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A Rose for Virtue by Nora Lofts

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Location: North Carolina

A Rose for Virtue by Nora Lofts

Postby boswellbaxter » Wed August 27th, 2008, 4:39 pm

I hadn't heard of this 1971 novel before, so I was delighted to pick it up and find that it was about Hortense, daughter of Josephine Bonaparte and stepdaughter (and sister-in-law) to Napoleon. I've been rather interested in Josephine and her circle ever since I read Sandra Gulland's Josephine B. trilogy.

A Rose for Virtue (named for a school prize that gets destroyed inadvertently when Hortense wears it) follows Hortense from the time of her mother and stepfather's marriage to Hortense's departure from Paris following Napoleon's final downfall.

Hortense is an appealing heroine, resilient, un-self-pitying, and resourceful without ever becoming that dreaded creature of historical fiction, the Mary Sue. As the narrator, she frankly admits that she lacks her mother's easy charm, and she can be stubborn, especially when her estranged husband, Louis, is concerned. She can laugh at herself, and she has a rare gift for facing facts.

Lofts does a good job with the other characters as well. Josephine is particularly well done, and there are some nice sketches of life among the Bonapartes, one of the highlights being a particularly fractious family dinner that ends with Hortense's baby son peeing on the tablecloth.

This isn't an action-packed novel; the big events, of course, occur mostly out of Hortense's range of vision. Nonetheless, Lofts is good at evoking the emotions caused by these events, as when Hortense, urging Napoleon to flee following his return from Waterloo, gets this succinct reply: "My dear, it no longer matters."

My only real disappointment with the book was its ending. Artistically, it works, but it would have been good to see what Hortense made of her later life. As the book doesn't have an afterword--I suppose they weren't in style at the time--the reader wanting more information has to go elsewhere. And the reader will likely want this information, for Lofts makes our stay in Hortense's company a congenial one.
Susan Higginbotham
Coming in October: The Woodvilles


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Location: Seattle, WA

Postby Misfit » Wed August 27th, 2008, 4:42 pm

I've read two of her books so far, The Lute Player and Hester Roon and neither one knocked my socks off. I'll give her one more shot and then that's it. I saw one recommended called the Wayside Tavern, or I might try the one about Eleanor.

Location: Arizona, USA

Postby Ash » Wed August 27th, 2008, 9:02 pm

Oh I love Loft, have for ages. First read "Bless This House" then proceeded to read any house/tavern book she had (in fact Misfit, I think its these that will hook you in. Its history, told through the inhabitants of a house/tavern during a few periods of time) . I did read some of her Histories but I don't think those are her strong suit. She has a nice storytelling style; you are right about little action. The story is in the writing, the development of the characters and the time period. I think tho that my favorite of hers is How Far to Bethlehem, first because if was a little out of the ball park from her usual fare, and also because its a story about the three wise men, with a twist or two.
Last edited by Ash on Wed August 27th, 2008, 9:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Location: Arizona, USA

Postby Ash » Wed August 27th, 2008, 9:06 pm

Here's a summary of her books, along with the sequence of books of the series.


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