Three famous young women with different personalities and dreams together in a school, one outsider trying to life change her life, and the glamor and scandal of France after the Revolution make for some interesting and dramatic adventures! Hortense de Beauharnais, Caroline Bonaparte, Eliza Monroe, and a young impoverished French actress named Madeline couldn't have been any more different, but they all had dreams, goals, and problems in their lives. "The Academie" by Susanne Dunlap is a look at these different young women on their very different paths and how their lives connected.
"The Academie" is told through the point of view of three different characters: Eliza Monroe, Hortense de Beauharnais, and Madeline. Eliza Monroe is the young and pretty American who is the daughter of the future President James Monroe. Her mother wants her to receive a glamorous French education at a fine finishing school ran by Madame Campan, a former mistress of the bedchamber to the tragic Marie Antoinette. Hortense de Beauharnais is the main student at the school. She is the beautiful and kind daughter of the famous Josephine de Beauharnais and stepdaughter to the notorious Napoleon Bonparate. Also, at the school is the alluring and scheming Caroline Bonaparte, youngest sister to Napoleon. Madeline is a young woman poorly treated by her actress and with a major secret love of her own, Eugene de Beauharnais. Each woman must deal with something in their life. Eliza has to grow up in this tumultuous French society, Hortense has experiences with first love and confused feelings for her stepfather, and Madeline has to deal with loving a man who is from a society that would never accept her. The novel is about the bonds the young women make and how their decisions change their lives forever.
"The Academie" is a really entertaining read. It is fascinating to know that Eliza Monroe did actually attend school with Hortense de Beauharnais and they were life long friends. Any book set in this time period is interesting, but seeing it through the eyes of such impressionable and emotional young women is so powerful.
Dunlap does a wonderful job developing the characters. One chapter you will hate Eliza for her snobby and haughty ways, but you will also fall in love with her as she shows kindness to Hortense and Madeline. Hortense is a magnificent character who deserves a whole novel of her own. She is vulnerable, kind, loyal, and fascinating with her love for her mother and brother and heartbreaking feelings for her stepfather. Caroline does not get a point of view in the novel, but she is a delight to read about as she makes saucy comments and schemes her way into getting what she wants. Even the fictional Madeline with her doomed love for Eugene is truly interesting.
The only wish is that Caroline, with her rivalry with any woman that crosses her brother Napoleon's path, had her own point of view chapters. Her dislike of all things Beauharnais and her desire to marry a man her brother did not want her to is fascinating. Her chapters would have been thoroughly entertaining.
"The Academie" is a wonderful read for fans of the period of Napoleon Bonaparte and who love a good coming of age tale about young women growing up and learning from their dreams and mistakes. You'll feel as if you're a student at The Academie as well!
To purchase "The Academie": http://www.amazon.com/The-Academie-Susanne-Dunlap/dp/1599905868
For more information on Susanne Dunlap: http://www.susannedunlap.com/