Book: The Academie
Author: Susannne Dunlap
The year is 1799 and Eliza Monroe has just been
unceremoniously deposited by her mother at a prestigious boarding school in France.
Instead of the Parisian holiday she expected, Eliza must now undertake the
difficult task of befriending members of the young French upper class,
including Caroline Bonaparte, sister to the great Napoleon, and Hortense de
Beauharnais, the daughter of Josephine Bonaparte, Napoleon’s wife. Eliza was hoping for adventure and romance in
Paris, will she find it while trying to deal with the intrigues and
manipulations of Caroline and Hortense?
Hortense is growing fatigued by Caroline’s attempts to ruin
her family and reputation. She wants to fall in love, to be caught up in a
great romance, and the son of her music teacher just might do the trick. Can Hortense find love on her own terms or
will she be forever bowing to her controlling mother’s will?
Madeleine wants to be rescued from her life as the serving
girl to her mother, an abusive, narcissistic actress. Madeleine’s
lover, Eugene de Beauharnais, has promised to take her away and marry
her. Will he fulfill his vow or leave
her to fend for herself with a mother who grows more unhinged by the day?
I had mixed feelings about this title. As a whole, this was a
decent read set in a very interesting period in French history. The years
following the French Revolution were uncertain and fraught with potential
conflict, particularly for members of the upper class. One of the main reasons I enjoyed this title is because the author captured the precarious
atmosphere of this period so well. This aspect of the book was fascinating.
The Academie switches narration between
Eliza, Hortense and Madeleine which builds suspense in some instances but in
others only serves to unnecessarily replay particular scenes. I really enjoyed the character of Hortense. I actually wish
the entire story would have been about her life before the events of this book.
She must have had a fascinating upbringing which would have made for a better story
than the one here. The character of Eliza seemed a little inconsistent. She did
grow throughout the events of the book, but her development seemed forced. The
character of Madeleine was simply a wasted opportunity. As an aspiring singer
and actress, she could have been extremely interesting. In the end, she did
little more than move the action forward which again, made for another
I have to say, I wish this book had been better. I enjoyed it
for the first half simply because the time period was represented so well and
the characters held my interest. In the second half the story became tedious
and the characters began to feel very underdeveloped and capricious. If you
enjoy historical fiction, you may like this one, but the ending will probably disappoint
most readers. For better spins on this
genre, try The Luxe Series by Anna Godberson and for the French Revolution with
a supernatural twist try The Red Necklace by Sally Gardner.
The Bottom Line: This
is a book set in a fully realized time period with a disappointingly mediocre
plot. I had no idea that life with the Bonaparte clan would ever seem this
uneventful. If you like historical fiction, particularly the period after and
around the French Revolution, give this one a try. For other books with similar
themes, look to The Luxe by Anna Godberson or The Red Necklace by Sally
The Publisher provided me with an advanced copy, through netgalley, for this review. The Academie will be released on April 10, 2012