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Publisher's Summary

A sweeping novel about the extraordinary woman who captured Napoleon’s heart, created a dynasty, and changed the course of history - from the New York Times best-selling author of The Traitor's Wife, The Accidental Empress, and Sisi.

“I absolutely loved The Queen’s Fortune, the fascinating, little-known story of Desiree Clary - the woman Napoleon left for Josephine - who ultimately triumphed and became queen of Sweden.” (Martha Hall Kelly, New York Times best-selling author of Lilac Girls)

As the French revolution ravages the country, Desiree Clary is faced with the life-altering truth that the world she has known and loved is gone, and it’s fallen on her to save her family from the guillotine. 

A chance encounter with Napoleon Bonaparte, the ambitious and charismatic young military prodigy, provides her answer. When her beloved sister, Julie, marries his brother, Joseph, Desiree and Napoleon’s futures become irrevocably linked. Quickly entering into their own passionate, dizzying courtship that leads to a secret engagement, they vow to meet in the capital once his career has been secured. But her newly laid plans with Napoleon turn to sudden heartbreak, thanks to the rising star of Parisian society, Josephine de Beauharnais. Once again, Desiree’s life is turned on its head. 

Swept to the glittering halls of the French capital, Desiree is plunged into the inner circle of the new ruling class, becoming further entangled with Napoleon, his family, and the new Empress. But her fortunes shift once again when she meets Napoleon's confidant and star general, the indomitable Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte. As the two men in Desiree’s life become political rivals and military foes, the question that arises is: Must she choose between the love of her new husband and the love of her nation and its emperor?

From the lavish estates of the French Riviera to the raucous streets of Paris and Stockholm, Desiree finds herself at the epicenter of the rise and fall of an empire, navigating a constellation of political giants and dangerous, shifting alliances. Emerging from an impressionable girl into a fierce young woman, she discovers that to survive in this world she must learn to rely upon her instincts and her heart.

Allison Pataki’s meticulously researched and brilliantly imagined novel sweeps listeners into the unbelievable life of a woman almost lost to history - a woman who, despite the swells of a stunning life and a tumultuous time, not only adapts and survives but, ultimately, reigns at the helm of a dynasty that outlasts an empire.

©2020 Allison Pataki (P)2020 Random House Audio

What the critics say

“In The Queen’s Fortune, Allison Pataki chronicles Desiree, the secret lover of Napoleon Bonaparte. When Napoleon chooses Josephine over her, the heartbroken Desiree finds herself entangled with Napoleon, Josephine and the new ruling class. Pataki deftly weaves a tangled web of passion, deception and intrigue, set against one of the most tumultuous periods in history, making for a heady cocktail which readers will devour.” (Pam Jenoff, New York Times best-selling author of The Lost Girls of Paris)

“I absolutely loved The Queen’s Fortune, the fascinating, little-known story of Desiree Clary - the woman Napoleon left for Josephine - who ultimately triumphed and became queen of Sweden.” (Martha Hall Kelly, New York Times best-selling author of Lost Roses and Lilac Girls)

“Allison Pataki is a masterful historical author at the top of her game. From the very first lyrical lines of The Queen’s Fortune, I was wholly swept into the entrancing world of Desiree Clary Bernadotte. Painstaking research and page-turning prose placed me directly at the side of this remarkable yet lesser-known figure, journeying from innocent girlhood to seasoned royalty, a survivor of guillotine threats, palace politics, and strains of the heart. I absolutely loved this book from beginning to end.” (Kristina McMorris, New York Times best-selling author of Sold on a Monday and The Edge of Lost

What listeners say about The Queen's Fortune

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Nasal and neighy narrator

This narrator is terrible. Every sentence ends with what I can only describe as a horses neigh. The book is read fully and depressingly. Its a gre at story which I can only hope will be redone. Also there is no range of emotion. Only nasal neighing. Regret using my credit!!!!!

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  • HistoryNerd
  • 2021-04-08

Fascinating Heroine

Desiree Clary has often been overshadowed by more glamorous or scandalous women from the era. Her story is fascinating though; a bourgeois girl who should have married well, produced children, and then been forgotten like many other women of her station. The idea that she was once the fiancée of one of history’s most complex egomaniacs, then the wife of a simple soldier and finally queen of a not insignificant country is compelling.

