The Accidental Empress
A Royal Love Story
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New York Times bestselling author Allison Pataki follows up on her critically-acclaimed debut novel, The Traitor’s Wife, with the little-known and tumultuous love story of “Sisi,” the Austro-Hungarian Empress and captivating wife of Emperor Franz Joseph.
The year is 1853, and the Habsburgs are Europe’s most powerful ruling family. With his empire stretching from Austria to Russia, from Germany to Italy, Emperor Franz Joseph is young, rich, and ready to marry.
Fifteen-year-old Elisabeth, “Sisi,” Duchess of Bavaria, travels to the Habsburg court with her older sister, who is betrothed to the young emperor. But shortly after her arrival at court, Sisi finds herself in an unexpected dilemma: she has inadvertently fallen for and won the heart of her sister’s groom. Intrigued by Sisi’s guileless charm and energetic spirit, not to mention her unrivaled beauty, Franz Joseph reneges on his earlier proposal and declares his intention to marry Sisi instead.
Plucked from obscurity and thrust onto the throne of Europe’s most treacherous imperial court, Sisi has no idea what struggles and dangers—and temptations—await her. Sisi upsets political and familial loyalties in her quest to win, and keep, the love of her emperor, her people, and of the world.
With Pataki’s rich period detail and cast of complex, compelling characters, The Accidental Empress offers a captivating glimpse into the bedrooms and staterooms of one of history’s most intriguing royal families, shedding new light on the glittering Habsburg Empire and its most mesmerizing, most beloved “Fairy Queen.”
Behind the Scenes
Years ago I was traveling through Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic with my family. I kept seeing image after image of the same beautiful young woman. She had this quizzical smile, this rich chestnut hair curled in these elaborate hairdos. I saw her face at every gift shop, museum, even in restaurants and hotels.
I asked someone who she was and the response was that she was “Sisi,” the most beloved Habsburg Empress. I heard just a bit about her epic and tragic life—about the legends that she grew her hair to the floor, that she was considered the most beautiful woman in the world, that every other foreign ruler at the time was in love with her. I sensed that she was a combination of Princess Diana and Marie Antoinette and Catherine the Great and so much more.
I read about how Sisi didn’t mean to seduce her sister’s fiancé the emperor, but did, at the age of 15. Just enough to whet my appetite! I went home and dug in, reading everything I could about Sisi’s story; what I found astounded me. Hers is a story of love triangles, love, lust, betrayal, and so much more. It’s an incredibly human story, told against the glittering backdrop of the Habsburg Court. In Sisi’s case, history is even juicier than any fiction I could have dreamed up. I was hooked—and I hope readers will be, as well.
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Praise for The Accidental Empress
“This novel is captivating, absorbing, and beautifully told—I can’t wait for the sequel!”
– Kathleen Grissom, New York Times bestselling author of The Kitchen House
“The Accidental Empress is lush, romantic, and enlightening—a truly lovely novel.”
– Therese Anne Fowler, New York Times Bestselling author of Z
“Another absolutely compelling story. I loved it.”
– Mary Higgins Clark
“Once again Pataki stuns by diving deep into the pages of history and bringing up a heroine who is not only a jewel, but a red-blooded, complicated woman, allowing us to see history through a refreshingly new perspective. Smart, interesting, and chock-full of betrayal, intrigue, and love—The Accidental Empress had me glued to the page.”
– Lee Woodruff, New York Times Best-Selling author and CBS This Morning contributor
“With her meticulous attention to historical detail and powerfully entertaining storytelling skills, Allison Pataki is a force in historical fiction. Set amid the grand landscapes of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the wilds of the human heart, THE ACCIDENTAL EMPRESS is an epic tale of honor, power, and love. Breathtaking!”
– Erika Robuck, bestselling author of Hemingway’s Girl
The Accidental Empress is a stunning masterpiece of imagination, enriched with lavish historical detail. Utterly riveting, amazingly insightful. A splendid saga sure to capture the heart.
– Jan Moran, bestselling author of Scent of Triumph
“In her latest novel, Allison Pataki brings to life one of the most enigmatic, intelligent, and stunningly beautiful women ever to have graced a court in Europe. A remarkable novel about a truly remarkable empress!”
–Michelle Moran, bestselling author of Rebel Queen
“A glorious novel about a misunderstood empress…With a sumptuous sense of history and evocative attention to detail, Allison Pataki conjures the rebellious, glamorous spirit of Sisi of Austria.”
– C.W. Gortner, bestselling author of The Queen’s Vow
“I felt as if I’d been transported to Austria in this powerful and sweeping novel. A heart wrenching, beautiful story, rich with historical detail and political intrigue. Skillful and utterly captivating.”
– M.J. Rose, New York Times bestselling author of The Witch of Painted Sorrows
“The Accidental Empress is a tale of royal love we don’t know but should, and who better to share it with us than the supremely gifted and entertaining historical novelist, Allison Pataki. A delightful gift for readers…The Accidental Empress is enthralling.”
– Allegra Jordan, author of The End of Innocence
“Allison Pataki so vividly depicts the world of the Habsburg court, you’ll feel the silk of Sisi’s gowns under your very fingers as you eagerly turn the pages of THE ACCIDENTAL EMPRESS. As a woman both ahead of her time and wholly situated within it, Sisi makes for a captivating central figure, and rarely has an author so heartbreakingly captured the exquisite tragedy of getting what you want. Sumptuous, surprising, and deeply felt.”
– Greer Macallister, author of The Magician’s Lie
“A love match alters the course of history…Pataki deserves kudos for choosing her subject matter well—Sisi’s life is ideal fictional fodder.”
– Kirkus Reviews
“Pataki’s fully drawn ACCIDENTAL EMPRESS is an indelible portrayal—not only of one of the most complicated and misunderstood Habsburgs, but of a turbulent royal marriage during a tumultuous era.”
– Juliet Grey, author of Marie Antoinette trilogy