Sisi’s fairytale wedding does not lead to happiness and fulfilment. Sisi enjoys astounding wealth yet feel confined–a bird in a gilded cage. Deeply unhappy, Sisi travels to Hungary where she befriends Count Andrassy and then to England where she befriends the dashing Captain Middleton. Her hunting trips, travels and friendships however, cause the press to criticize and ridicule her.

In her novel Pataki gives readers an unvarnished glimpse of royal life in the Hapsburg court. The narrative flow is not impeded by the historical figures she inserts into the story. She recounts King Ludwig of Bavaria’s tragic downfall and the implications it has for the Hapsburgs. The Hapsburg motto is “We don’t change” yet change is inevitable.

Perhaps no one is as adamant about royal protocol than the Archduchess Sophie, Sisi’s mother-in-law, who cruelly separates Sisi from her own children. Sisi valiantly rescues Rudolph from his tutor’s cruelty but the damage is done. Like the real life counterpart, the Crown prince of this novel remains discontent and troubled. To him, Pataki ascribes the most prophetic dialogues.

Beloved by the people, demeaned by the press, Sisi takes comfort in traveling, even as she and her husband become more and more estranged. The damage of keeping up an appearance for the public’s sake is something many titled people and celebrities face. Pataki captures this internal conflict perfectly as Sisi struggles to fulfill her royal duties.

Informative and well-researched, this story is also an entertaining read.

If you enjoy reading about this time period, you may also enjoy reading,

Goodwin, Daisy. The Fortune Hunter.

Potzsch, Oliver. The Ludwig Conspiracy.

Torgov, Morley. The Mastersinger From Minsk.

Netflix’s Empress, and the feature film Corsage are two new films about the life of Empress Elizabeth of Austria.