Published by: St. Martin's Press
Published on: July 29, 2014
Page Count: 480
Genre: Historical fiction
My Reading Format: ARC provided by NetGalley on behalf of publisher
Available Formats: Hardback, paperback, audiobook, Audible, Kindle ebook
Empress Elizabeth "Sisi" of Austria, in need of a change of scenery and some space from her husband Emperor Franz Joseph, travels to the English countryside to engage in fox hunting with her English royal counterparts. Here she is provided with Bay Middleton, a hunting guide and accomplished horseman who is without a fortune. Bay is engaged to Charlotte Baird, a noblewoman who is bossed around by her older brother and his fiance Augusta. Charlotte looks forward to starting her life with Bay but he is sidetracked by his employ by Sisi, who is older but beautiful. The attraction between Sisi and Bay is mutual, and Bay is torn between the potential for an exciting affair with the Empress or a comfortable life with Charlotte.
I've long had a fascination with the British royal family, and since my trip to Austria last year, I've now added to that my obsession with Austrian-Hungarian royalty. This book, a marriage of the two, seemed like a perfect to-read for me. Therefore, I liked the book on the whole just for that reason. I also liked learning more about a traditional English hunting expedition. From a technical standpoint, I like Goodwin's writing style. She uses description beautifully and told the story in a way that was enjoyable to me as a reader.
I had trouble with a couple things with regard to character development. Charlotte is a well-rounded character, and I really felt for the tough spot she was in. Bay, however, made his choice very quickly right at the end of the book, which felt forced to me. Sisi was an interesting character, but I would have liked to know more about her inner struggle between her attraction to Bay and her loyalty to her husband and family. Overall I thought this was a fun read, even though I felt the plot was resolved abruptly. I'd love to do more reading about Sisi.
Three out of five stars
If you liked this book, you’ll like The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin, Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen, Blue Asylum by Kathy Hepinstall, A Nervous Splendor by Frederic Morton and Becoming Queen Victoria by Kate Williams.