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- Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
- Publication date: 2/28/2012
- Edition number: 1
- Pages: 368
- Source: eARC from NetGalley/Bloomsbury
Eliza Monroe—daughter of the future president of the United States—is devastated when her mother decides to send her to boarding school outside of Paris. But the young American teen is quickly reconciled to the idea when—ooh, la-la!—she discovers who her fellow pupils will be: Hortense de Beauharnais, daughter of Josephine Bonaparte; and Caroline Bonaparte, youngest sister of the famous French general. It doesn't take long for Eliza to figure out that the two French girls are mortal enemies—and that she's about to get caught in the middle of their schemes.
Loosely drawn from history, Eliza Monroe's imagined coming of age provides a scintillating glimpse into the lives, loves, and hopes of three young women during one of the most volatile periods in French history.
I don't really read many historical fiction novels, so I didn't quite know what to expect from this. The synopsis sounded interesting, so I was really excited to read it. It is a slow but steady story that picks up a little as it goes, but to me it was too slow overall. It is told in three different PoV's and I really like how they tie together in the end. I never felt confused at all. It was a well done multi-PoV.
We first meet Eliza, who is the American girl who is pretty much dumped off at this boarding school. I thought she was a little too self-centered, and easily manipulated. She was likable enough, but in general, I found her a bit dull and kind of annoying. Then there's Hortense, who is daughter of Josephine. She is a very complex character, and there is a lot of depth to her. She isn't at all what she seems. I really enjoyed getting to know her, and her secrets. Madeline is the daughter of an actress. I felt bad for her, then didn't like her at all, but by the end I was heart-broken for her. We also have Caroline, who doesn't have her own PoV, but we get a lot of her. She is quite vindictive and I didn't like her at all.
It was interesting to read about how an all girls academy was back in 1799. I really was expecting a little bit more detail and descriptions, but it fell a little flat with that. The story was really centered completely around the characters themselves, with very little information about the other important things going on in France, and the US. We get just a little taste of it. There was a lot of deception going on in this story, but I didn't really feel anything while reading it. I wanted to feel like I was being betrayed, or loved, or tortured. I wanted to feel what the characters were feeling, but I just didn't. The only character I really felt a slight connection to was Madeline. She was just treated so horribly by her mother, but was so hopeful because she was in love.
So I don't even really know what else to say about this story. Eliza is pretty much just thrown into the middle of things. and literally dragged around and stuck in the middle of Hortense and Caroline's plans. She has a bit of her own thing going on, but for the most part she is just kind of there. All of the other girls have their love interests, and families, and Eliza is tagging along. Hortense, Caroline, want to marry for love. Their families want them to marry for convenience. Madeline just wants to escape her awful mother and marry the man she loves. The thing she doesn't know is that his mother won't hear of it. She is just an actresses daughter, no one of importance. They will all lie and deceive to try to get what they want. There is a lot of "Oh, this is what I want, but I don't want to hurt so and so.", but it never really felt like they were really concerned about others. It was just empty words. Everyone had their own agenda to get exactly what they wanted. I feel like this review seems really negative, and I don't mean for it to come across that way at all. I did enjoy the book. There were plenty of things I did like. I thought that some of the touches of romance were sweet, but there were just a lot of things that put me off. I guess I really wanted to know more, and I wanted a little faster pace. It was well written, and I was content reading it. I would give this 3 out of 5 stars.