New York Times bestselling author Allison Pataki 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 [sic] Empire and its most mesmerizing, most beloved “Fairy Queen.”
I first heard of Empress Elisabeth in a history magazine’s story about her death. She came across as an enigmatic figure, obsessed with her looks while preferring to stay away from the royal court in Vienna. The assassination of her husband’s nephew, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, is widely considered the primary cause of World War I. I began reading The Accidental Empress with these and other facts in my mind.
This is a detailed look at the lives of the Habsburgs during the 19th century. We learn about beautiful palaces, sumptuous dinners, and ornate clothing. These are countered by stories of scandal, gossip, and loneliness. In short, being Empress wasn’t all Sisi thought it would be and she was highly unprepared for the role. Perhaps her sister would’ve been the better choice for the young Emperor. Pataki’s narrative does stay mostly true to the historical record, although she does acknowledge either ignoring or altering a couple of facts. This does mean that the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of Sisi’s life are included. We might not like some of her actions, but they happened. Christian readers should remember that Howard doesn’t always publish novels that fit into the Christian fiction genre.
I am, however, disappointed that this is not a complete telling of Sisi’s life. The Empress died in 1898, but the book ends in 1867. Consequently, I feel Pataki has missed out the important events in Sisi’s life which took place after that date. In “A Conversation with the Author” however, there’s a strong hint that a sequel is in the works.
Thank you to Howard Books for my complimentary review copy of The Accidental Empress, which I received in exchange for my honest review.
Have you read The Accidental Empress? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.
Publisher: Howard Books (a division of Simon & Schuster)
Publication Date: 17 February 2015
Page Count: 512