their lovers - Margaret of Valois and Catherine the Great. Their tales will make you shiver with abhorrence.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Hoyden of the Week

Who knew one needs to practice before putting on a thong? 
Wonder what the front looks like...

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Scandal that haunted and ostracized poor Effie Gray

The beautiful virgin who was repulsive to her husband

Effie Gray

Effie Gray was a great beauty. She was born in Scotland, and was raised in the same house where her grandfather committed suicide. Her parents encouraged a marriage with John Ruskin, the son of their long-time friends. 

John Ruskin

But on their wedding night, something went drastically wrong and Ruskin never consummated the marriage? Why? Well, no one knows for certain, but it is rumored because Ruskin was repelled by his young wife’s body, her pubic hair, her menstrual blood. In a letter to her father, Effie wrote:

"He alleged various reasons, hatred to children, religious motives, a desire to preserve my beauty, and, finally this last year he told me his true reason...that he had imagined women were quite different to what he saw I was, and that the reason he did not make me his Wife was because he was disgusted with my person…."

It is no wonder that with such a horrible start to their marriage, it was doomed to deteriorate. Years passed, and Ruskin still had not touched his beautiful wife.  

The couple travelled to Venice where Ruskin was researching a novel he would entitle The Stones of Venice. While Ruskin delved deep into his studies, Effie enjoyed herself and socialized. It was there she met a handsome Lieutenant named Charles Paulizza and a friendship soon blossomed between them. Ruskin even encouraged it, hoping an affair would give him cause to rid himself of her and the marriage they were both trapped in.

When Ruskin and Effie returned to Scotland, she modeled for her husband’s protégé, a Pre-Raphaelite artist named John Everett Millais. 

John Everett Millais

Love soon bloomed and when they returned to London, Effie left Ruskin and returned to Scotland and stayed with her family. She wrote a note to Ruskin, enclosed her wedding ring, and told him she was going to seek an annulment. They had been married for 5 years, and she was still a virgin.

Of course, the court case set tongues a wagging. The annulment was granted and a year later, Effie married John Millais. She bore him eight children, in between acting as a model for her husband who depicted her as an icon of beauty and fertility.

In the meantime, John Ruskin sought to remarry a teenage girl named Rose La Touche. 

Rose LaTouche

However, because of the scandalous allegations in his previous marriage to Effie, Rose’s parents were so concerned, they wrote Effie a letter seeking more details. Effie did not hold back. She described Ruskin as a oppressive husband, and the engagement was called off.

Effie was her new husband’s greatest fan. She supported him in his work, managed his career, raised her children, ran the home, and maintained a very busy social schedule despite the fact that her scandalous annulment from Ruskin excluded her from many social functions. She was banned from being in the presence of Queen Victoria. Being ostracized socially bothered Effie and her husband. Years later, as Millais lay dying, through the Queen’s daughter, he begged the Queen to allow Effie to attend official functions.

Little more than a year after Millais died, Effie also passed away.

For a comprehensive, fictionalized account of Effie's life and famous husbands, Duckworth Publishers presents:

The Scottish beauty Effie Gray is the heroine of a great Victorian love story. Married at 19 to John Ruskin, she found herself trapped in an unconsummated union. She would fall in love with her husband's protege, John Everett Millais, and inspire some of his most memorable art, but controversy and tragedy continued to stalk her. Suzanne Fagence Cooper has gained exclusive access to Effie's family letters and diaries to show the rise and fall of the Pre-Raphaelite circle from a new perspective, through the eyes of a woman whose charm and ambition helped to shape the careers of both her husbands. Effie Gray is a compelling portrait of the extraordinary woman behind some of the greatest paintings of the Victorian era.

In the biography, The Passionate Lives of Effie Gray, author Suzanne Fagence Cooper takes us into Victorian England, Venice, Italy, Scotland, and into the heart of the scandal that haunted poor Effie her entire life.

Based upon a treasure of preserved letters, Cooper has recreated Effie’s life in great detail. The book is a comprehensive commentary on the life of this fascinating young woman who had been so shamed and berated because of her first husband’s neglect. I liked the fact that three possible reasons came to light regarding Ruskin’s strange behavior towards his beautiful wife. And I found the plight of Effie’s sister, Sophy, regarding her mental madness and anorexia very interesting.

