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The Queen's Fortune: A Novel of Desiree, Napoleon, and the Dynasty that Outlasted an Empire by Allison Pataki: A Book Review

The Queen’s Fortune: A Novel of Desiree, Napoleon, and the Dynasty that Outlasted an Empire

Author: Allison Pataki

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Ballantine Books

Release Date: 2020

Pages: 449

Source: Publisher/Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: 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.  


     My Review: Desiree Clary was Queen of Sweden and Napoleon’s first love. Her descendants still reign on Sweden’s throne today. This new novel on Desiree Clary reimagines her life from the time when she was a young girl to her later years. Desiree is sixteen when she meets and falls in love with Napoleon. However, he dumps her for Josephine. Napoleon later arranged for her to marry Bernadotte. Bernadotte is against Napoleon becoming the new Emperor of France. Can Desiree remain loyal to the Emperor or must she follow the path of her husband?

This novel was a slow read to get through. This was because from the beginning to the end of the novel, Desiree Clary was a passive character. She doesn’t seem to be much involved in her own story! Even though she is the protagonist, she seems to be a useless character that doesn’t seem to have much impact within the plot. She also doesn’t seem to have any thoughts, except for Napoleon. Desiree’s sole focus is Napoleon, and she thinks about him non stop even though she knows he doesn’t think about her at all. Thus, Desiree Clary seemed like a weak protagonist with no backbone. She seems to be in the story just for the reader to view Napoleon from an idolized perspective.

I found all the characters, except for Napoleon, to be one-dimensional. There are very few scenes with her husband. The characters were so one-dimensional that they suddenly changed personalities with no explanation. For instance, Bernadotte supposedly hates kings very much. However, he decides to become a king himself. The reader has no idea why he suddenly likes the idea of becoming a monarch since he was against Napoleon becoming a king himself. Thus, the characters were so poorly written that they did not make any sense in the story.

Overall, this novel is about Napoleon from the perspective of his first love. The pacing of the novel was also very uneven. Some scenes felt rushed while other scenes dragged. The romance between Desiree and Bernadotte was barely focused on. Instead, her courtship with Napoleon was more developed. The only thing I liked about this book was that it was meticulously researched and stayed mostly historically accurate. Still, as a fan of The Accidental Empress this was a massive disappointment. In The Accidental Empress, Empress Sisi was a vibrant character in which she is the center of the story. In The Queen’s Fortune, Queen Desiree was simply a passive character and was merely an extra in her own story. I recommend this for fans of The Romanov Empress, The Second Empress, and A Most English Princess.  However, unless you are a huge fan of Alison Pataki and want everything she has written, I suggest you skip this book and read The Accidental Empress instead.

Rating: 2 ½ out of 5 stars


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