cover image The Empress

The Empress

Gigi Griffis. Zando, $17 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-1-63893-016-7

Griffis debuts with a sumptuous historical, recently adapted for Netflix, involving a romance among the royal families of the Habsburg empire. In 1853, 15-year-old Duchess Elisabeth of Bavaria is determined to avoid the fate of her older sister, Helene, who is intended to marry Emperor Franz Joseph, 23, their cousin whom they’ve never met. Elisabeth, a budding poet with a mind of her own, repeatedly rejects the noblemen recommended by her mother. When the three women travel to the Kaiservilla in Bad Ischl so Helene can meet Franz, chance encounters between him and Elisabeth lead to a deep intellectual and physical attraction. Franz, preoccupied with modernizing the empire and keeping it out of a war that’s brewing between France and Russia, hadn’t been keen on marrying, but now tells his controlling mother he will marry Elisabeth or no one. Elisabeth is thrilled by Franz’s proposal and eagerly accepts, which causes a painful rift in her usually close relationship with Helene. Griffis lends her leads admirable strengths and forgivable flaws and colors them in with plenty of lush period detail. She also brings dramatic flair to the political intrigue before satisfyingly tying up the plot’s burning questions. Nothing in this story disappoints. Agent: Veronica Park, Fuse Literary. (Oct.)