Monday, January 6, 2014

Book Review and Giveaway: Becoming Josephine by Heather Webb


Rose Tascher sails from her Martinique plantation to Paris to trade her Creole black magic culture for love and adventure. She arrives exultant to follow her dreams of attending Court with Alexandre, her elegant aristocrat and soldier husband. But Alexandre dashes her hopes and abandons her amid the tumult of the French Revolution.

Through her savoir faire, Rose secures her footing in high society, reveling in handsome men and glitzy balls—until the heads of her friends begin to roll.

After narrowly escaping death in the blood-drenched cells of Les Carmes prison, she reinvents herself as Josephine, a socialite of status and power. Yet her youth is fading, and Josephine must choose between a precarious independence and the love of an awkward suitor. Little does she know, he would become the most powerful man of his century-Napoleon Bonaparte.

BECOMING JOSEPHINE is a novel of one woman’s journey to find eternal love and stability, and ultimately to find herself.

Plume Books/Penguin | December 31, 2013 | 320 pages | ISBN-10: 0142180653

My Review

The name Josephine Bonaparte is undoubtedly familiar to readers with an interest in Revolutionary and Napoleonic-era France. While Josephine is a relatively popular figure, there are surprisingly few historical novels that feature her as a central character.  As such, Becoming Josephine, Heather Webb's debut novel chronicling Josephine's life, is a welcome addition to the historical fiction genre. 

Born Rose Tascher on the French island of Martinique, the woman who would become wife to French Emperor Napoleon lived the type of life well suited for a novel.  Josephine endured a loveless first marriage to French aristocrat Alexandre de Beauharnais, but through this marriage was able to befriend some of France's most prominent citizens.  Although she survived the horrors of the French Revolution and Robespierre's Terror, not everyone she knew was as fortunate.  Once she caught the eye of Napoleon, Josephine's life again takes a dramatic turn, one that ultimately led to her becoming Empress of the French.  Each of these episodes and aspects of Josephine's life is featured in Becoming Josephine, a novel that is sure to please readers hoping to learn more about this fascinating woman. 

Having previously read a few novels about Josephine I was already familiar with her life prior to reading Becoming Josephine. Despite this familiarly, I enjoyed the fresh perspective brought to her life by Heather Webb, who presents Josephine as charming, kind, compassionate and caring.  Josephine experienced a few rough periods in her life, but she never let her own disappointments or hardships stop her from trying to help others. This is most evident during the French Revolution. Webb's characterization of Josephine is one of the novel's greatest assets, as readers will undoubtedly come to care about Josephine as much as the author does. Becoming Josephine is further enhanced by Webb's attention to detail, which comes through most prominently in her often vivid and eloquent descriptions of people and settings. Given this novel is a work of biographical fiction, it necessarily includes the historical figures with whom Josephine interacted and the major events she lived through.  Of the secondary figures featured in the book, I enjoyed getting to know Napoleon best, and think Webb does a great job showing the development of his relationship with Josephine. 

While Becoming Josephine covers a significant period of time and a number of important events, it is nevertheless a quick read.  There are a few instances in the novel where I wish certain aspects of Josephine's life had been explored in more depth, most particularly the early years of her marriage to Alexandre and her life while French Empress, which I think were passed over a little too quickly.  Overall, however, Webb does a good job of conveying just the right amount of information to ensure readers garner an appreciation for Josephine and her story while not bogging them down with too much detail. 

Recommended to all fans of historical fiction, especially those interested in the French Revolution and Napoleonic eras of French history. 

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Source: I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review

Becoming Josephine is currently on tour!  Click here to check out the tour schedule.  You'll find links to other reviews, giveaway opportunities and author interviews. 

About the Author

Heather Webb grew up a military brat and naturally became obsessed with travel, culture, and languages. She put her degrees to good use teaching high school French for nearly a decade before turning to full time novel writing and freelance editing.

When not writing, Heather flexes her foodie skills or looks for excuses to head to the other side of the world.

For more information please visit Heather’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.


I'm pleased to host a giveaway for one copy of Becoming Josephine.  Giveaway details are as follows:

- To enter, simply leave a comment below with your email address.
- The giveaway is open to residents of Canada and the United States only;
- Only one entry per person;
- The giveaway is open until midnight (EST) on January 15th.
- The winner will be selected using

Good Luck!

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