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The Accidental Empress by Allison Pataki

Anyone who enjoys good historical fiction, books by Philippa Gregory, Margaret George or Sandra Gulland, will enjoy the new novel The Accidental Empress by Allison Pataki released just this week.


It is Elisabeth, who becomes the accidental Empress, the young wife of Franz Joseph, Emperor of the Austro- Hungarian Empire. The story begins with her childhood, when Elisabeth was one of a large family, growing up in the Bavarian countryside, horseback riding and hiking in the mountains far from the court. She was, though, a duchess, and her aunt was Princess Sophie of Bavaria, the mother of Franz Joseph. A marriage was arranged between Elisabeth’s sister and Franz Joseph but it quickly becomes apparent that it is Elisabeth and Franz Joseph who are in love and they are eventually allowed to marry.

Princess Sophie has had a great deal of control over her son and is not about to relinquish her role for a new wife. Any chance for happiness this couple may have had is doomed from the beginning. I have read several books about Elisabeth of Austria, known as “Sisi” and found her an intriguing woman who lived through a turbulent time in history. Sisi made such an impression on all who knew her during her lifetime – and all who came after. The Accidental Empress is the first book I have read that has treated her kindly, as a woman who had a great many difficulties to overcome in order to become the wife of Franz Joseph, to bear his children and the grief of the losses she experienced.

Elisabeth came into this marriage at the age of only 15, used to freedom and life out of doors she was stifled by the expectation of court behavior and frustrated by the constant supervision of her Aunt Sophie. Elisabeth was expected to bear children – especially a son. As she matured the Empress realized that she did have some power as the wife of the Emperor and began to exercise it – no longer allowing herself to be repressed by the threats of Sophie – but it is a long and heart breaking battle.

Anyone who does a little research will discover that there is much more to the story of Elisabeth of Austria after 1867 when this novel ends. I hope that Allison Pataki will decide to continue the story. Using historical facts and adding her own interpretation of the events she paints a very sympathetic picture of a young woman who surmounts tremendous obstacles to become the adored Empress of Austria, and perhaps finds satisfaction and love.

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