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Publisher's Summary

A sweeping novel about the extraordinary woman who captured Napoleon’s heart, created a dynasty, and changed the course of history - from the New York Times best-selling author of The Traitor's Wife, The Accidental Empress, and Sisi.

“I absolutely loved The Queen’s Fortune, the fascinating, little-known story of Desiree Clary - the woman Napoleon left for Josephine - who ultimately triumphed and became queen of Sweden.” (Martha Hall Kelly, New York Times best-selling author of Lilac Girls)

As the French revolution ravages the country, Desiree Clary is faced with the life-altering truth that the world she has known and loved is gone, and it’s fallen on her to save her family from the guillotine. 

A chance encounter with Napoleon Bonaparte, the ambitious and charismatic young military prodigy, provides her answer. When her beloved sister, Julie, marries his brother, Joseph, Desiree and Napoleon’s futures become irrevocably linked. Quickly entering into their own passionate, dizzying courtship that leads to a secret engagement, they vow to meet in the capital once his career has been secured. But her newly laid plans with Napoleon turn to sudden heartbreak, thanks to the rising star of Parisian society, Josephine de Beauharnais. Once again, Desiree’s life is turned on its head. 

Swept to the glittering halls of the French capital, Desiree is plunged into the inner circle of the new ruling class, becoming further entangled with Napoleon, his family, and the new Empress. But her fortunes shift once again when she meets Napoleon's confidant and star general, the indomitable Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte. As the two men in Desiree’s life become political rivals and military foes, the question that arises is: Must she choose between the love of her new husband and the love of her nation and its emperor?

From the lavish estates of the French Riviera to the raucous streets of Paris and Stockholm, Desiree finds herself at the epicenter of the rise and fall of an empire, navigating a constellation of political giants and dangerous, shifting alliances. Emerging from an impressionable girl into a fierce young woman, she discovers that to survive in this world she must learn to rely upon her instincts and her heart.

Allison Pataki’s meticulously researched and brilliantly imagined novel sweeps listeners into the unbelievable life of a woman almost lost to history - a woman who, despite the swells of a stunning life and a tumultuous time, not only adapts and survives but, ultimately, reigns at the helm of a dynasty that outlasts an empire.

©2020 Allison Pataki (P)2020 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“In The Queen’s Fortune, Allison Pataki chronicles Desiree, the secret lover of Napoleon Bonaparte. When Napoleon chooses Josephine over her, the heartbroken Desiree finds herself entangled with Napoleon, Josephine and the new ruling class. Pataki deftly weaves a tangled web of passion, deception and intrigue, set against one of the most tumultuous periods in history, making for a heady cocktail which readers will devour.” (Pam Jenoff, New York Times best-selling author of The Lost Girls of Paris)

“I absolutely loved The Queen’s Fortune, the fascinating, little-known story of Desiree Clary - the woman Napoleon left for Josephine - who ultimately triumphed and became queen of Sweden.” (Martha Hall Kelly, New York Times best-selling author of Lost Roses and Lilac Girls)

“Allison Pataki is a masterful historical author at the top of her game. From the very first lyrical lines of The Queen’s Fortune, I was wholly swept into the entrancing world of Desiree Clary Bernadotte. Painstaking research and page-turning prose placed me directly at the side of this remarkable yet lesser-known figure, journeying from innocent girlhood to seasoned royalty, a survivor of guillotine threats, palace politics, and strains of the heart. I absolutely loved this book from beginning to end.” (Kristina McMorris, New York Times best-selling author of Sold on a Monday and The Edge of Lost

What listeners say about The Queen's Fortune

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Fascinating Heroine

Desiree Clary has often been overshadowed by more glamorous or scandalous women from the era. Her story is fascinating though; a bourgeois girl who should have married well, produced children, and then been forgotten like many other women of her station. The idea that she was once the fiancée of one of history’s most complex egomaniacs, then the wife of a simple soldier and finally queen of a not insignificant country is compelling.

Allison Pataki has written several novels about “royal” women who were famous in their day but then forgotten. The formula clearly works well for her and I enjoy reading/listening about these often overlooked women. Unfortunately, Pataki is not the most accomplished writer or historian, and her novels are often peppered with minor mistakes. For instance, a ship wouldn’t have a horn in the late 1790s; it would have a bell. This slip ups can be jarring for seasoned historical fiction readers.

I also had issues with how she glossed over major historical events. The whole of the Napoleonic War were made to sound rather boring. She treats the Battle of Waterloo like a tea party. I understand that the war is not the focus of the novel but for it to have been handled in such a lackluster manner is strange to me. Especially as the war made such an impact on the life of the main character.

Despite these drawbacks, I’m always happy to read relatively accurate, fictional treatments of historical women. And ultimately, I finished the novel, which is the seal of approval from me!

6 people found this helpful

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A great insight to revolutionary France.

There was so much I didn't know about Napoleon and the Revolution in France. I now want to do some of my own research and learn more about the time period. This was a great listen!

6 people found this helpful

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Excellent narration! Excellent story! nice listen

Excellent listen if you are into historical fiction. Highly recommend. I'll be seeking out future reads from her.

5 people found this helpful

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This is a delightful fictional history of France,

which inspires the reader to read more about these historic figures who left deep impressions on today's society.

3 people found this helpful

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An Engaging Account

The author paints a fascinating account of Napoleon’s rise to power from the point of view of one who knew him well. The story ends up morphing into a biography of the observer. Full of accounts of fascinating historical details and character portraits of leading players of both Josephine and Napoleon as well as other family members. I enjoyed the story a great deal though some pivotal details such as Josephine’s death are told as an afterthought which seemed to diminish its importance.. Also large blocks of time are passed over with highlights accounted retrospectively which I found a bit perplexing. It left me wanting a bit more detail. On an even more personal note I was perplexed by oddities of the readers accent. My husband and i started chucking whenever the word “body” came up—(which was frequently). The reader consistently read it as “bodaay”. Likewise words ending in “er” were consistently pronounced as “aay”. Doubtless this must be some regional accent, but it wasn’t a familiar one and it did distract. Otherwise the reader was competent, w good French pronunciations and varying character voices.

2 people found this helpful

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A Must Read/Listen

I believe this book ranks as high as the famous Jane Austin novels and Gone with the Wind. What a beautiful story and portrayal of a small group of people who changed the world forever.

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Lovely Desire..lover, wife Mother and queen in Napoleons time.


Just charming way to give life to a incredible woman. With a unforgettable name:Desireé

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FANTÁSTICO

I enjoyed this historical Nobel from the beginning. To hear history through the human aspects of its heroes or people who took place in it I think is the best way to understand the events that took place. I recommend it very much!!!

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Historically interesting

The book read a little too much like a romance novel to me. The historical research was fascinating and I enjoyed that but was distracted by all of the adolescent love talk.

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Couldn't finish this

The actress's cadence and inflection was too much for me. I found myself mocking every other sentence out loud, it was that distracting.
Seemed like a great story, too bad. Maybe I'll find the book and read it properly.

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  • Natalie Towler
  • 12-16-20

Great story, irritating narrator.

What an excellent book, but I wish I'd bought the hardcopy instead of the audio. The narrator has an irritating lilt to the end of most sentences - like Forrest Gump. So when trying to picture the majesty of Versailles Palace, suddenly 'Forrest, Forrest Gump' would burst into the scene in my head, jogging through the palace grounds. Forest ruined this book for me...