Author: Barry Denenberg
Genre: Historical, Historical Fiction
Series: The Royal Diaries
Elisabeth of Austria is an independent young lady who loves spending time outdoors, riding horses, and looking after her host of pets. Her family life is a little less than ideal, which seems to be typical of royal families, but she nonetheless enjoys a peaceful, somewhat isolated life in a secluded but beautiful palace.
When Elisabeth accompanies her sister and mother on a trip to introduce her sister to the emperor in hopes of arranging a marriage, she instead finds herself caught up in a whirlwind romance and engaged to the emperor her sister had hoped to marry. With barely enough time to realize what's happening, she's been swept into the new, very different, very strict life of the emperor's court.
I have to be honest, while the descriptions of Elisabeth's home and the quiet life she led there were beautiful and appealing, the story left me feeling sad and disappointed for Elisabeth. Several times throughout the book I found myself thinking 'Don't do it, girl! Back out of it while you still have a chance!' Unfortunately, she didn't listen to me. And the epilogue confirmed the fact that Elisabeth and her emperor did not live happily ever after.
I will say, though, that the author did a fantastic job taking the historical facts of Elisabeth's life and putting them together into the fictional young version of her featured in this book. History tells us that throughout her adult life Elisabeth was obsessed with her appearances (particularly her hair) and struggled with anorexia. Author Barry Denenberg did an excellent job of showing the beginnings of those tendencies in his fictional reconstruction of Elisabeth.
As always, a book from the Royal Diaries series makes a great supplement to a history lesson, or a fun way to begin learning about a historical figure... even if it isn't always the most uplifting lesson in the world.