Monday, August 24, 2015

Book Review: The Accidental Empress by Allison Pataki

Pages: 512
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: February 17, 2015
Source: Personal Copy
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "New York Times bestselling author Allison Pataki follows up on her critically acclaimed debut novel, The Traitor’s Wife, with the little-known and tumultuous love story of “Sisi” the Austro-Hungarian Empress and captivating wife of Emperor Franz Joseph. The year is 1853, and the Habsburgs are Europe’s most powerful ruling family. With his empire stretching from Austria to Russia, from Germany to Italy, Emperor Franz Joseph is young, rich, and ready to marry. Fifteen-year-old Elisabeth, “Sisi,” Duchess of Bavaria, travels to the Habsburg Court with her older sister, who is betrothed to the young emperor. But shortly after her arrival at court, Sisi finds herself in an unexpected dilemma: she has inadvertently fallen for and won the heart of her sister’s groom. Franz Joseph reneges on his earlier proposal and declares his intention to marry Sisi instead.  Thrust onto the throne of Europe’s most treacherous imperial court, Sisi upsets political and familial loyalties in her quest to win, and keep, the love of her emperor, her people, and of the world. With Pataki’s rich period detail and cast of complex, bewitching characters, The Accidental Empress offers a captivating glimpse into one of history’s most intriguing royal families, shedding new light on the glittering Hapsburg Empire and its most mesmerizing, most beloved “Fairy Queen.”
Sisi, otherwise known as Elizabeth, has grown up as the daughter of a Bavarian duke, but she's grown up in an unconventional way. She's free to roam around outside, ride her horses, and partake in other "un-lady" like activities.  When her older sister, Helene, is summoned by the Hapsburg Court in Vienna as a possible love-match to their cousin, Franz Joseph, their lives change forever.  Helene is not interested in becoming an Empress. She is shy, a bookworm, and wants to be a nun.  But when the Emperor and his mother, Aunt Sophie, summon you, you must go.  Helene makes the trek to Vienna along with Sisi and their mother.  Right away they find out that Aunt Sophie is still very much overbearing, opinionated and controlling.  As more time goes on, Franz realizes that the love match isn't so much with boring Helene, but rather with vivacious and charismatic Sisi, much to his mother's dismay.  A wedding occurs and Sisi realizes that this is the life she has dreamed of; she never thought she would make a match this great, let alone become an Empress.  However, things aren't what they seem at court, especially with her aunt breathing down her neck and whispering in Franz's ear.  Allison Pataki's The Accidental Empress is a fascinating story about Sisi as well as the Hapsburg Empire.

I loved fifteen year old Sisi in The Accidental Empress. She was the kind of girl that threw caution to the wind. She was athletic and larger than life. Of course she would overshadow Helene, whose initial interaction with Franz and Aunt Sophie was so painful. She didn't even talk when she first met them. So, of course, Franz was interested in Sisi, especially when he found out she loved to ride horses.  After their first date on horseback, Franz knew that Sisi was the girl for him, but he had to convince his mother, of course.  

Once they are married and she is at court, things were painful at times. Because Sisi is so young and inexperienced, she put up with a lot from both Franz and Aunt Sophie. I can't tell you how many times I wanted to punch Sophie in the jugular. That woman is a nightmare of epic proportions.  I could see why Sisi wanted to escape court.  

I don't want to give too much away regarding Sisi's story, but it's so very fascinating. Pataki did an excellent job researching Sisi's life and including many details in The Accidental Empress.  Also, Pataki did a superb job bringing the time period to life as well as the glittering Hapsburg Court. 

I was left chomping at the bit at the end of The Accidental Empress. Pataki left us with a bit of a cliffhanger, so I am happy there will be a book two that will tell us what happens to Sisi. I'm dying to know if she finds happiness. 

Fans of historical fiction will thoroughly enjoy The Accidental Empress, especially if you are like me and have always been interested in learning more about the Hapsburg Empire and love stories of royalty.


  1. I'm not really all that familiar with The Hapsburg Empire, so this might be a good place to start. Like you, I love reading Historical fiction that has some semblance of historical significance. Biography and History told in a fictional manner. I learn faster that way. :)

    Brilliant review, Christina.

    1. Yes, that's one reason I love historical fiction as well. I hope you can check out this book soon. Thanks for visiting, Joy!

  2. Ooooh, the Hapsburg Empire is fascinating, Christina; what a great backdrop for this story!!

    1. I know, right?! I have never read a book about the Hapsburg Empire. It was definitely fascinating. Thanks for visiting, Tara!

  3. This sounds fantastic! The only thing I know about Franz Joseph is that he was (I believe) a patron of Mozart. I didn't know anything about Sisi at all. Her story looks really interesting and I will be adding this to my TBR list. Great review!

  4. Oops. Just looked at the time period and realized he couldn't have been Mozart's patron. I guess I will learn a lot when I read this book :)


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