Numerous photographs are included in the book. My only disappointment was in the physical paperback version I was provided, the typesetting and fonts were so incredibly tiny, it made reading extremely fatiguing and trying. This knocked me out of the story. As I received an advance reading copy, I hope that the publisher has rectified this problem. Or I recommend purchasing the book in e-book format avoid eye strain.

This was a terrific story and definitely worth reading. It is so good it has been made into a movie, which only adds to my belief that this is definitely a book worth reading. An incredibly fascinating tale about a very courageous woman!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Spare the Rod - Spoil the Wife

The Outrageous History of Wife Beating

Did you know that it wasn’t until recent history, the 20th century, that it became unlawful for husbands to beat their wives? Domestic violence has been a harsh reality for women for thousands of years. In my latest novel, The Novice, the underlying theme is domestic violence. I wanted to demonstrate the cycle of violence. If a woman in medieval times could free herself from the cycle of abuse, today’s women can choose to do the same. What follows is a historical timeline of domestic violence through the centuries.    

735 B.C.     

In Rome, the Law of Chastisement came into effect. Because a husband was liable for his wife’s actions, this law gave husbands the absolute rights to physically discipline their women provided that he beat her with a rod or switch no greater than the girth of the base of the man’s right thumb. This rule became a guideline for more than a thousand years.

300 A.D.     

The Church affirms a husband's authority to discipline a wife. Holy Roman Emperor, Constantine the Great, has his wife burned alive when she was no longer of use to him.

900 to 1300 A.D.   

In medieval Europe, the Church sanctions wife beatings. Priests advise abused wives to win their husbands' good will through increased devotion and obedience. Women are viewed as a lesser species, without the same feelings and capacity for suffering than men.  

1400 A.D.    

A Friar in Siena writes Rules of Marriage, religious laws that support wife-beating.

A woman named Christine de Pizan accuses men of cruelty and beating their wives. She begins the fight for women’s basic humanity, better education, and fair treatment in marriages.

1427 A.D.    

Saint Bernardino of Siena asks his male parishioners to restrain themselves when disciplining their wives and to show them the same mercy they would show their hens and pigs.

1500 A.D.    

In England, Lord Hale, a woman hater who regularly burned women at the stake as witches condones marital rape. Apparently, a husband cannot be guilty of rape because marriage was a contract and when a wife gave herself to a husband, she could not retract her consent.

Early settlers in America permit wife-beating for correctional purposes, however there is growing movement to declare wife-beating illegal.

In Russia, the Church sanctions the oppression of women by issuing an ordinance that made it legal for a man to beat or kill his wife for disciplinary purposes. But if a Russian woman killed her husband for injustices, the penalty was for her to be buried alive with only her head above the ground, and left to die.

In England, women and children are taught that it was their duty to obey the man of the house. Violence was encouraged.

1700 A.D.

In Germany, two lesbians were placed on trial for lesbianism and domestic violence. Both women were found guilty. One was sentenced to death. The other was sent to jail for 3 years and then banished, not because she was the victim of the violence, but because she was simple-minded.

1800 A.D.

England abolishes the right for men to chastise women.

Sweden gives men and women equal inheritance rights.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children are founded long before any organization to prevent cruelty to women.

A man in North Carolina was charged with striking his wife with a switch about the size of one of his fingers, but smaller than his thumb. The court upheld his acquittal on the grounds that no court should interfere with family government in trifling cases.

General Sherman, when he was negotiating the Treaty of 1868 with the Navajos insisted that the Navajos select male leaders only. The rule stripped Navajo women of their ability to participate in decision-making and taught Navajo men that it was okay to rob women of economic and political power, and to beat them.

Francis Power Cobbe published Wife Torture in England. In it, she documented 6,000 of the most brutal assaults on women over a 3 year period who had been maimed, blinded, trampled, burned and murdered. She believed that abuse by men continued because of the belief that a man's wife was his property. Her concerns resulted in a new law that allowed victims of violence to obtain a legal separation from the husband; entitled them custody of the children; and to retain earnings and property secured during the separation. But only if the husband was convicted of aggravated assault and the court determined she was in grave danger.

