today I'm reviewing two novels. Enjoy!
Beautiful, romantic, tragic. The story of the Austrian Empress Sisi has captivated successive generations.
Born into Bavarian royalty, Elisabeth, who had received an informal upbringing, was suddenly thrust into the spotlight at the tender age of 16, when she married the young, dashing, and rich Habsburg Emperor Franz Joseph. Their union was an "accident". Sisi had gone to court to accompany and support Franz's betrothed, her sister Helene. But, once the Emperor set eyes on Sisi, he declared he would marry no one else. Her beauty and free spirit captivated him, and Sisi was equally infatuated. But did they really ever stand a chance? Probably not.
Young and naive, Sisi had no idea what she was getting herself into. A free spirit, she found it hard to follow the rigid rules that controlled life at court, resented her mother-in-law's interference in every aspect of her life and her husband's workload which kept him away from her for most of the day, and was devastated at not being allowed to raise her own children. Her attempts to enlist Franz's help against his mother only managed to drive him away. Franz was equally disappointed in their marriage. Brought up from the cradle to do his duty and serve his country, he saw the free-spirited Sisi as an antidote to all that was bad and wrong in his life and empire, threatened by wars and revolutions. Instead, he got stuck with a young girl who moaned and complained all the time. His attempts to keep her out of politics didn't help their relationship, and were short-sighted too. When allowed to exercise her influence, Sisi did a lot of good for the empire.
Both Sisi and Franz are very frustrating characters. Neither of them seem able to grow a backbone. He's too easy ruled by his mother and her faction. She too easily demoralized, to the point of despondence. Yet, given their upbringing and the positions they were thrust into, it's easy to see why they acted the way they did. I always wondered how an union that started under such auspicious circumstances could end so tragically. This novel, albeit a work of fiction, allows the reader to see what went wrong and why.
The Accidental Empress comes as close to the truth as a work of fiction can. Pataki has painstakingly done her research. Details of Sisi's gowns, beauty regime, the palaces she inhabited, and the etiquette she was subjected to are so seamlessly interwoven into the story that you feel like you're right there next to her. They make her world come alive without ever bogging the story down. To be both accurate and engaging is a struggle for any historical novelist, but Pataki has managed to skilfully pull it off.
If you too are fascinated by Sisi, you must pick up a copy as soon as possible.
Available at: Amazon
Lord Geoffrey Fitzroy, the second son of the Duke of Breconridge, is a playboy with no intention of settling down. But all that changes when he meets the exotic Lady Serena Carew at a ball. Raised in India, Serena has a reputation for keeping most people at a distance, preferring to the company of suitors and strangers that of her old aunt. She even refuses to dance with anyone who asks. But that's not enough to put off Lord Geoffrey. He loves a challenge and bets with his brother that Serena will dance with him. But once the two are introduced, all thoughts of the bet disappear, as they quickly fall in love. But, for Serena, love is a privilege she can't afford. Her past contains a perilous secret that could destroy her. To protect herself, she must live a safe, solitary life. Yet, Geoffrey's seduction will prove hard to resist. But will he stand by her when he discovers her secret?
Both Serena and Geoffrey are charming characters. She's lovely, sweet, and unaffected, but still haunted by a past she can't seem to escape. Geoffrey may be a playboy, but not a cruel, selfish one. He's fun-loving, smooth, and really cares about Serena, but her secret creates a wedge that threatened to drive them apart.
I love how Bradford dealt with Serena's secret. She reveals it pretty early in the book, but rather than spoiling the story, it just adds to the excitement and allows the reader to better understand Serena's conflict. Her secret is a real bombshell that's bound to do a lot of damage should it come out, and you just know it will...
The book is beautifully written. The vivid descriptions of India can't fail to captivate readers, and the details of the women's gowns add a luxurious layer of authenticity to the story. Serena and Geoffrey's romance is steamy and sensual, but there's a lot more than that in this book, which makes for a fresh and interesting story. I highly recommend it to all lovers of historical romances.
Available at: Amazon
Have you read these books are you planning to?
Disclaimer: this book was sent by PR for consideration. In addition, this post contains affiliate links.
Breakfast Links: Week of March 20, 2017
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