*Blog Book Tour*: Becoming Josephine by Heather Webb

Posted Thursday, 2 January, 2014 by jorielov , , , 9 Comments

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Becoming Josephine by Heather Webb

Becoming Josephine - France Book Tours

Author is a Member of: Historical Novel Society

Visit her Pin(terest) Board: Eclectically French Inspired Lovelies (my impression!)

Author Connections: Facebook | Site | Blog

Converse on Twitter: #BecomingJosephine OR Tweet @MsHeatherWebb

Published by: Plume, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA), 31 December 2013

Available Format: Trade Paperback | E-Book | Page Count: 320

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Acquired Book By:

I was selected to be a stop on “Becoming Josephine” Virtual Book Tour, hosted by France Book Tours. I received “Becoming Josephine”  in exchange for an honest review by the publisher Plume. The book released on 31st December 2013. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

Inspired to Read:

I simply adore historical fiction, including historical biographical fiction, which I think this falls under, as it’s about Bonaparte and his wife! I like the backdrop of the story, and how strong Rose had to become in order to overtake her plight! You see, I have a bit of a long-standing admiration for the French Revolution, even though by many estimates I have only just begun my sojourn into this fascinating section of literature! It’s true I was first inspired to seek out more French Literature selections after having borrowed and read quite a few from my local library which fall inside Children’s Literature selections, in as much as my appreciation for seeing a select few classic motion pictures on TCM (Turner Classic Movies) involving Marie Antoinette over the past few years! My attention is thus esteemed to continue to seek out stories set before, during, and after the French Revolution! What can I say? Once you become attached to the living characters of whom most of the books are based upon, in as much as the characters created to walk amongst their living counterparts, you find that one book or five is not quite enough to fully encompass the history of what is left behind to be known!

Stemming from this short history of mine with French Literature, there was a cursory exploration of Bonaparte whilst I was eighteen! Having ducked out of a heavy rainstorm and into the warmth glow of a bookshoppe I had accidentally discovered along a main street – I took the balm of books against nature’s thunderstorm! As I wandered around, I remember finding a rather curious little book, tattered yet readable, (as the bookshoppe sold new and used copies!) about the life of Napoléon Bonaparte! Intrigued I purchased the book and stored it inside a rain-proof bookslip! Ever since that aplomb discovery I have whet my appetite for more! I would be curious to learn how you alighted to read about the French?

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Heather WebbAuthor Biography:

Heather Webb grew up a military brat and naturally became obsessed with travel, culture, and languages. She put her degrees to good use teaching high school French for nearly a decade before turning to full-time novel-writing and freelance editing. Her début, BECOMING JOSEPHINE will release December 31, 2013 from Plume/Penguin.

 When not writing, Heather flexes her foodie skills or looks for excuses to head to the other side of the world. She loves to chitchat on Twitter with new reader friends or writers (@msheatherwebb) or via her blog, Between the Sheets (www.Heatherwebb.net/blog). Stop on by!

Synopsis of the Novel:

Rose Tascher sails from her Martinique plantation to Paris to trade her Creole black magic culture for love and adventure. She arrives exultant to follow her dreams of attending Court with Alexandre, her elegant aristocrat and soldier husband. But Alexandre dashes her hopes and abandons her amid the tumult of the French Revolution.

Through her savoir faire, Rose secures her footing in high society, reveling in handsome men and glitzy balls—until the heads of her friends begin to roll.

After narrowly escaping death in the blood-drenched cells of Les Carmes prison, she reinvents herself as Josephine, a socialite of status and power. Yet her youth is fading, and Josephine must choose between a precarious independence and the love of an awkward suitor. Little does she know, he would become the most powerful man of his century- Napoleon Bonaparte.

BECOMING JOSEPHINE is a novel of one woman’s journey to find eternal love and stability, and ultimately to find herself.

SEX & VIOLENCE: There is a little of each, though I didn’t go into great detail in either category.