In England, the law was changed to permit a wife who had been habitually beaten by her husband to the point of life endangerment to separate from him, but not to divorce him

During the reign of Queen Victoria, new laws came into effect whereby wives could no longer be kept under lock and key, life-threatening beatings were considered grounds for divorce, and wives and daughters could no longer be sold into prostitution.

1900 A.D.

A French court rules that husbands have no right to beat their wives. Prior to this, the Napoleonic Code decreed that, “Women, like walnut trees, should be beaten every day.”

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Anita Delgado - The Spanish Dancer who became an Indian Princess

Anita Delgado

Who doesn’t love a real life fairy tale come true? Anita Delgado was a very beautiful dancer from Spain. Her father struggled to provide for his family, so Anita and her sister danced to help her family. It was while she was dancing that a Maharaja by the name of Jagatjit Singh Bhadur of Kapurthala was in the audience and became mesmerized by her performance.

Maharaja Jagatjit Singh Bhadur of Kapurthala 

He sent her notes and gifts pleading for her to meet with him, but the virtuous Anita refused them all. Even after he returned to his homeland, the letters continued, and soon, Anita was persuaded to answer them. He proposed to her, offering her family enough money to take care of them for life. At first, Anita hesitated because the Maharaja had other wives, but he assured her with promises they could be married in Europe and that she would have a home of her own in his homeland. These promises he made, create controversy for him. His government and family advise against the marriage, but he follows his heart. After they marry, Anita becomes pregnant and is brought to Kapurthala where she must face not only the animosity from his wives, but the government refuses to recognize her and she struggles to assimilate into a culture very foreign from her own.

What follows is a tale of great love, of immense wealth, but profound loneliness. With her gentle personality, kindness, and patience, she wins the heart of the people of Kapurthala who are fascinated with her, as well as the media of the time.

Their story is immortalized by author Javier Moro in a sumptuously exotic novel ripe with the visions and aromas of India!

A fascinating novel that transports us to the fabulous world of the maharajas—
abundant with harems, bacchanalian orgies, jewels, palaces, 
flamenco music, horses, Rolls-Royces, and tiger hunting.

On January 28, 1908, a young Spanish woman sitting astride a luxuriously bejeweled elephant enters a small city in northern India. The streets are packed with curious locals who are anxious to pay homage to their new princess, with skin as white as the snows of the Himalayas.

This is the beginning of the story, based on real events, of the wedding of Anita Delgado and the maharaja of Kapurthala, a grand story of love and betrayal that took place over almost two decades, in the heart of an India that was on the verge of disappearing.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Legend of Sheba by Tosca Lee

Her name is legend. Her story, the epic of nations. The Queen of Sheba. A powerful new novel of love, power, and the questions at the heart of existence by the author of the award-winning “brilliant” (Library Journal) and “masterful” (Publishers Weekly) Iscariot.

There is the story you know: A foreign queen, journeying north with a caravan of riches to pay tribute to a king favored by the One God. The tale of a queen conquered by a king and god both before returning to her own land laden with gifts.

That is the tale you were meant to believe.

Which means most of it is a lie.

The truth is far more than even the storytellers could conjure. The riches more priceless. The secrets more corrosive. The love and betrayal more passionate and devastating.

Across the Red Sea, the pillars of the great oval temple once bore my name: Bilqis, Daughter of the Moon. Here, to the west, the porticoes knew another: Makeda, Woman of Fire. To the Israelites, I was queen of the spice lands, which they called Sheba.

In the tenth century BC, the new Queen of Sheba has inherited her father’s throne and all its riches at great personal cost. Her realm stretches west across the Red Sea into land wealthy in gold, frankincense, and spices. But now new alliances to the North threaten the trade routes that are the lifeblood of her nation. Solomon, the brash new king of Israel famous for his wealth and wisdom, will not be denied the tribute of the world—or of Sheba’s queen. With tensions ready to erupt within her own borders and the future of her nation at stake, the one woman who can match wits with Solomon undertakes the journey of a lifetime in a daring bid to test and win the king. But neither ruler has anticipated the clash of agendas, gods, and passion that threatens to ignite—and ruin—them both. An explosive retelling of the legendary king and queen and the nations that shaped history.

