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On the Ascendant: Brandy Purdy’s “Two Empresses”

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Title: Two Empresses

Author: Brandy Purdy

Publisher: Kensington

Copyright: January 31, 2017

ISBN-10: 075828893X

ISBN-13: 978-0758288936

Format: E-Book, 384 Pages, $9.75 [Amazon Paperback], $9.99 [Kindle],  $9.81 [Barnes & Noble Paperback], $9.99 [Nook], $9.99 [Google Play], $9.99 [iBooks]

Summary:

1779, France. On the island paradise of Martinique, two beautiful, well-bred cousins have reached marriageable age. Sixteen-year-old Rose must sail to France to marry Alexandre, the dashing Vicomte de Beauharnais. Golden-haired Aimee will finish her education at a French convent in hopes of making a worthy match.

Once in Paris, Rose’s illusions are shattered by her new husband, who casts her off when his mistress bears him a son. Yet revolution is tearing through the land, changing fortunes—and fates—in an instant, leaving Rose free to reinvent herself. Soon she is pursued by a young general, Napoleon Bonaparte, who prefers to call her by another name: Josephine.

Presumed dead after her ship is attacked by pirates, Aimee survives and is taken to the Sultan of Turkey’s harem. Among hundreds at his beck and call, Aimee’s loveliness and intelligence make her a favorite not only of the Sultan, but of his gentle, reserved nephew. Like Josephine, the newly crowned Empress of France, Aimee will ascend to a position of unimagined power. But for both cousins, passion and ambition carry their own burden.

From the war-torn streets of Paris to the bejeweled golden bars of a Turkish palace, Brandy Purdy weaves some of history’s most compelling figures into a vivid, captivating account of two remarkable women and their extraordinary destinies.

Warning:

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Review:

A rendering of Josephine de Beauharnais from “Ridpath’s History of the World,” 1901.

Two Empresses centers around two young women who are cousins, Marie Josèphe Rose Tascher de La Pagerie and Aimée du Buc de Rivéry, growing up in Martinique. The story opens up in 1779, on an evening where Rose (who history would know as Joséphine) and Aimée sneak out of the house to go visit a mystic by the name of Euphemia David, a woman who is something of a local legend.

To Rose, Euphemia David imparts a message that she will rise as high as an empress and that she will be loved by a great man but that she will die of loneliness in the end. To Aimée she weaves an even stranger tale, that she will be as low as a slave but that she too will rise as high as an empress and that she will be the greatest woman in all the land.

Rose, who has been waiting for her life to begin, soon receives a marriage proposal from the Vicomte de Beauharnais, a match that her aunt reluctantly arranges. She is positively jubilant because the marriage to a young French nobleman means freedom from Martinique and the monotony of daily life. However, when Rose arrives in France, she realizes that her new husband is as cold as the French winters. What begins is an unhappy marriage between the Vicomte and Vicomtesse de Beauharnais. Life only spirals out of control for Rose as she attempts to survive during the violence of the French Revolution.

A rendering of Aimée du Buc de Rivéry, year and date unknown.

Elsewhere, Aimée is abroad at sea when pirates attack the ship she is on, abducting her in the process. She is then brought to a strange land where she notices veiled women, a pyramid of severed heads, and exotic clothing that one would never see in the likes of Martinique. Much to her horror, she ends up in a harem where she is surrounded by other women and learns that her only purpose is to please the sultan, a man who is decades older than her. She is pleasantly surprised when she learns that the sultan, Abdul Hamid is a good man and that he adores her beyond words. Before long, she is one of his favorites but with such preference comes great danger.

Brandy Purdy’s Two Empresses is an interesting combination of the lives of two very different women. Rose, who history knows as Napoleon’s Joséphine, was a character that I found to fall rather flat. I felt as if she only knew how to party or to make love, possessing very little actual substance as a protagonist. It was hard to feel any sympathy for her as a character. Aimée, the younger and more mild-mannered of the two, was more enjoyable a character but there were moments where she came across as dull.

While I wasn’t too fond of the characters, Ms. Purdy painted each scene with great detail and clearly demonstrated her exceptional writing abilities. It was apparent from the aforementioned detail that Ms. Purdy did her research and knows her history. She brought alive exotic locales such as Martinique, Ottoman-era Turkey, and France, before, during, and after the French Revolution. All-in-all, it was a decent story. I give it three Crowns.

Rating:

5

 

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