Forging a path where uncertainty reigns:

When I was first introduced to Rose (later, Josephine), I was empathic towards her plight and situation straightaway, as who couldn’t sympathise with a sister mourning her sister’s sudden death? Especially if one would feel indebted to believing they were the root cause of said death? I was attempting to imagine the thoughts and emotions not only her sister’s death evoked but how that singular event shaped her for the path she was embarking to walk as she made her way towards France, towards Paris, and towards the great unknown of marriage to a man she never had met, much less knew. Although I am oft wrapped inside a ‘mail-order bride’ story, this one felt more like an ordained arranged marriage to where the outcome would befit the family moreso than the bride! Such the calamity of ages past, and yet, the realism with which the author pens the opening bits of the story give us a true glimpse of the horror Rose faced as she disembarked onto the docks!

I couldn’t help but consider Rose might not have realised just how deep she would become involved with creating a transformation which would replace her original self with the one she would soon invent!? You start to see pieces of the transformation shaping in the early chapters, as she starts to find quirks of hers are not kosher to the Parisians way of living. Little things such as her accent, her manner of speech, her inclination of honesty, her lack of a proper wardrobe, all acting against her in an attempt to create a better impression on her peers and fiancé! Your heart warms to her, as she starts to sort out how to navigate this world where propriety and posh behaviour reign!

She would come to know the solemn truths of marriage, of men and their infidelities and of the way in which women were ill-treated by their husbands. She gets a dashing blush of this ahead of her vows, but I think the reality of her new life took a bit longer to fully sink into her conscience. Where other women might have resolved that this was their fate to bear, Rose took the opposite path and decided that she was worth more than what the cards had dealt her! She decided to right the wrongs, and seek out a path which would lead her to an enlightened truth about herself and her station.

My Review of Becoming Josephine:

Becoming Josephine by Heather WebbShe left her Creole home an innocent of youth, jettisoning herself into a life in France which would test the strength of her inner resolve. Where she would have to eradicate her natural being of self into a transformed Parisian woman of elegance, whose strength would yield to power. She took on the challenge as an understudy would in a theatrical play. Learning through being bold in her choices of dress, style, mannerisms, and speech. Each nuisance she could alter of her previous life, she would discard straight-away in preference for discovering a better fit for high society.

Watching Rose grow in her strength as she separated from her first husband, Alexandre, she starts to find the courage she felt she had lost. Instinct of motherhood guides her towards carving out a stipend for her son Eugene and daughter, Hortense whilst she starts to put the pieces of her own fractured life back together. Her resilience is a lesson for all women who find themselves facing circumstances that they were not expecting. The fact she was gaining her independence on the eve of revolution was not lost on me. Perhaps without her circumstances jaded, she might not have had the ability to rise again? Or, rather she might not have found the strength to survive through the worst bits of the revolution. She walked through Hades in order to survive to live a life she could no longer imagine possible.

I found an undercurrent theme of which I had been exposed to in my readings during 2013, wherein certain women who were once cloistered to living life by man’s rules were coming to realise the true freedom lay in the courage to free themselves from the invisible bonds which held them hostage. I am always attracted to stories where strong women are at the heart of the narrative and in Becoming Josephine I was not disappointed! Josephine emerges out of the wings of despair as a pivotal woman of her time who could wield more than even she (I feel!) could desire! She takes the boldest step into the future by reinventing herself past the point of recognition, in order to find a freedom she had never known.

France set to Revolution:

The backdrop of Becoming Josephine is quintessentially Revolutionary France, where the French hinged between the start of the revolt and the ensuing Reign of Terror. A shuddering of emotions always rings through me whilst thinking on the harder hitting realities of the age which the French had to endure. Webb has a way of acknowledging the back-story of history behind the coattails of the character’s lives in such a way, as to gently guide the reader forward and through, rather than shocking us to our core. The revolution ekes out in small fashion, where rumours of revolt start to erupt in the salons of the day, and where the commoners start to realise they need to launch into a retreat from Royal rule. Part of me understands this and part of me grieves for the loss of the Royal family, due to how brutal the Revolution turns and ends.

And, yet at the heart of the center core of the Revolution you have Josephine and Napoleon, two people I never thought I’d see come together, now that I know the origins of Josephine’s past. The tapestry of fashion is lit and gilded behind the tumult which has been brewing to explode. Interspersed with the flamboyance of cloth and jewels, you gather the sense of urgency in the fever of desperation.

