Married at just 16, and at the time, deeply in love with her husband, Franz Joseph*, Sisi soon finds herself isolated by her husband’s obsessive commitment to duty and a domineering mother-in-law (Princess Sophie of Bavaria) who makes all the domestic decisions. Sisi isn’t even allowed to raise her own children.
This novel is a sequel to the book, The Accidental Empress. It begins with Sisi already married. I was delighted and impressed by Pataki’s mature, thoughtful, and well-researched take on this fascinating historical figure, sprinkled with stories of time spent with Tsars, German emperors, Queen Victoria and prominent artistic figures of Vienna in her day.
As Pataki herself notes in her Author’s Notes at the end of the book — history is full of more REAL drama than an any author can conjure. And these same notes illustrate how well-documented the events of the book are. Even some of the dialog.
This is a fast-paced read — detailing so many aspects of Sisi’s life — including the drudgery of stiff court protocol, her complex relationship with her tragic son Prince Rudolph, and her continual travel and wandering in later years.
In essence, she was simply a young woman whose sensitive nature made her a bad fit for royal life. Which is a tragedy in itself, AND makes for a great story!
Read my review of The Accidental Empress – book 1 in the series.
*Historical Footnote: This is the very same Emperor Franz Joseph who goes on to lose his throne at the end of World War I.