Thursday, February 11, 2010


Sandra Gulland's Trilogy of Josephine Bonaparte is available here @ Amazon. I give each of these books *****.

I'm linking this book review to both Food for Thought and Pink Saturday this week.

Josephine and Napoleon have just been married as the first book in Sandra Gulland's Josephine trilogy ends. The second book, TALES OF PASSION, TALES OF WOE, begins as the couple starts out on a life together, and Josephine begins her journey as, Madame Bonaparte. For the romantics, the story of Josephine and Napoleon is truly an irresistibly heartwarming love story, and thus most fitting for this Valentine's Day weekend.

As in each of these three books, the author tells Josephine's story through fictionalized diary entries. One can easily visualize the lovely Josephine sitting in silence at her escritoire as she pens her thoughts.

Gulland gives us the essence of Josephine's life as the wife of Napoleon in the title of this work. Passage after passage, we learn that Napoleon is most passionate about his love, Josephine. He adores her and is devoted to this woman who intrigues and enchants him. Napoleon, frequently away fighting battles, pens ardent love letters to his bride, his Lady Luck, his destiny.

Josephine, at times overwhelmed with the situation of her life, struggles with both the intense love Napoleon shows for her and the public life she has been thrust into as the wife of the militarily successful General Bonaparte.

Unfortunately Josephine's life is not all hearts and roses. Post Revolutionary France is in a state of political upheaval. Napoleon is off to far away lands fighting wars, while Josephine is left to manage life on limited resources. Suffering from ill health due to the harsh conditions of her prison confinement during the Terror, Josephine also must endure various spa treatments. The trauma of the Terror most likely left Josephine infertile and thus unable to provide Napoleon with the heir he desperately desires and the child she so fervently wants to conceive.

As the pages of Josephine's diary reveal, her marriage to Napoleon is a tumultuous one. She longs to please Napoleon and grows to adore and cherish her new husband. Josephine, a shrewd business woman, is sophisticated and connected to those of influence. The Bonaparte family, on the other hand, is both jealous and vindictive toward Josephine. Not pleased that Napoleon and Josephine married, they plot to destroy both the marriage and Josephine's reputation.

There are few passages related to food aside from the occasional mention of dining . . .

or a mention here and there to coffee or hot chocolate.

There is however a reference to a formal dinner hosted by Citoyen Director and General Barras. Such an extensive menu is not the usual here at Hyacinths for the Soul, so we opted to spotlight the first dish, onion soup.

French onion soup is a favorite of ours, so it was an easy choice.

There's nothing better on a cold, wet evening than the warm rich broth and the sweet onions paired with large crunchy toasted bread topped with gruyere cheese.

As the book comes to a close, Napoleon and Josephine have moved into the Tuileries with great celebration. "The age of Fable is over . . . the Reign of History has begun." Sandra Gulland's portrayal of Josephine during these years is a new look at this controversial period of Josephine's life. I find it touching. Through these works I've come to love, adore, and admire Josephine Bonaparte. I think you will too.

Next time we look at the conclusion of this trilogy, THE LAST GREAT DANCE ON EARTH. But for now, you'll find more edible book reviews at Food for Thought and more pink at Pink Saturday. For more information about Sandra Gulland and her work, click here to visit her personal web site and blog.


The summer we married, my husband was in graduate school, and I was employed as a teacher. We took a portion of our savings that summer and purchased a sailboat. We christened our Catalina 22, “Hyacinths For The Soul” after Saadi’s poem. Our "Hyacinths" provided years of pleasure.


  1. What a neat review! I like your creative photography presentation!

    Happy Valentine's Day!


  2. lovely review and very unique showing part of the pages!

    how romantic are YOU to put fresh pink roses on the tray???? wow.

  3. You were very clever and creative with this post layout!

  4. Sarah, I'm so delighted that you gave us the review of this book. Now I want to read it. Sounds like my kind of book. I love history, and I love it when it's true to the story... even when it's historical fiction.

    I'm intrigued.

    Happy Pink Saturday to you and Happy Valentine's Day as well...


    Sheila :-)

    P.S. I remember my dad saying that one of the reasons that Napoleon lost the Battle of Waterloo is because he had onion soup the night before and slept late as a consequence. Have you heard that? I wondered if the book addressed it.

  5. what a lovely review! perfect fo valentine and the book sounds a very interesting read! your fotographs are spaectacular...m loving all the pink and roses...oh so beautiful Sarah!

