This is a book which I am struggling to define my feelings for. I was expecting a sweeping historical romance, but instead I was left cold by an unreliable book blurb.
Having read the back cover of the book, I was expecting Sisi, the beautiful Austrian Empress who is visiting Britain in 1875, to be the main character. However, she takes a back seat to the man who she takes as a lover and his fiancee Charlotte.
The novel’s premise is that Sisi is escaping unhappiness at home and finds love with a dashing Captain, but by the time we meet Sisi we are already invested in the Captain’s relationship with Charlotte, and view Sisi as an interloper.
Captain Bay Middleton has feelings for his betrothed, but he is a rogue when it comes to women (we know he has fathered an illegitimate child) and he is swayed by Sisi’s beauty and cannot resist the invitation to her bed.
The reader is left to scorn him for his betrayal so soon after becoming engaged to Charlotte. Sisi however, is weak and spoilt and pins all her happiness on this man who can give her nothing beyond a few nights of pleasure.
My final hope was that spirited Charlotte would show Bay the door – no such luck.
This is a novel supposedly based on fact, and even features Queen Victoria as a character. However, I have no interest in researching or reading further about the lives of the Empress and the various other characters.
It seems to me to be a story which is best left in the past and not re-examined.