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Reviewed by Colleen Turner
Growing up on the dense, lush island of Martinique, young and naive Rose Tascher longed to leave behind the disapproval and constraints of her home and sail away to the excitement and freedom of Paris. Witnessing the unhappy and unfaithful marriage of her parents, Rose resolved to marry for love or not to marry at all: she will settle for nothing less than pure devotion and adventure. Yet the reality she finds herself in is far from her ideal.
What she hoped would be a marriage of mutual adoration and appreciation quickly becomes one of loneliness. Her handsome, sophisticated soldier husband, Alexander, proves to be a cruel, adulterous and inattentive husband who refuses to accompany his young wife around Paris and soon enough abandons her with two small children. Forced to learn how to support her family, Rose uses her wits, connections and learned refinement to advance herself within the Parisian elite and charm various men in order to survive. Then the horrors of the French Revolution come crashing through Rose’s circle of privilege and she finds herself near death in a Parisian prison.
When the political tides turn once again Rose is released, barely having survived the inhumane conditions and humiliations. Now charged with a renewed appreciation for preservation and independence she resolves to do whatever it takes to make sure her and her children’s futures are secure. But amidst finding that freedom she comes into contact with an arrogant, unnervingly intense man who nonetheless finds a way to capture her heart: Napoleon Bonaparte. Marrying this passionate yet demanding man, Rose reinvents herself as Josephine Bonaparte and finds herself at the pinnacle of success as the Empress of France, with all the security and wealth that entails. But the balance between power and freedom, love and loss, will prove difficult for Josephine and she will have to decide what she is willing to live with and what she will have to fight for.
Having very little knowledge of the history of France after the French Revolution, I found Becoming Josephine to be a vivid, close up look at not only the shifting tides of power before, during and after the French Revolution but an in depth study of the woman who was Napoleon Bonaparte’s first wife. Told from Josephine’s point of view the reader gets to see the precarious position a woman of Josephine’s status lived in and the fight such a woman would have to find security, freedom and faithful love in one man. While Josephine came off at times as slightly selfish and spendthrift, I couldn’t help but ache for her as she continued to be hurt and used by men with little recourse. She wanted more than anything a true and faithful love but seemed to have the worst time finding it. The roller coaster highs and lows she experienced during her life were simply mind boggling and her sheer determination to survive and ultimately find happiness in the life she had worked so hard to cultivate was mesmerizing and inspiring.
Becoming Josephine is a superbly written historical novel highlighting a woman seemingly relegated by history to the shadow of her power hungry husband. I found it utterly fascinating and I’m excited to read more about this captivating woman.
Colleen lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband, son, their dog Oliver and their fish Finn. When not working or taking care of her family she has her nose stuck in a book (and, let’s face it, often when she is working or taking care of her family as well). Nothing excites her more than discovering a new author to obsess over or a hidden jewel of a book to worship.
Review and giveaway copies were provided free of any obligation by Plume. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.