35 (& a little something extra for book lovers)

35.

I remember when my dad would angrily protest, “You’ll never live to see 35!” in the midst of a heated teenage argument over something silly I did or said. Since I’m a goal chaser, now I can say that I defied his odds. I’ve even made it four additional days. Touché, daddy-o.

While birthdays used to be the main event in my household, as you get older they take on a different meaning. Rather, birthdays can be simple & understated yet fulfilling at the same time. Thirty-five was quiet and peaceful and just the way I wanted to start it off. I’m confident that it will be my best year yet & that wonderful things await me in the not too distant future. I feel whole and content.

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So, in celebration of officially entering my mid-30s, I’d like to share my love for the written word and give a gift. No strings attached. No sponsored giveaway. Just something from me to you.

As you may or may not know, I love a good read and I’ve been challenging myself to get through at least one book a month. It doesn’t sound like a big undertaking but I don’t usually get through books very quickly. You might recall that I reviewed The Traitor’s Wife by Allison Pataki a few months ago and even had the chance to ask her a few questions. Not only is Allison personable, but she is a stunning author. In fact, her second book, The Accidental Empress, was released this week and I was lucky enough to read an advance copy courtesy of Howard Books.

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Now, I have to confess. Had I not previously read anything by Allison I would not have picked up this novel. Reading a story line that takes place anywhere other than in the US does not hold my attention for very long. But, there was something captivating about the protagonist that I wanted to delve in and learn more. I did just that in record time – 5 days!

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The Accidental Empress is about the unsuspecting love interest of Emperor Franz Joseph of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Elisabeth of Bavaria, in late 19th century Europe. Popularly known as Sisi, she travels with her sister Helene to the Court as her lady’s maid where Helene is to be matched in marriage to Franz. However, upon seeing Sisi he immediately falls in love, gives Helene the heave ho, and pursues Sisi who is equally as enamored. Three’s a crowd when her new mother-in-law Sophie, plays the middle woman in their marriage and all of Franz’ stately affairs. The Accidental Empress paints a stunningly beautiful landscape of life in the European Court, Sisi’s struggle in bearing children (and a male heir), the waning interest of her husband, and her popularity as the “people’s princess” of Hungary – at the tender age of 15, folks.

Allison has left no stone unturned in her research and fully immerses the reader in Cinderella-like imagery that is chock full of historical detail. There were points throughout the book that I wanted to be Sisi – the fanfare, the luxury of the Court, the attendants – but, as Allison delicately portrays, it is a difficult dance for Sisi as she struggles to remain true to her roots, balance the difficulties of “home life,” and captivate the hearts and minds of the Hungarian people.

With that said, my European history books never taught me about Sisi, and if they did, it was a mere mention. In my opinion, not enough time is spent teaching us (men and woman alike) of the strong-minded women who went toe-to-toe with their male counterparts in politics, in the palace and the Court, or anywhere else. Sisi lived in a time where this was banished, yet we begin to fall in love with her for what she really is from page one – a headstrong young woman not afraid to show her true colors. This is a story of love, hate, passion, perseverance, and politics – all of the makings of a story well told.

So, now that you have my honest opinion of The Accidental Empress, I want to share with you my love for reading and gift a lucky reader with a hardcover copy. There are no sponsorships and no one paid me to do this. This is just a little present from me to you. I’ll choose a winner using Random.org on Saturday, February 28th (sadly, the end of my birthday month). All I ask is that you comment below on what you are currently reading and what your favorite book is (1 entry). For an additional entry, share the below on Twitter (just make sure you let me know in the comments that it’s been shared):

“Excited for the chance to dive in to the enchanting world of Empress Sisi in the #Accidental Empress by @AllisonPataki!” 

Thank you all and I look forward to choosing a winner next week!

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Want to learn more?

Not sure if The Accidental Empress is for you? Here’s an excerpt.

In a match up between Sisi and Princess Diana, who wins?

 

 

 

 

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