Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace


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Monday, February 3, 2014

Historical Fiction Review: Becoming Josephine by Heather Webb

A stunning, intense, emotionally gripping depiction of the first wife of Napoleon, Becoming Josephine, is a MUST read for all lovers of historical fiction.

About the Book

Publication Date: December 31, 2013
Plume Books/Penguin
Paperback; 320p
ISBN-10: 0142180653

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.

Praise for Becoming Josephine

“Heather Webb’s epic novel captivates from its opening in a turbulent plantation society in the Caribbean, to the dramatic rise of one of France’s most fascinating women: Josephine Bonaparte. Perfectly balancing history and story, character and setting, detail and pathos, Becoming Josephine marks a debut as bewitching as its protagonist." –Erika Robuck, author of Hemingway's Girl

 “With vivid characters and rich historical detail, Heather Webb has portrayed in Josephine a true heroine of great heart, admirable strength, and inspiring courage whose quest is that of women everywhere: to find, and claim, oneself.”  --Sherry Jones, bestselling author of The Jewel of the Medina

 “A fast-paced, riveting journey, Becoming Josephine captures the volatile mood of one of the most intense periods of history—libertine France, Caribbean slave revolts, the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars—from the point of a view of one of its key witnesses, Josephine Bonaparte.” –Dana Gynther, author of Crossing on the Paris

 "Vivid and passionate, Becoming Josephine captures the fiery spirit of the woman who stole Napoleon’s heart and enchanted an empire. –Susan Spann, author of The Shinobi Mysteries

 “Spellbinding . . . Heather Webb’s novel takes us behind the mask of the Josephine we thought we knew.” –Christy English, author of How to Tame a Willful Wife and To Be Queen

 “Enchanting prose takes the reader on an unforgettable journey . . . Captivating young Rose springs from the lush beauty of her family's sugar plantation in Martinique to shine in the eighteenth century elegance of Parisian salon society. When France is torn by revolution, not even the blood-bathed terror of imprisonment can break her spirit.” –Marci Jefferson, author of Girl on the Gold Coin (Thomas Dunne Books, 2014)

My Review

Growing up, my grandparents lived in Paris and Provence, so I spent many summers traveling there. I fell in love with France and its culture. Everything about it mesmerized me. I've always been fascinated by Napoleon--the tiny little Corsican who came to rule an empire. Just amazing and somewhat terrifying to watch how he grew. When I was in Paris in 2002, I had the chance to visit his tomb. Enchanting and beautiful. But, despite my interest in him, I hadn't much explored his love life. I was thrilled for the chance to read this book, having such a love of France. But even more so to read about Josephine who I knew so little about. I was transfixed. (And yes, it is fiction, but the author did so much research, the story literally leaps from the page and plays realistically before your eyes.)

Ms. Webb endears us to Rose (aka Josephine) at a young age, where already her heart is tormented by a great loss and lack of affection from her father. It would seem that the majority of men in her life (except for her son), would disappoint her. I ached for her. Physically smashed the book in hopes of smashing some of these men's heads. (Not to mention, Napoleon's family--I loathed them in this book!)

With great loss comes the prospect of a new life. Thrust into Paris, from her home in Martinique, with no one she's familiar with, accept for her maid, Rose is left to find who she is and make her way in place that is wholly foreign from what she's used to. Married to a man (her first husband Alexandre de Beauharnais) who doesn't deserve her, Rose endures turmoil again and again, but within the strife of her personal life also comes many triumphs. Two beautiful children, friendships, a place in society, and the ability to carry on. Rose is one tough chick. A woman to be admired, and she is admired by so many within the realm--the very reason that she eventually captured the heart of Napoleon. The reason that he and she both rose to power becoming the Emperor and Empress of France and Europe.

The writing in Becoming Josephine is vivid and at times heart-wrenching. When Rose is imprisoned, I felt her pain. I smelled the wretched walls, saw the hacked bodies. It was disturbing and eye-opening. A first-hand view of la Terreur

Weaved with the very real history, is the life and growth of a timid island girl, into a powerful, intelligent, charismatic woman who spends nearly the entirety of her life in the limelight. A true heroine, and one I wish I'd known more about well before now. She truly blossomed from a Rose to a Josephine.

After finishing the book, I immediately hit the internet to find out what had happened to her--because I was fuming! Despite the devastating turn of events, her legacy was ever lasting. And I'll never forget her.

If you choose to pick up only one book this year, make it Becoming Josephine, you'll not be disappointed.

About the Author

Heather Webb grew up a military brat and naturally became obsessed with travel, culture, and languages. She put her degrees to good use teaching high school French for nearly a decade before turning to full time novel writing and freelance editing.

When not writing, Heather flexes her foodie skills or looks for excuses to head to the other side of the world. She loves to chitchat on Twitter or Skype with new reader friends or writers (@msheatherwebb) or via her blog at: www.HeatherWebb.net. Stop on by!


Jan Hougland said...

This is about the scavenger hunt for secret words re Highlanders...couldn't find another place to leave a comment, Eliza. I read this blog page and I'm intrigued by all the interesting books and subjects you cover, so I've signed up to follow your blog. Thanks for the posts. jdh2690@gmail.com

Unknown said...

I cannot find the word either...looking forwardto reading your books