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Book Review: "Becoming Josephine" by Heather Webb

"Becoming Josephine" by Heather Webb

The love of Napoleon Bonaparte's life had a rich and full life before she ever met him. Born Rose in Martinique, married to a man who didn't love her, a prisoner during the French Revolution, mistress of famous men, and fashion icon were only some of the highlights in the life of Josephine de Beauharnais. In "Becoming Josephine" by Heather Webb, readers journey into the very full life of Josephine, Napoleon's beloved and a woman with a fascinating life.

"Becoming Josephine" is the story of Josephine's life before she became Napoleon's beloved wife and help-meet. Born Rose Tascher on a Martinique plantation, she was told by a woman of the island that she was destined for greatness. When Rose's sister dies, Rose takes her place and marries the aristocratic Alexander de Beauharnais. Rose arrives in Paris innocent, lonely, and trapped in a loveless marriage. Rose's greatest comfort are her two children Eugene and Hortense. Eventually Alexander and Rose separate, but form a cordial bond for the children. As Rose begins to rise in Paris society and make friends with the elite, her husband's politics during the French Revolution put her and her family at risk. Alexander and Rose are both thrown in prison during the Reign of Terror where Alexander loses his life and Rose suffers greatly. Rose leaves prison and enters a new Paris where she finds her way attending salons, becoming the epitome of style and fashion, and charming men. On one fateful night, Rose meets the strange, but fascinating General Napoleon Bonaparte and catches his eye. Her life changes forever when Napoleon falls obsessively in love with her and craves marriage with her. Going with her head and against her heart, Rose marries Napoleon and he transforms her into Josephine, his glittering and flawless wife. Napoleon's love for Josephine is obsessive and she struggles with feelings for another man, Napoleon's hateful family, and Napoleon's suffocating love. Eventually Josephine realizes the depth of her feelings for Napoleon and falls in love with him. Napoleon and Josephine rule France and are crowned Emperor and Empress, but a desire for children that Josephine cannot give threatens their love and happiness. Napoleon lets go of Josephine for the sake of his dynasty leaving both Napoleon and Josephine heartbroken. Josephine is left alone, but for the first time in her life, truly free. "Becoming Josephine" is a full look at the life of Rose turned Josephine and all the defining moments in her life.

"Becoming Josephine" is a wonderful debut for Webb. Webb tells the story from Josephine's point of view and does it beautifully. She really creates a voice for Josephine and makes readers feel as if you are sitting with Josephine and listening to her tell her story. The story is easy-to-read, flows wonderfully, and is a full look at this fascinating woman's life. You can tell Webb really has an interest, knowledge, and passion for Josephine de Beauharnais.

Webb also does a great job of describing Martinique, Paris, and the various places Josephine visits or travels to. Josephine's dresses and style are perfectly described as well. From details about Napoleon's appearance to the horrible prison conditions Josephine endured to Josephine's beloved Malmaison, Webb brings it all to life.

Webb is a fantastic addition to the historical fiction genre. Here's hoping she continues the rest of Josephine's story in later novels.

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