Book Review

Antoinette’s Sister by Diana Giovinazzo

Rating: 5 out of 5.

We’ve all heard of Marie Antoinette. But have you heard of her sister, Charlotte?

This new historical fiction from Diana Giovinazzo, explores the life of Maria Carolina of Austria. Charlotte is sister to Antoinette and Queen in her own right. This fictionalized retelling of her life and reign proved an utterly fascinating account of a woman that history has often overlooked. (Keep reading for full synopsis!)

Reader’s Thoughts:

Give me a book about royalty and I’m all in! While I, like most, am familiar with the history surrounding Marie Antoinette, I have never paid attention to her sister, Charlotte. But what a fascinating life she seemed to have lived!

With a mother determined only to advance her own empire, Charlotte is married off to King Ferdinand IV of Naples. But the young Queen is stronger than anyone expected. With her indomitable spirit, she sets about bettering her new country — all the while out-maneuvering a childish husband and a court full of corruption. Charlotte is a character with faults, to be sure, but one whose determination you can’t help but root for. I found this fictional recounting of Charlotte’s reign highly intriguing.

Although I know little about this specific setting and period, this novel felt entirely plausible. King Ferdinand was an especially curious character. If any of these stories about him are based in truth, he would be an utterly maddening husband to find oneself paired with. I found both these main characters to be well crafted and very much enjoyed their dynamic.

My one critique is that while the inserted letters were useful for the story, the timeline jump often confused me. Overall though, I thought this was a wonderfully written story that kept me hooked until the very last page. I will certainly be back for more books by Giovinazzo!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Recommended for: Fans of historical fiction, royalty

Antoinette's Sister book set against white background with candles. Photo by The 52 Book Club

This post contains affiliate links; as an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. ARC provided courtesy of Grand Central Publishing. All opinions expressed are my own.

About Antoinette’s Sister:

(From the publisher) Austria 1767: Maria Carolina Charlotte—tenth daughter and one of sixteen children of Empress Maria Theresa of Austria—knows her position as a Habsburg archduchess will inevitably force her to leave her home, her family, and her cherished sister, Antoinette, whose companionship she values over all else. But not yet. The Habsburg family is celebrating a great triumph: Charlotte’s older sister, Josepha, has been promised to King Ferdinand IV of Naples and will soon take her place as queen. Before she can journey to her new home, however, tragedy strikes. After visiting the family crypt, Josepha contracts smallpox and dies. Shocked, Charlotte is forced to face an unthinkable new reality: she must now marry Ferdinand in her sister’s stead.
 
Bereft and alone, Charlotte finds that her life in Naples is more complicated than she could ever have imagined. Ferdinand is weak and feckless, and a disastrous wedding night plunges her into despair. Her husband’s regent, Tanucci, a controlling and power-hungry man, has pushed the country to the brink of ruin. Overwhelmed, she asks her brother Leopold, now the Holy Roman Emperor, to send help—which he does in the form of John Acton, a handsome military man twenty years Charlotte’s senior who is tasked with overseeing the Navy. Now, Charlotte must gather the strength to do what her mother did before her: take control of a country.
 
In a time of political uprisings and royal executions and with the increasingly desperate crisis her favorite sister, Queen Marie Antoinette, is facing in France, how is a young monarch to keep hold of everything—and everyone—she loves? Find out in this sweeping, luxurious tale of family, court intrigue, and power.

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