Gratitude to the author, Ms. Webb:

For staying true to her word, wherein she mentioned at the end of the book’s synopsis she had tempered the severity of inclusion of sex and violence. I am generally on the fence with choices writers make in their stories on both counts, as there are lines I think are too oft crossed, where a more delicate omission could have sufficed instead.  In this particular story, Ms. Webb gives the reader a rendering of the situations and events which befit the era of the story’s origins but on the level that even a sensitive reader could walk through the scenes without blushing too severely or cringing at the imagery painted in narrative. Even though she does plainly give the raw visceral imagery its due course. She doesn’t allow it to take over completely, but allows it to fade in the background. Except for what occurs in Rose’s home of Martinique and what happens when she returns to Paris, in which the horror of the attacks are in full measure. Rather than focus solely on the horror that erupted she gave the smaller details of the aftermath which proved just as difficult if not moreso to read. Such a horrid time in history for the survivors to have lived through. She chose instead to direct the focus on Rose’s rise into the persona of Josephine who became the woman’s edificial Phoenix.

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The “Becoming Josephine” Virtual Book Tour Roadmap:

Becoming Josephine - France Book Tours

Be sure to scope out upcoming tours I will be hosting with:

France Book Tours

on my Bookish Events Featured on JLAS!

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I propose this Question to my readers: What do you think is the overall appeal to reading about the Bonaparte’s and of Revolutionary France in general? What inspires us to dig deeper into the heart of the history which has been left behind for us to dissect? What gives us pause and reason to continue to seek out stories of what was happening in the shadows of history being writ as it was lived? Do you have a favourite coaxing storyline that gets you excited to pick up your next reading which is set in this historical era?

{SOURCES: Cover art of “Becoming Josephine” as well as Heather Webb’s photograph and biography, the blog tour badge were all provided by France Book Tours and used with permission. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Blog tour badge provided by Parajunkee to give book bloggers definition on their blogs. France Book Tours badge created by Jorie in Canva.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2014.

About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Thursday, 2 January, 2014 by jorielov in 18th Century, Biographical Fiction & Non-Fiction, Blog Tour Host, Debut Novel, France, France Book Tours, French Revolution, Geographically Specific, Historical Fiction, Josephine Bonaparte, Napoleon Bonaparte, Reign of Terror, Revolutionary France, The Napoleonic War Era

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9 responses to “*Blog Book Tour*: Becoming Josephine by Heather Webb

  1. Precisely! I suspect Josephine’s flirtiness and spendiness might have come out of having survived a horrible ordeal — what I’ve read of her imprisonment is stomach roiling (the entire French Revolution was staggeringly horrifying!) and to not curl up into herself and just hide blows me away. For that whole generation to keep on — being cheery and flirty, reckless and dangerous — feels so much to me like some acting out — but I admire them for their resilience, too.

    • The book which sent my stomach roiling as you say, was actually “Rivington Street” by Meredith Tax which eclipses the shirtwaist industry in New York’s Lower East Side. Yet. Somehow I skipped over a few passages and the heart of the novel leapt out at me to such a state it was a story I could swallow. Whilst attempting to read the sequel “Union Square” I found myself unable to begin the first Chapter! :( This was singularly “the!” book which clued me into my limitations as far as which stories I can absorb and which ones I would be best to acknowledge are outside my scope. I still talk and refer to “Rivington Street” as a powerful story for women’s rights and for overcoming intensive struggles of the lower class.

      The French Revolution & the events in the book I’m mentioning now are quite par for course! Webb had the grace to pull back whereas Tax left everything raw and bare. I nearly felt like I had survived the ordeal — which coincidentally is how I felt after I saw the motion picture “Saving Private Ryan” (properly shell-shocked me to the core!).

      I mirror your thoughts on what drove the flirty natures of the survivors of the French Revolution (& or any other period of history where you see a resurgence of young lives daring the brink of what could be healthy behaviour),… I think it was a pure release of anguish, aggression, and anger. They had such repressed emotional keels, its a wonderment they came back to the surface to lead any semblance of a normal life! I think the release of reckless abandonment gave them the freedom to cast off the past and live solely in the moment. Be what may.

      The French gave a new definition to the word: resilience!

