Pauline Bonaparte is renowned as the most beautiful woman in Europe. Recently widowed, older brother Napoleon wants her to make an advantageous marriage – and Prince Camillo Borghese just might fit the bill – and he is very interested despite the rumors he’s heard about her very busy bed. The two marry and begin a stormy on and off again relationship as the very proper Prince Camillo is forced to take a walk on the wild side with his new bride.
So, sounds like the makings of a rich, meaty historical novel you’d love to sink your teeth into, doesn’t it? First off, if I’d done a bit more research not on the book, but the author beforehand I’d probably have stayed clear. Here’s the deal – the author is a descendent of that same Borghese family (although not directly from Camillo and Pauline) – and while he’s worn a lot of career hats I think this is the first time he’s written a book. According to Wik Lorenzo Borghese has been on The Bachelor and also works in the family’s cosmetics business and other business enterprises. Not exactly the background that suggests serious historical novelist to me.
On to my overall impressions – while the book isn’t *bad* by any means, it certainly isn’t great either. First and foremost, the blurb on the back promises this is told from the POV (third person) of Sophie Leclerc, a cousin of her first husband. Guess what, Sophie isn’t even in the picture much of the time and she’s most especially absent when Pauline and Camillo have to have hot hot hot sex (although not terribly hot for this reader, no chemistry there). We really don’t get to know Sophie that well, let alone understanding her lifelong devotion to Pauline considering some of the treatment she receives. Camillo Borghese is a perfect gentleman with impeccable courtly manners, while Pauline screams SLUT SLUT SLUT SLUT. A bit partial to one side of the family, perhaps?
Those quibbles aside, I think where this really falls short is we really don’t get a feel for the real Pauline. The story begins when she’s a widow, we don’t *see* her as a young girl, nor do we find out what brought on her wild sexual behavior – or was it all rumor and innuendo? There are large periods in her life that are glossed over with a few pages of imagined letters from her, including the period where she joined her brother during his exile in Elba, yet we get page upon tedious page of her dying days and reunion with her perfect husband, including more hot sex – ‘natch. In the end, this is a novel that just teased me with what could have been (would someone please write that story?) and leaves you wanting more. This might do if you are in the mood for something *lite*, but this will stick with you just about as much as cotton candy at the fair – you’ll just be left hungry for something more substantial.
Thanks for Librarything’s Early Reviewer program for my copy.