It’s been two weeks since The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte came out, and I’ve been learning what it’s like to be a published novelist rather than an unpublished one.
Some of the things I’ve been doing the last fourteen days include sending out review copies, scheduling signings, autographing books, and getting the beginnings of reader reaction. Two friends have already finished reading the novel, and their responses were very enthusiastic. The hardest thing about remaining unpublished all these years has been not having much of an audience beyond my beta readers. I always imagined what it would be like to have readers say they loved my novel, and now that’s starting to happen. Admittedly, so far I’ve only heard from friends, and they are predisposed to like it, but even so, the comments I’ve received so far have helped make all the years of effort seem worthwhile. Now I’m looking forward to getting more objective responses.
One thing has surprised me is how much I enjoy signing books. I’ve never really fantasized about giving out autographs, but I take a lot of pleasure in making a book personal for my readers. “My readers.” A phrase I wasn’t sure I would ever be able to say. One advantage of achieving this childhood dream a little later in life is that I appreciate it so much.
Sorry if this post borders on the gooey. I’ll be back to my usual self tomorrow.
In 1803, Napoleon crowned himself emperor in Notre Dame Cathedral.
In 1804, Napoleon won a major battle at Austerlitz, defeating the combined Austrian and Russian armies, who outnumbered him.
In 2013, The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte officially went on sale. It’s available at amikapress.com and on Amazon.
Jacques-Louis David [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Over the next two weeks, between now and my publication date, I’m going to publish a few excerpts from The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte. In the following scene, Betsy Patterson and Jerome Bonaparte—who previously met at a dinner party—have their first dance together.
As they entered the ballroom, Betsy was pleased to see that many people broke off their conversations to watch them. The first dance of the evening was to be a contradanse, which would have the advantage of pairing them for at least ten minutes and of having periods when they could converse because they were not required to take part in the moves. The first time they were an inactive couple, Betsy said, “Lieutenant Bonaparte, I have never seen a uniform like yours. Is it a naval dress uniform?”
Jerome laughed. “No, it is a hussar’s uniform.”
“But, hussars are cavalry. I thought you were in the navy.”
“I am.” He shrugged. “But I like the way this one looks. It is debonair, is it not?”
Before Betsy could answer, it was their turn to take part in the next movement, and by the time they could speak again, she decided not to pursue the subject. She suspected that it was a tremendous breach of protocol for a military officer to wear the uniform of a different branch of service. Clearly, being Napoleon’s brother came with unusual privileges, liberties that the youngest Bonaparte did not hesitate to enjoy.
As she pondered these things, Jerome complimented her on her elegant gown. “It is—très à la mode,” he said after a moment of searching for an equivalent English phrase.
“Merci, monsieur,” Betsy answered, gratified that he considered her stylish.
“Ah, parlez-vous français?” he exclaimed, sounding like a boy in his excitement that she spoke his language.
Betsy nodded, and he gave her gloved hand a quick squeeze of approval. Then returning to the previous subject, he said, “Your taste in clothing reminds me of ma belle-soeur Josephine. She truly knows how to set Paris on its ear.”
“Oh, please tell me about her.”
He chuckled and said in French, “A while back, she started a new fashion of wearing sheer gowns such as yours but with nothing underneath.”
Betsy’s cheeks burned as Jerome continued, “Napoleon considered the style too immodest. One day, finding Josephine and her ladies sitting in the drawing room in such flimsy attire, he gave orders for the servants to pile wood on the fire. When Josephine complained that she was roasting alive, he said, ‘My dear, I was afraid you might catch cold sitting here naked.’”
In spite of her discomfort with the indiscreet topic, Betsy found herself joining in Jerome’s laughter. Then, after her first wave of self-consciousness passed, she felt a delicious sense of freedom in being able to talk so openly of things forbidden in Baltimore society.
The last move of the dance required Jerome to grasp her hands and swing her through several revolutions. After the last twirl, he flirtatiously pulled her closer to his body than was proper before releasing her. As they pulled apart, Betsy found herself halted. Her gold chain had caught on one of his buttons.
She dared not look up at him. With the rapidity of lightning, she felt as embarrassed as if she had found herself publicly wearing one of Josephine’s revealing gowns.
“Permit me.” Jerome used his index finger to unhook her necklace. Instead of releasing the chain, however, he kept it on the crook of his finger and whispered, “Do you see, chére mademoiselle? Fate has brought us together, and we are destined never to part.”
Betsy caught her breath at the romantic perfection of the moment, but then her natural skepticism reasserted itself. She perceived that this man to whom she was temporarily joined—handsome, warm-hearted, and fun loving though he might be—lacked the steely resolve of his famous older brother. He seemed content to glide through life feasting on whatever privileges fell to him in Napoleon’s wake.
“Fate seems to have forgotten that I promised my next dance to someone else.”
Jerome released her gold chain. “If that is your wish.”
“My wish, sir, is for a partner who understands that I am a kingdom that must be won rather than claimed as a birthright.”
For a moment, he seemed perplexed and she feared the sentiment was too complex for him to understand it in English, but then laughter returned to his eyes. “Truly, Mademoiselle, that is a challenge worthy of a Bonaparte.” He bowed and watched her walk away.
I am proud and pleased to reveal the cover for my novel:
Here is the synopsis:
As a clever girl in stodgy, mercantile Baltimore, Betsy Patterson dreams of a marriage that will transport her to cultured Europe. When she falls in love with and marries Jerome Bonaparte, she believes her dream has come true—until Jerome’s older brother Napoleon becomes an implacable enemy.
Based on a true story, The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte is a historical novel that portrays this woman’s tumultuous life. Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte, known to history as Betsy Bonaparte, scandalized Washington with her daring French fashions; visited Niagara Falls when it was an unsettled wilderness; survived a shipwreck and run-ins with British and French warships; dined with presidents and danced with dukes; and lived through the 1814 Battle of Baltimore. Yet through it all, Betsy never lost sight of her primary goal—to win recognition of her marriage.
Our publication date is December 2. The book can be preordered here.