Allison Pataki has written several novels about “royal” women who were famous in their day but then forgotten. The formula clearly works well for her and I enjoy reading/listening about these often overlooked women. Unfortunately, Pataki is not the most accomplished writer or historian, and her novels are often peppered with minor mistakes. For instance, a ship wouldn’t have a horn in the late 1790s; it would have a bell. This slip ups can be jarring for seasoned historical fiction readers.

I also had issues with how she glossed over major historical events. The whole of the Napoleonic War were made to sound rather boring. She treats the Battle of Waterloo like a tea party. I understand that the war is not the focus of the novel but for it to have been handled in such a lackluster manner is strange to me. Especially as the war made such an impact on the life of the main character.

Despite these drawbacks, I’m always happy to read relatively accurate, fictional treatments of historical women. And ultimately, I finished the novel, which is the seal of approval from me!

7 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2020-07-24

A great insight to revolutionary France.

There was so much I didn't know about Napoleon and the Revolution in France. I now want to do some of my own research and learn more about the time period. This was a great listen!

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  • Heidi Schwarzinger
  • 2020-07-18

Excellent narration! Excellent story! nice listen

Excellent listen if you are into historical fiction. Highly recommend. I'll be seeking out future reads from her.

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  • EmElDee4
  • 2020-07-04

This is a delightful fictional history of France,

which inspires the reader to read more about these historic figures who left deep impressions on today's society.

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  • cspt2
  • 2021-03-25

An Engaging Account

The author paints a fascinating account of Napoleon’s rise to power from the point of view of one who knew him well. The story ends up morphing into a biography of the observer. Full of accounts of fascinating historical details and character portraits of leading players of both Josephine and Napoleon as well as other family members. I enjoyed the story a great deal though some pivotal details such as Josephine’s death are told as an afterthought which seemed to diminish its importance.. Also large blocks of time are passed over with highlights accounted retrospectively which I found a bit perplexing. It left me wanting a bit more detail. On an even more personal note I was perplexed by oddities of the readers accent. My husband and i started chucking whenever the word “body” came up—(which was frequently). The reader consistently read it as “bodaay”. Likewise words ending in “er” were consistently pronounced as “aay”. Doubtless this must be some regional accent, but it wasn’t a familiar one and it did distract. Otherwise the reader was competent, w good French pronunciations and varying character voices.

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  • Eva, Consumidora participativa.
  • 2021-12-05

Lovely Desire..lover, wife Mother and queen in Napoleons time.


Just charming way to give life to a incredible woman. With a unforgettable name:Desireé

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  • Erie7
  • 2022-05-07

Great book and reader!

A Wonderful narrowing to a wonderful story! Recommended to anyone who loves historical mostly fiction.

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  • Kelly
  • 2022-04-12

Very Enjoyable!

I found this book very interesting from start to finish. Great Read! I always looked forward to having time to spend spend listening.

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  • Mary Smiroldo
  • 2022-03-30

The Queen’s Fortune

Captivating story about the life of Napoleon Bonaparte and his loves. I thought the title was completely misleading. I enjoyed the story very much, but didn’t understand until the end just how the title fit. My only complaint was, as so many other reviewers have stated, the narrator. I have listened to her narrate other novels, so I knew what I was in for. I just really wanted to listen to this story, so I gritted my teeth, and bought this book. Unfortunately, she hasn’t changed. It was exactly as I remembered. Some of her pronunciations are laughable, and I had to take a few breaks while listening. That being said, I was very engrossed in the story from beginning to end. I don’t know how Justine Eyre became a narrator, but, in my opinion, she should find a new line of work.

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  • Margaret
  • 2022-03-16

Draggy melodrama

Desiree Clary is a fascinating woman from history, but this book reduces her to a stock character in a bodice-ripper. Long-winded passages that are highly repetitive without saying anything. Didn’t get past a very improbable loss of her virginity to a boring Napoleon. DNF. Returning this one.