5-Stars for ‘The Country Girl Empress,’ by A. Piper Burgi
[Warning: Spoilers ahead]
Warm, endearing, turbulent, sensitive and captivating are a mere handful of adjectives I would use if I were to describe, briefly, A. Piper Burgi’s new novel: The Country Girl Empress. Add to those, genuine, exhaustively researched and historically accurate and you’d have my general assessment of this heartening tale that kept my interest from the opening chapter to the final page.
The story, I admit, took me by surprise, as I ventured in expecting a romance loosely knitted around the accession to the Habsburg throne of Austria-Hungry by Franz Joseph and his eventual selection of a bride, the new Empress of Austria; Elisabeth Wittelsbach of Bavaria.
What I found, instead, was a neatly woven story of a simple girl from Bavaria who loved her eccentric father, riding horses, and just happened to be a princess during the time when the children of ruling families were useful for securing alliances and maintaining dynastic rule through planned marriages.
Elisabeth, Sisi, is a plain girl, a tomboy, with no regal aspirations. On the contrary, she, like her father, craves a simple, normal life of riding and travelling and enjoying the country and people.
The focus of the family is on Helene, her older sister, who is delicate and pretty and possesses the charm and grace demanded of the ruling aristocracy of mid-19th century Europe.
But, whether in fairy tales or real life, things seldom go according to plan, and Franz Joseph, the new Emperor, falls, not for the cultured Helene, but for her sister, the shy, suddenly vibrant young country girl princess.
A. Piper Burgi has done what all authors aspire to with this new book. She told a fine story and breathed life into her characters.
Duke Max, Sisi’s father, is real, pleasingly eccentric, a bit nutty, and someone you’d enjoy seeing at the pub or having over for pizza, beer and a ballgame. Ludovika, the young Princess’s mother, is loving, devoted, and, of course, clever and delightfully manipulative.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a story without a good antagonist. And the author gives us a good one in the Emperor’s mother, Archduchess Sophie. Elisabeth’s future mother-in-law.
But, enough spoilers.
This is a delightful book for anyone. Young or old, male or female, The Country Girl Empress is a satisfying read guaranteed to warm your heart while granting you a glimpse into the past and the aristocratic environment: Intrigue, wars, love and manipulation, of the royal European families of the 19th century.
Review by T. E. Mark – Author