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Feb 11, 2020

The Queen's Fortune by Allison Pataki

The Queen's Fortune A Novel of Desiree, Napoleon, and the Dynasty That Outlasted the Empire by Allison Pataki
Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine, February 11 2020
Historical Fiction, 448 pages
Review EGalley via netgalley, thank you! 

A sweeping novel about the extraordinary woman who captured Napoleon’s heart, created a dynasty, and changed the course of history—from the New York Times bestselling author of The Traitor's Wife, The Accidental Empress, and Sisi.
As the French revolution ravages the country, Desiree Clary is faced with the life-altering truth that the world she has known and loved is gone and it’s fallen on her to save her family from the guillotine.
A chance encounter with Napoleon Bonaparte, the ambitious and charismatic young military prodigy, provides her answer. When her beloved sister Julie marries his brother Joseph, Desiree and Napoleon’s futures become irrevocably linked. Quickly entering into their own passionate, dizzying courtship that leads to a secret engagement, they vow to meet in the capital once his career has been secured. But her newly laid plans with Napoleon turn to sudden heartbreak, thanks to the rising star of Parisian society, Josephine de Beauharnais. Once again, Desiree’s life is turned on its head.
Swept to the glittering halls of the French capital, Desiree is plunged into the inner circle of the new ruling class, becoming further entangled with Napoleon, his family, and the new Empress. But her fortunes shift once again when she meets Napoleon's confidant and star general, the indomitable Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte. As the two men in Desiree’s life become political rivals and military foes, the question that arises is: must she choose between the love of her new husband and the love of her nation and its Emperor?
From the lavish estates of the French Riviera to the raucous streets of Paris and Stockholm, Desiree finds herself at the epicenter of the rise and fall of an empire, navigating a constellation of political giants and dangerous, shifting alliances. Emerging from an impressionable girl into a fierce young woman, she discovers that to survive in this world she must learn to rely upon her instincts and her heart.
Allison Pataki’s meticulously researched and brilliantly imagined novel sweeps readers into the unbelievable life of a woman almost lost to history—a woman who, despite the swells of a stunning life and a tumultuous time, not only adapts and survives but, ultimately, reigns at the helm of a dynasty that outlasts an empire.

Way back in 2010 I read a fabulous book originally written in 1953 by Annemarie Selinko: Desiree. I absolutely loved this story about Desiree Clary, a merchant's daughter who grew up to first be Napoleon's girlfriend then eventually a major part of his family as his brother married Desiree's sister. This newest novel brings Desiree's story to us once again and while fictionalized for hist-fic's sake, it is a story that is so amazing that it inspires several other famous works as Pataki notes at the end of her novel.

I do not need to go into a listing of the intriguing facts of Desiree's life story as it starts in the novel circa 1794 but definitely must expand on the fact that Pataki's retelling of Desiree's story -- and by default Napoleon's and Josephine's as well - is not to be missed. I never tired of Desiree's story, and I always found myself eager to pick up the book even while I was reading another at the same time. While Pataki's writing is done in a matter of fact style, thankfully avoiding being overly dramatic, she gives an easy to read snapshot of the life of Desiree Clary.

And while I found myself disliking the characters of Napoleon and Josephine throughout this telling, it was tear- jerking when their saga was over and that's only because of the storytelling of Allison Pataki.

But what of fate? Just imagine if Desiree and her sister Julie didn't bump into Joseph Bonaparte when their brother was arrested, would there be such a dynasty that Desiree Clary was a matriarch of? Desiree would not have met Napoleon, who requested Bernadotte to pay special attention to Desiree in the first place. Then Desiree and Bernadotte would not have been married and would not have become King and Queen of Sweden.

Desiree becomes Queen of Sweden (her husband the inspiration for Dumas!) and her descendants are still rulers today, forever linked with Empress Josephine, hence the subtitle of this novel. I really enjoyed this story of revolution, revival, love and revenge among rulers. It even makes me want to read Selinko's novel again just to see if Desiree comes off as willing to go to heaven and hell and back again just because of her love for her beloved Bernadotte.

Read my review of The Traitor's Wife by Allison Pataki at this link

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