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Reviews of Antoinette's Sister by Diana Giovinazzo

Antoinette's Sister

by Diana Giovinazzo

Antoinette's Sister by Diana Giovinazzo X
Antoinette's Sister by Diana Giovinazzo
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2022, 400 pages

    Nov 2022, 400 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Maria Katsulos
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Book Summary

As Marie Antoinette took her last breath as Queen of France in Paris, another formidable monarch - Antoinette's dearly beloved sister, Charlotte - was hundreds of miles away, in Naples, fighting desperately to secure her release from the revolutionaries who would take her life. Little did Charlotte know, however, that her sister's execution would change the course of history - and bring about the end of her own empire.

"You are the queen. You are the queen that Antoinette wanted to be."

Austria 1767
: Maria Carolina Charlotte—tenth daughter and one of sixteen children of Empress Maria Theresa of Austria—knows her position as a Habsburg archduchess will inevitably force her to leave her home, her family, and her cherished sister, Antoinette, whose companionship she values over all else. But not yet. The Habsburg family is celebrating a great triumph: Charlotte's older sister, Josepha, has been promised to King Ferdinand IV of Naples and will soon take her place as queen. Before she can journey to her new home, however, tragedy strikes. After visiting the family crypt, Josepha contracts smallpox and dies. Shocked, Charlotte is forced to face an unthinkable new reality: she must now marry Ferdinand in her sister's stead.

Bereft and alone, Charlotte finds that her life in Naples is more complicated than she could ever have imagined. Ferdinand is weak and feckless, and a disastrous wedding night plunges her into despair. Her husband's regent, Tanucci, a controlling and power-hungry man, has pushed the country to the brink of ruin. Overwhelmed, she asks her brother Leopold, now the Holy Roman Emperor, to send help—which he does in the form of John Acton, a handsome military man twenty years Charlotte's senior who is tasked with overseeing the Navy. Now, Charlotte must gather the strength to do what her mother did before her: take control of a country.

In a time of political uprisings and royal executions and with the increasingly desperate crisis her favorite sister, Queen Marie Antoinette, is facing in France, how is a young monarch to keep hold of everything—and everyone—she loves? Find out in this sweeping, luxurious tale of family, court intrigue, and power.


July 26, 1773

The cool summer morning grew into a pleasantly warm afternoon. While my brother was sailing with Ferdinand, my ladies and I sat in the shade of Caserta's great lawns. Stroking my large stomach, I watched the warm breeze play in the leaves in the trees that bordered the pathway and flowed down to the pools, rippling water across the surface. The roar of the waterfall, only a few yards away, echoed through the garden. While we picnicked, I was able to keep an eye on the staff as they prepared the grounds for tomorrow night's festivities. They hurried about the base of the waterfall, setting the tables and lanterns. For a moment, I could almost forget the pressures of being a queen. Little Theresa was enjoying being held by her nursemaid, who pointed out little flowers, much to my daughter's delight.

Everything was blissful, until my brother purposefully stomped up the lawn toward me. He stood before me, in freshly laundered clothing, his hair still wet and ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!
  1. What did you know about Maria Carolina Charlotte before reading the novel? Did you know she was the sister of Marie Antoinette or that she was the queen of Naples? What surprised you the most as you were reading?
  2. In an age when men dominated the political landscape, Charlotte's mother, Empress Maria Theresa (1717–1780)—archduchess of Austria, queen of Hungary and Bohemia, and Holy Roman empress—was regarded as a shrewd, formidable, and influential ruler. Her dedication to governance, however, often took precedence over her role as a caregiver, as evidenced by the quote "I am a queen before I am a mother." Discuss the nature of Charlotte's relationship with her mother. In what ways was Maria Theresa a role model? In what...
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BookBrowse Review


Even though many people who pick up this book will know the ending of Marie Antoinette's life, fewer will know the details of Charlotte's. This intelligent queen was part of one of Europe's most powerful families; her mother, Maria Theresa, was the only female ruler of the Holy Roman Empire. Yet that is not to say that she is a perfect character. Especially after her sister's violent death, Charlotte takes her anti-France sentiment (which has led her to outlaw French customs and language in her court) a step further by imposing an authoritarian police state in order to prevent a popular uprising in Naples like the one that has just occurred in France. She certainly has her flaws. Yet it's hard — impossible, I'd say — not to root for her...continued

Full Review (603 words)

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(Reviewed by Maria Katsulos).