  6. I've placed all 3 books on my wishlist with bookmooch and look forward to reading the, thanks to your wonderful critiques
    The photographs are so romantic & look like something I would see in a magazine such as BBC Homes & Antiques.
    Have a wonderful Valentine's weekend with your inhouse Chef.

  7. Great review...we had a cold wet (snowy) night last night. I wish I had had some of your yummy French Onion Soup to warm me up :)

  8. Oh Sarah....we truly are kindred souls & perhaps even twins, separated at birth! I wanted to drown myself in these photos...especially that luscious soup! We both used pink flowers & silver trays this week. :D

    You have truly convinced me that I need to read these books. I'm becoming a Francophile! I think I will have to give up sleeping, as I have SO many on my list now.

    I'm so very glad you are doing the FFT reviews. I relish each one of your offerings.

  9. Sarah,

    Fantastic post. Very clever presentation of the books (which I will order later today) and the onion soup is perfect. So many of the books I read don't really focus on food and you worked around that beautifully.

    Happy Pink Saturday and Happy Valentine's Day!


  10. Sarah, I tried to remember more than "Josephine" when I was out last weekend and failed to find the books. I wrote all the info down now. I know I want to read them.

    Your photos are lovely. Thank you so much for sharing your love of reading and your beautiful things. Happy Pink Saturday and Happy Valentine's Day!

  11. again, i get goosebumps... i so love the details of life, how you are recreating such beautiful vignettes for us, the roses, lace, beautiful silver mixed with heart felt key passages, its just like a little dreamland to step into pages of the book and see your vision. did i mention how much i love food for thought? it really ignites my senses, i love to learn, i am way to visual and then i get to eat too!

    did you know french onion soup it my all time fav? and i almost made it last night but i was busy playing with chocolate all day for valentines that i was too ill for real food... and to wake up to this, well its like you were in my head!

    thank you so much for playing at food for thought, i LOVE LOVE LOVE your presentations, i too am fearful i will not live long enough for the all the books i want to read now... this trilogy is right up my alley, but it took your portraits to fully draw me in, one word for you, EXQUISITE!

  12. Hi Sarah, It is me, what a wonderful post...I have not forgotten you just trying to stay on top of things...I have a post up of my new adventure..Do hope you have time to stop over....I am trying to get the pay it forward thing going...I have not forgotten...It is coming my friend..

  13. This post is SO interesting and lots and lots of fun! Come on over to my place - I'll quote you some Shakespeare! Happy Valentine's Day!

  14. I love this combination of your post. Intriguing story, beautiful of pink things, and a bowl of soup. What could be better?

  15. Absolutely gorgeous post. The love story of Napoleon and Josephine is stuff of legend... I always remember the line "will return to Paris tomorrow evening. Don't wash." Her scent was that intoxicating... how romantic is that? Your things are lovely and you used them brilliantly to tell the story. Bravo and Happy Valentines!!!

  16. thanks for the book review ... lovely photos too ... happy belated Pink Saturday ;-)
    Hugs and blessings,

  17. Your French Onion soup is practically perfect in every way and so was your book review... Your photos are spectacular! I really enjoyed this post!

    ~Really Rainey~

  18. Lovely visuals and and words that that have piqued my interest. I think it's time I learned more about this Josephine, since my Grandfather named my Mother after her! The rationale: he wanted my Mother to grow up to be a strong woman!

  19. Sarah, this post is beautiful. I love all of the little heart and floral touches you've added, and the soup tureen is stunning! I love good onion soup, and yours made my mouth water. Your creativity is definitely shining brightly in this post. laurie

  20. Hi Sarah
    I know when I come to visit you my eyes will always be treated to something beautiful and I will leave feeling blessed! Thank you sweet friend,
    Hugs, Rhondi

  21. Hi Sarah! What a wonderful post! Your book review is captivating. I'd like to read it. Have a lovely week. Terri

  22. That's the prettiest onion soup recipe I have ever seen:)

  23. Just beautiful and so creative. I love this story too. It's so hard to believe that he left her!!!! Lia

  24. I'm in the midst of reading the second of the series (but had to put it down to read the book for my book club). I love the way you presented your review. Makes me want to dive back in.

    - The Tablescaper

  25. What a neat series of books! In all my recent research I am suprised that they did not come up. While I will not be serving soup at my tea it does indeed look so yummy! :)


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