The legend of the Queen of Sheba has captured the imaginations of people for many centuries. Now, in a newly written, lushly described novel, author Tosca Lee brings this fascinating, enigmatic woman to life. It is the 10th century B.C. and a young woman with three names, Bilqis, Sheba, Makeda, has inherited her father’s throne. Through a traveling merchant, she learns about King Solomon of Israel. Soon she exchanges letters with this distant king, who piques her interest and fills her with wonder. So in a bold move, against the wishes of her advisors, she compiles a vast hoard of riches and treasures and arranges for a caravan to make a near impossible and treacherous trek to visit him. What follows is a wonderful tale of passion and intrigue.  

This novel excelled at breathing life into the Biblical characters of Solomon and Sheba. Rich, quippy, intelligent dialogue are exchanged between these two monarchs, luxuriant with hidden meanings, and ripe with hidden love. An comfortable read, brilliant descriptions, and a story line with plenty of peril and intrigue makes this new novel definitely one to savor. I thoroughly enjoyed it and definitely recommend it! 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Friday, August 22, 2014

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The bizarre excentricities and troubled life of Empress Elisabeth - The Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin

Her Royal Highness Duchess Elisabeth Amalie Eugenie

Elisabeth was the daughter of Duke Maximilian and Princess Ludovika of Bavaria. They lived in Possenhofen Castle, away from the hubbub of the royal court. Sisi and her siblings enjoyed great freedom as children and she developed a grand passion for horseback riding in the beautiful countryside surrounding their castle. 

Possenhofen Castle

Princess Sophie of Bavaria
Mother of Franz Joseph

Franz Joseph

Princess Sophie of Bavaria, the domineering mother of 23-year-old Emperor Franz Joseph, arranged a betrothal to her neice, Helene, Sisi’s elder sister. Despite the fact they were in mourning because of the death of a member of the Bavarian royal family, Helene, Sisi, and their mother traveled to Bad Ischl to formalize the betrothal. They traveled in a large entourage, but arrived late due to their mother suffering a migraine. The carriage that carried their fancy dresses and gowns did not arrive in time, so they had to greet the young Franz Joseph dressed in their black mourning clothes. 
Helene and Franz did not hit it off. Rather, it was Sisi who attracted Franz Joseph’s attention. She was tall, slim, and very beautiful at 5’8” tall and 110 lbs. Much to Princess Sophie's chagrin, he dug his heels in and refused to propose to Helene. He told his mother that if he could not marry Elisabeth, he would not marry at all. Five days later, the betrothal with Sisi was formally announced. The young couple were married eight months later in the spring of 1854.
Sisi was only 16 years old and woefully unprepared for married life. Traumatized by the consummation of the marriage on the wedding night, she remained secluded in her bedroom for three days, refusing to come out. Afterward, she struggled to adapt to the Habsburg court life with its rigid expectations and practices and stringent etiquette. Before long, she fell ill, but her illness turned out to be her first pregancy.

She gave birth to her first child. Princess Sophie, who never warmed to Sisi, took matters into her own hands and named the baby after herself, Sophie, without consulting Sisi. She took complete control over the baby and refused to allow Sisi to breastfeed or care for her daughter. The same thing happened when Sisi's second daughter, Gisela was born. 
Sophie grew more displeased with Sisi when she failed to produce a male heir and began to resent Sisi’s influence upon Franz Joseph. 
It wasn’t until Sisi travelled to Hungary with her husband and daughters that she truly found respite from the stress and pressures of her mother-in-law and royal life in Austria. She warmed to the Hungarian people and in return, they adored her. Her joy in Hungary was short lived, however. Both her daughters became ill with diarrhea or typhus. Gisela survived, but Sophie died. Her daughter's death drove Sisi into a dark and severe depression that she would never escape for the rest of her life. Her melancholy was so profound, she began neglecting little Gisela, and the distance between them would exist for the rest of their lives. Everyone hoped that when Sisi became pregnant again, it would pull her out of the darkness.
But her struggles continued. Sisi missed her loving parents and the freedom of her previous life. She struggled to find her own identity amid the royal duties and responsibilities thrust upon her. She had no control over her life and struggled with being an empress, wife, and mother.

