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Reviewed by Lucinda E Clarke for Readers' Favorite
The Country Girl Empress tells of the early days of Princess Elisabeth, daughter of Duke Max in Bavaria, called Sisi within the family. We follow her story from birth to the day she married Franz Joseph, son of Archduchess Sophie of Austria and her feeble-minded husband, Archduke Franz Carl. Born on Christmas Eve, little Sisi was not a particularly beautiful baby; her elder sister Néné was much prettier and her mother, Princess Ludovika of Bavaria and sister to Sophie, the Archduchess, planned early on a match between their children - Néné and Franz Joseph. Both Néné and Sisi grew up moving between their country house in Possenhofen and their palatial residence in Munich. Both girls, especially Sisi, were allowed a lot of freedom, and the younger sister had much in common with her father, who was more than a little eccentric. They both adored horses and would take long rides together in the countryside and performed in their own private circus built next to the palace. Since Néné was destined to marry the Emperor’s son, she was granted less freedom and received a more conventional education. Today we would call Sisi a ‘wild child’ who attracted more than a few romantic overtures from young men, all of which were nipped in the bud by her ever-watchful mother.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Country Girl Empress by A. Piper Burgi. The characters flew off the page and I connected with Sisi; she was such a delight, albeit a little spoilt. I loved reading about her father who was such a character and, like his daughter, had little time for the strict conventions of the age in high society. This book takes you back to Austria in the 19th century, with the intrigue of two sisters planning a liaison between their children, who frankly were not interested in each other. Then fate takes an unexpected turn and a romance blossoms where none is expected. The author skillfully transports the reader to mid-Europe almost 200 years ago and the quality of research shines through. I hope there will be another book about Sisi’s later life as I shall certainly read it as soon as it is published. A well-deserved 5 stars from me.