  2. Lovely review! I just loved what you said here — “…wherein certain women who were once cloistered to living life by man’s rules were coming to realise the true freedom lay in the courage to free themselves from the invisible bonds which held them hostage.” So true — I adore novels with this theme so very much, and this one really captured that sense.

    I agree, too, with your observation about the value of the tempered violence in this book — while I hate when violence is soft-pedaled, I was grateful for the reason you cited — when there was violence, it stood out starkly and made a huge impact. For Josephine, whose life seems saturated with violence, it helped make the horror truly horrific! (I keep think she’s so amazing despite the PTSD she must surely have suffered!)

    • Audra,

      I was truly looking forward to what you were thinking on behalf of this review, as like Lianne, I knew you were going to be reading | reviewing it quite soon after me! Warmed my heart to hear why certain passages of my review resonated with you as they had for me to explain how I felt whilst touched by the evoking emotions of the narrative! :)

      Lateron tonight, I’ll be on your blog peeking at your recollections & the thoughts shared by Ms. Webb in her interview!

      We do match each other in our esteem for novels which give purpose and depth behind a women’s intent towards freedom. I think if the violence hadn’t been as well tempered as it was I might have turnt a bit squeamish as despite the realism of the horror of the era, it is oft difficult to step too deeply into the individual’s shoes, if you know what I mean? Webb had an art of a knack for giving us exactly what we needed without numbing us!

      Interesting that you mentioned PTSD – its not a term which would have been frequented so far ago in the past, but you do have to question how women like Josephine did resolve their stress after living through circumstances no one except those who walked a similar path could truly empathise with. She had a level of bravery that is nearly unmatched.

  3. Great review Jorie! I enjoyed reading it and the way you broke your review down :) It’s funny, despite having studied this period of history during my undergrad, I never really stopped and considered what Josephine was really like. This book was a fantastic “gateway” in that I actually went on the internet after reading the book to read up a bit more on Josephine’s life. It’s such a tumultuous period of French history and the book does a good job in conveying it (I’ll stop now before I more or less re-hash what I wrote in my review! ;))

    • Thank you, Lianne!

      I am most esteemed you said this, as I personally have a very limited experience with the Bonaparte’s, and I found the very same observation to be true? Webb gave the story such a bent of realism and vitality that we, as readers, were able to put ourselves directly into Josephine’s life and world! I was very attached to her prior to her life with Bonaparte, because it showed such a beautiful arc of how she transformed into someone new!

      I have a feeling this will not be the last story I read of hers, and I am already scheduled to read more of the Bonaparte’s this year,… which includes a different ‘side’ of the family!

      I love how literature can spark a passion for research!

      Do you ever wonder that sometimes the ‘timing’ isn’t right to read the characters who fascinate us the most? And, your always celebrating when time aligns to where you can? (musing about what you said about your undergrad studies)

  4. I don’t read much historical fiction, in general, but whenever I do, I wonder why I don’t read more of it! I didn’t know much about Josephine before reading about here, but she does sound like an intriguing character to center a story around.

    • Hallo Laurie,

      Thank you for dropping by today! I hadn’t realised the limited knowledge I had of Bonaparte’s wife myself until I started to dig into the heart of the context of Webb’s storyline! What staid with me is who she was as “Rose” prior to her transformation into “Josephine” because I have always had a key knack for looking at people through a sociological lens. I like to see how people transcend and embody the persona they choose to take on. One thing I should have mentioned in my review, but I hadn’t wanted to spoilt the reader’s enjoyment of the story, is that I applauded her ability to rise to the occasion to find incredible ways to survive without spousal support. I noticed in a few reviews, readers were considering her the same as her husband as far as affairs are concerned, but its not a solid truth. Her husband acted only in his own interests (Alexandre, here I refer too), whereas Rose had to make choices that would affect her ability and her children’s to survive (i.e. food, shelter, etc). Although, I know this is splitting hairs a bit, its her grit of character to champion her given circumstances that endeared her to me. She’s such a fascinating woman and to think ‘she actually lived!’ I hope you take a chance on reading her story! :)

      For me, dipping into historical fiction allows the breadth of history to be drawn into full view and life! :) It become addicting! Laughs.

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