In her own way, she tried to recreate her childhood with all its freedomsm but found that the only thing she could control was her physical appearance. This she did obsessively, and became meticulous with every detail of her beauty, dress, and physical image. 

Still mourning for her daughter, Elisabeth refused to eat for days; something that became a habit whenever her depression worsened. She avoided family dinners and if her weight increased even a little, she would fast. She abhorred meat, prefering a diet of milk and eggs. To emphasize her extreme slenderness, she practiced tight-lacing. 

When Sisi returned home to Vienna, her shrunken waist angered her mother-in-law because she still expected Sisi to produce a male heir. 
Sisi ignored her mother-in-law and exercised rigorously. She set up gymnasiums in every one of her homes, with some equipment laid out in her bedchambers. She rode and fenced several hours each day until she was considered one of the top equestrians in the world. 

The older she was, the more restless and obsessive she became, constantly weighing herself, taking saunas, and watching what she ate until she became nearly emaciated and weight 95.7 lbs. She also binged-ate, having a secret staircase built into one of her homes direct from her rooms to the kitchen to maintain her secret eating binges.

And then there were her bizarre beauty practices. It took 3 hours per day to care for her thick and extremely long hair. 

Franziska Feifalik
Sisi's Personal Hairdresser

Her hairdresser accompanied her wherever she went. Feifalik was forbidden to wear rings and had to wear white gloves when preparing Sisi's tresses. If any hair fell out, Franziska had to present it to Sisi in a silver bowl and receive her mistress' reproach. Every two weeks, Sisi cancelled all her activities in order to have her hair washed with eggs and cognac. And daily, Franziska had to tweeze out all gray hairs. 

One of Sisi's dressing tables
Sisi wore no make-up or perfumes. She preferred beautifying creams and tonics. Her favourite face cream was made from with white wax, spermaceti, sweet almond oil, and rosewater. She also made a nightly facial mask that consisted of raw veal and crushed strawberries. She slept with cloths soaked in either violet or cider-vinegar above her hips to preserve her slim waist, and wrapped her neck with cloths soaked in special tonics. To maintain her peaches and cream complexion, she took both a cold shower every morning and olive oil baths at night. 

But age ultimately takes it course. After she turned thirty-two, Sisi refused to sit for any more portraits, and would not allow any photographs of her to be taken. 
Her marriage with Franz Joseph continued to deteriorate, despite the fact he passionately loved her. She saw him as an unimaginative and sober man overly influenced by his domineering mother with her adherences to strict and ceremonial protocols.
Elisabeth soon began to distance herself from her husband and fled him and court life whenever possible. Franz Joseph indulged her travels, but always tried to tempt her to come back. 
Elisabeth suffered with insomniam spent countless hours reading and writing, and took up smoking, a shocking habit, which made her the subject of great gossip. She grew to love the work of Heinrich Hein, a German poet and radical political thinker, exchanging many letters with him. 

Heinrich Heine

In 1858, Elisabeth finally gave birth to a son named Rudolf. Her influence at court increased, as did her interest in Hungary. She sided with Hungary as conflict increased with Austria. Elisabeth developed a friendship with Hungarian Count Gyula Andrassy. Rumors swirled that they were lovers. While advocating for Hungary, she admonished her husband's stand, and threatened to leave him, unless he compromised and made Andrássy the Premier of Hungary. 

Count Gyula Andrassy

Like her daughters, Sophie blocked Sisi from raising her son, and she openly rebelled. Her nervous attacks, fasting, severe exercise regime, and frequent fits of coughing, and overall health become so alarming, it was reported she suffered from anemia and physial exhaustion. It was feared she had tuberculosis and it was recommended she go to Madeira to recover. 