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
[A]n exceptional portrait of 18th-century Austria's Habsburg royal dynasty through the eyes of spirited archduchess Charlotte...Giovinazzo vividly depicts a formidable monarch from a turbulent era of European history. This sprawling tale of power, intrigue, and ambition is a winner.

Philippa Gregory fans will love this story's mix of real history and drama, made personal with the strong and relatable voice of the queen of Naples and Sicily.

Author Blurb Heather Webb, USA Today bestselling author of The Next Ship Home
A sweeping tale of power, love, and the bonds of family, Antoinette's Sister is a compelling coming-of-age story set to the backdrop of one of the most volatile periods in Europe. Giovinazzo has deftly weaved fascinating and rich details through the narrative, and in Maria Carolina Charlotte, created an endearing yet strong protagonist who must learn the demands of a monarch to save her country from ruin. I couldn't put it down!

Author Blurb Laura Morelli, art historian & USA Today bestselling author of The Stolen Lady
The political landscape of Southern Italy during the period of the so-called Kingdom of the Two Sicilies is one of the most complex and daunting in the history of the Italian peninsula. But Diana Giovinazzo weaves a clear path for us through the historical minefield in her latest historical novel, Antoinette's Sister. Through the eyes of Maria Carolina Charlotte, queen and de facto ruler of Ferdinand I's kingdom, we experience the personal struggles, tragedies, and triumphs of one of the most remarkable women of the eighteenth century. A fascinating biographical portrait as well as an engrossing, bittersweet tale.

Author Blurb Stephanie Storey, bestselling author of Oil and Marble and Raphael, Painter in Rome
Diana Giovinazzo's Antoinette's Sister is a fast-paced, dramatic retelling of the life of Maria Carolina Charlotte, Queen of the Two Sicilies. Giovinazzo deftly brings to life this fierce and brilliant Queen, who uses her prowess to become a savvy leader of Naples while trying desperately to save her beloved sister, Marie Antoinette, from disaster in Revolutionary France. With uprisings, love affairs, and plenty of court intrigue, this juicy historical story is like a rousing Philippa Gregory novel, only set under a warm Italian sun.

Reader Reviews

Debbie C

For historical fiction lovers
As a lover of historical fiction, I thought this was a really great read, The story transports you to the eighteenth century and gives you a seat at the tables of the Kings and Queens of Austria, Naples, and France. The lives and loves of strong ...   Read More

Fascinating story of a forgotten queen
What a fascinating story of a strong, proud and amazing queen forgotten by history! Reading this book during Women’s History Month was a bonus too. As Queen of the Two Sicilies, daughter of the Empress Maria Theresa and sister to Marie Antoinette, ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

The Children of Holy Roman Empress Maria Theresa

Painted portrait of Empress Maria Theresa from 1762 The children of the Holy Roman Empress Maria Theresa form a large part of the cast of Antoinette's Sister by Diana Giovinazzo. This is no surprise: They numbered enough to make up a team roster for many sports, with 10 of 16 surviving to adulthood. Of these, the most famous are her sons Joseph II and Leopold II, both of whom inherited the Holy Roman Empire in turn; Maria Carolina, Queen of Naples and Sicily, around whom Antoinette's Sister revolves; and Marie Antoinette, Queen of France.

Known for the educational reforms implemented during her reign and sometimes called "Europe's mother-in-law," Maria Theresa ensured her family's lasting political power by arranging for advantageous marriages between her children and the heirs and ...

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