Thursday, January 2, 2014

Blog Tour Review: Becoming Josephine by Heather Webb

From the Back Cover:

Rose Tascher sails from her Martinique plantation to Paris to trade her Creole black magic culture for love and adventure. She arrives exultant to follow her dreams of attending Court with Alexandre, her elegant aristocrat and soldier husband. But Alexandre dashes her hopes and abandons her amid the tumult of the French Revolution.

Through her savoir faire, Rose secures her footing in high society, reveling in handsome men and glitzy balls—until the heads of her friends begin to roll.

After narrowly escaping death in the blood-drenched cells of Les Carmes prison, she reinvents herself as Josephine, a socialite of status and power. Yet her youth is fading, and Josephine must choose between a precarious independence and the love of an awkward suitor. Little does she know, he would become the most powerful man of his century- Napoleon Bonaparte.

BECOMING JOSEPHINE is a novel of one woman’s journey to find eternal love and stability, and ultimately to find herself.

My Thoughts:

Loved it. Absolutely loved it. I'm so glad I started off the year with this book. I've lamented how few books blew me away in the past year; I yearned for a book to get under my skin, pull me in deep, refuse to let go of me, and then haunt me afterward. This book did all of that to me and more, and the reason is no doubt the vibrant, poignant, masterful characterization of the woman who captivated lords, generals, politicians, and ultimately, the man who would become the first Emperor of France.

Ms. Webb has painted a portrait of a larger-than-life woman judged and labeled by contemporaries and historians alike, but who was, underneath it all, all too human. Josephine's heartaches were my heartaches, her triumphs my own, her anger, her fear, her humiliation, her happiness -- all of it lived within me as I was reading. She endured much at the whims of men, and much as a Patriot of France, and though there were moments that were difficult for me to read, through it all I was comforted by the knowledge that Josephine could handle anything life threw at her, and though things would not always turn out as she hoped, she would recover, regroup, and rise from the ashes as she ascended from a Caribbean planter's daughter to Empress of France.

This is the first novel I've read about Josephine, and I did not know much about her beforehand other than that she was Napoleon's wife and supposed great love until he divorced her, so all of the tumultuous events of her life were new to me -- and what a life she lived! I don't want to spoil the pleasure of discovering the story of this indomitable woman firsthand for others, so I will avoid a plot recap. But I will say that it was so chock full of drama and history that there was never a dull moment, and I could not put the book down. From the sultry heat of Martinique with its sugar plantations, island spirits, and terrifying rebellions, to the dichotomy of Paris with its glittering salons and glamorous, free-living elite, rotten streets and starving peasants, and chaotic and paranoid revolutionary fervor, I was transported and transfixed.

All that being said, the novel is not perfect. There are a couple of things I could point to that niggled at me, one or two areas in which the book may have fallen a bit short, but in the end, none of that mattered when weighed against the pure reading pleasure this book provided me. It's going to be hard for another 2014 historical fiction debut to top this one, and even harder for another historical heroine to live up to the bar set by Marie-Josephe-Rose de Tascher de La Pagerie de Beauharnais as envisioned by Heather Webb. Becoming Josephine is a must-read for my fellow historical fiction lovers!

My Rating:  5 Stars out of 5

Becoming Josephine is on a blog tour! Heather Webb will be here tomorrow with an interview and a giveaway!

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