Rumors began to circulate that Franz Joseph was having an affair with an actress. Elisabeth left her husband and children, to spend the winter in seclusion. She returned six months later, but as soon as she returned, she became ill almost immediately with a cough and fever. She barely ate and hardly slept. Her physican recommended she go to Corfu to rest. She improved immediately. It seemed her illnesses improved whenever away from her husband and the royal court, but her eating habits continued to be problematic. She suffered from anemia and dropsy. Her feet were sometimes so swollen she could not walk without support. This time, the doctors recommended she go to a spa in Bad Kissingen to recover. Once again, Elisabeth recovered quickly, but instead of returning home, she went to spend time with her family in Bavaria, which set tongues a wagging about her numerous absences. Two years later, she returned to her husband, but immediately suffered a violent migraine and vomited four times before arriving.

Franz Joseph wanted another son to secure succession. The physicians insisted that Sisi's health could not sustain another pregnancy. She soon fell into her old pattern of escaping the pressures and stress of royal life by frequent walking and riding, using her health as an excuse to avoid official obligations and sexual intimacy.  In this way, she succeeded in avoiding her duties as an imperial brood mare and maintained her beauty. Sophie became more confident in her defiance against her husband and mother-in-law. 
However, her passion for Hungary prevailed and she returned to the marriage bed to ensure a compromise with Hungary was reached and Andrassy was made the first Hungarian prime minister and in return. In return, Andrassy officially crowned Franz Joseph and Elisabeth King and Queen of Hungary.
After the coronation gift, a pregnant Sisi went to live in a country residence outside of Budapest. She gave birth to a daughter named Marie Valerie. Determined to bring this last child up by herself, Elisabeth showered all her love on her youngest daughter to the point of nearly smothering her. Sophie's influence over Elisabeth's children gradually faded and she died in 1872.
With her children back in her control, however, Elisabeth did not take advantage it. Instead, she she travelled and rarely saw her children. She became the subject of numerous newspaper articles for her obsession with riding and diet regimes, and rumours abounded about her reputed lovers. Her affairs could never be proven, but Franz Joseph's affair with actress Katharina Schratt was very real indeed. 

Katharina Schratt
Emperor Franz Joseph's Mistress
In 1889, her only son, thirty-year-old Rudolf was found dead in a murder suicide with his lover Baroness Mary Vetsera, with Rudolf being the murderer. 

Baroness Mary Vetsera

Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria

A profound depression gripped Sisi and she never recovered from it. In the span of one year, she had lost her mother, her father, her sister, and now her son. After Rudolf's death she dressed only in black for the rest of her life. To compound her losses, her one dear friend, Count Gyula Adrassy died a year later. 
The scandal surrounding the death of her son only increased public interest in Elisabeth, making her an icon  with her long black gowns and white leather parasol and fan to conceal her face from the curious.

Elisabeth spent little time in Austria's capital Vienna with her husband, and travelled endlessly throughout Europe. Through the exchange of letters, their marriage became a warm friendship. Ignoring warnings of possible assassination attempts, the sixty-year-old Elisabeth traveled incognito to Geneva Switzerland. 
At 1:35 p.m. on Saturday, 10 September 1898, Elisabeth and her lady-in-waiting left on foot to catch a steamship. A 25-year-old Italian anarchist, Luigi Lucheni, approached and attempting to peer underneath the empress's parasol. As the ship's bell announced the departure, Lucheni seemed to stumble and made a movement with his hand as if he wanted to maintain his balance. Instead, he stabbed Elisabeth with a sharpened needle file that was 4 inches long that he had inserted into a wooden handle.

