Author: Brandy Purdy
Genre: historical fiction
Published: January 31 2017
Source: publishers via NetGalley
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 Alexander, 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.
This is not the first book by Brandy Purdy that I have read during my blogging career, but it will certainly be the last. The narrative is short on detail, long on repetition, and the technical aspects of the story don't hold up. Josephine de Beauharnais was a fascinating and unpredictable woman who enchanted a global tyrant, but there's little charisma or interest for this fictional version of her. Two Empresses is above all a rote, lifeless rendition of her life; it holds little entertainment and less satisfaction.
One-dimensional, limp characterization is only one of the several problems that plague the pages of Brandy Purdy's latest novel. Josephine's story is paired with that of Rose, an original character, who boasts a plot that feels disjointed from the main one and which never engages the audience. Rose's inclusion to the story is unnecessary, cliched, and underdeveloped. With little emotional investment in either the made-up character or this version of the historical figures of Josephine, Napoleon, etc., Two Empresses was an unsatisfying, unbelievable story.