Book two in the Josephine B. trilogy did not disappoint. Like the first book — “The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B.” — “Tales of Passion, Tales of Woe” is Josephine (née Rose) Bonaparte’s story, written by Josephine in her own journals and letters. Also like the first book, this one was hard to put down. I actually started it on a plane ride to Houston and finished it on the ride back. It took probably a total of about four hours to finish this book.
In this book we get to learn even more about Josephine’s difficulties in life, particularly those struggles as a wife and mother. This book picks up just where the first ended: the day following her marriage to Bonaparte. It covers the families’ reactions to the marriage. Those reactions? Not so great. On either side. Napoleon’s very large family disapproves of the marriage and does all in its power to come between the two. And Josephine’s children, her daughter particularly, do not take well to their new papa at first. Her son, while impressed and awed by General Bonaparte as his new father, struggles to reconcile his feelings with those for his own dead father.
This book makes clear Napoleon’s undying affection for Josephine, as well as Josephine’s inability to understand and embrace this love. In fact, it takes her most of the book — several years — to even be able to tell her husband “I love you.” It’s an interesting relationship for the reader to follow, as we get to experience Napoleon’s love and affection through Josephine’s eyes while she wrestles with her guilt for not loving him enough. This guilt comes into play as Napoleon goes off to war and gets injured. Perhaps it was, after all, her fault for not loving him enough. And what would happen if she never got to express her true affection for him? On a side note, however, the author paints a very clear picture of the sexual relationship between Napoleon and Josephine — one full of experimentation, exploration and adoration. And one unlike anything Josephine had ever experienced before. Unfortunately, this sexual relationship (no matter how satisfying — and it is) fails to result in any children for Bonaparte and Josephine.
What I liked most about this book? We get to watch Josephine’s strength as a woman grow. We watch her take control of her own life just as her husband takes control of France. How does a woman own her future when her husband is the most powerful man in the country? And how does she maintain her independence while by being one-half of the royal couple? It’s an intriguing journey to experience through Josephine’s eyes. I’m very much looking forward to the next, and final, book in the trilogy, “The Last Great Dance on Earth.”