Luigi Lucheni
"I am an anarchist by conviction...
I came to Geneva to kill a sovereign, with object of giving an example to those who suffer and those who do nothing to improve their social position; 
it did not matter to me who the sovereign was whom I should kill...
It was not a woman I struck, but an Empress; it was a crown that I had in view."
The empress collapsed. A coach driver helped her to her feet. The two women walked roughly 100 yards to the gangway and boarded. The empress then lost consciousness and collapsed. Her lady in waiting called for a doctor, but only a former nurse, a fellow passenger, was available. The boat’s captain, ignorant of Elisabeth's identity, advised the countess to disembark and take her companion back to her hotel but the boat had already sailed out of the harbor. Three men carried Elisabeth to the top deck and laid her on a bench. Her lady in waiting opened her gown and cut Elisabeth's corset laces so she could breathe. Elisabeth revived and her lady asked her if she was in pain. Sisi replied, "No. What has happened?" and lost consciousness.
Her lady noticed a small brown stain above the Empress' left breast. Alarmed, she informed the captain of her identity, and the boat turned back to Geneva. Sisi was carried back to the Hotel by six sailors on a stretcher improvised from a sail, cushions and two oars. By the time they lifted her from the stretcher to the bed she was clearly dead. 
Elisabeth's body was returned to Vienna aboard a funeral train. She was entombed in the Church of the Capuchins.
After the attack, Lucheni fled but was caught. Although he boasted that he acted alone, precautions were taken for the emperor's protection. At the announcement that an Italian had murdered the Empress, unrest and reprisals were threatened against Italians living in Vienna. 
Lucheni was brought before the Geneva Court. Furious that the death sentence had been abolished in Geneva, he demanded that he be tried according to the laws of the Canton of Lucerne, which still had the death penalty, signing the letter: “Luigi Lucheni, anarchist, and one of the most dangerous"
Elisabeth's will stipulated that a large part of her jewels be sold and the proceeds, over £600,000, were to be applied to various religious and charitable organizations. Franz Joseph remarked to Prince Liechtenstein, "That a man could be found to attack such a woman, whose whole life was spent in doing good and who never injured any person, is to me incomprehensible." Sisi left most of her estate to her granddaughter, the Archduchess Elsabeth, Rudolf's child.

Archduchess Elisabeth

Lucheni was declared sane and was sentenced to life. He attempted to kill himself with the sharpened key from a tin of sardines on 20 February 1900. Ten years later, he hanged himself with his belt in his cell after a guard confiscated and destroyed his uncompleted memoirs.

Empress Sisi is one of the characters in the historical romance, The Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin. Although the novel is classified as biographical, it is more about the fictionalized characters than Sisi's detailed life. 

Book Synopsis

Empress Elizabeth of Austria, known as Sisi, is the Princess Diana of nineteenth-century Europe. Famously beautiful, as captured in a portrait with diamond stars in her hair, she is unfulfilled in her marriage to the older Emperor Franz Joseph. Sisi has spent years evading the stifling formality of royal life on her private train or yacht or, whenever she can, on the back of a horse.

Captain Bay Middleton is dashing, young, and the finest horseman in England. He is also impoverished, with no hope of buying the horse needed to win the Grand National—until he meets Charlotte Baird. A clever, plainspoken heiress whose money gives her a choice among suitors, Charlotte falls in love with Bay, the first man to really notice her, for his vulnerability as well as his glamour. When Sisi joins the legendary hunt organized by Earl Spencer in England, Bay is asked to guide her on the treacherous course. Their shared passion for riding leads to an infatuation that jeopardizes the growing bond between Bay and Charlotte, and threatens all of their futures.

The Fortune Hunter, a brilliant new novel by Daisy Goodwin, is a lush, irresistible story of the public lives and private longings of grand historical figures. 

Book Review

Although this novel is classified as a biographical novel, I believe this is only partially true. Yes, Empress Cisi is one of several main characters, but the book is truly about a romance between the fictionalized characters, Captain Bay Middleton and Charlotte Biard. Cisi's life is only partially, and not thoroughly depicted.

Having said this, I truly enjoyed this novel. It was well written, lush in its descriptions of the era as it pertained to surroundings, fashion, and glamour, and poignant enough to capture my interest until the very last page. The author did an excellent job of describing traditional fox hunts and equestrian skills. I especially enjoyed the quippy and comical interactions with Queen Victoria. Although I'm not sure that the story adheres to historical facts, it does not take away from the enjoyment of the novel. The story gains momentum as it nears a very satisfying ending.As long as readers are aware this isn't a true to form biographical novel about Empress Elisabeth, there is much to recommend this wonderful story.