Review: The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte by Ruth Hull Chatlien

Ambitious Madame Bonaparte banner

Today I’m participating in the France Book Tour of The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte. For all the tour stops, please visit this page.  

Ambitious Madame Bonaparte cover

The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte

Release date: December 2, 2013 at  Amika Press
484 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1937484163
Buy links: Available from
Amika PressAmazonBarnes and Noble


As a clever girl in stodgy, mercantile Baltimore, Betsy Patterson dreams of a marriage that will transport her to cultured Europe. When she falls in love with and marries Jerome Bonaparte, she believes her dream has come true—until Jerome’s older brother Napoleon becomes an implacable enemy.Based on a true story, The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte is a historical novel that portrays this woman’s tumultuous life. Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte, known to history as Betsy Bonaparte, scandalized Washington with her daring French fashions; visited Niagara Falls when it was an unsettled wilderness; survived a shipwreck and run-ins with British and French warships; dined with presidents and danced with dukes; and lived through the 1814 Battle of Baltimore. Yet through it all, Betsy never lost sight of her primary goal—to win recognition of her marriage.


I love historical fiction novels. The Bonaparte name is well known. However, many of us associate the name with Napoleon. I may have heard of Napoleon’s younger brother in one of my history classes, but the name Jerome Bonaparte had been banished from my memory. Which means I was completely ignorant of Elizabeth Patterson, Jerome’s American wife. How fascinating that there were Bonapartes living in Baltimore.

Elizabeth ‘Betsy’ Patterson was an ambitious young woman, as the title of Ruth Hull Chatlien’s novel suggests. The idea that she’d marry a man from Europe settled in her mind at an early age. When she meets Jerome Bonaparte, a Frenchman, it seemed it was only a matter of time until she married him. Unfortunately, Napoleon didn’t approve of the marriage. He wanted his younger brother to marry for diplomatic reasons, not for love.

Betsy wants nothing more than to be a Bonaparte and wants to live in Europe. When she has Jerome’s son, she hopes that Napoleon will finally welcome her. He doesn’t. Betsy’s quest to live in Europe and to be part of the distinguished family is her lifelong goal. No matter how many obstacles she faces, Betsy refuses to give up. On one hand I admired her determination. On the other I wanted to talk sense into her. Her ambition drove those around her mad, including her son.

This novel is an entertaining story about a woman who actually existed. Writing about a historical figure is a challenge since the author is confined by history. The danger is that the novel will be more like a textbook and not a story. The author does a fantastic job of bringing Betsy to life and remaining true to historical events.

The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte is well written and offers much insight not only into Betsy’s life, but the life of many women during this time period. All of the secondary characters add to rich tapestry of history and is a wonderful addition to the historical fiction genre.

Ruth Hull Chatlien

Ruth Hull Chatlien has been a writer and editor of educational materials for twenty-five years. Her specialty is U.S. and world history. She is the author of Modern American Indian Leaders and has published several short stories and poems in literary magazines. The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte (2013) is her first published novel.
She lives in northeastern Illinois with her husband, Michael, and a very pampered dog named Smokey. When she’s not writing, she can usually be found gardening, knitting, drawing, painting, or watching football.

About TBM

TB Markinson is an American who's recently returned to the US after a seven-year stint in the UK and Ireland. When she isn't writing, she's traveling the world, watching sports on the telly, visiting pubs in New England, or reading. Not necessarily in that order. Her novels have hit Amazon bestseller lists for lesbian fiction and lesbian romance. She cohosts the Lesbians Who Write Podcast ( with Clare Lydon. TB also runs I Heart Lesfic (, a place for authors and fans of lesfic to come together to celebrate lesbian fiction.
This entry was posted in Book Tours and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Review: The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte by Ruth Hull Chatlien

  1. I love hearing the side stories about the families. They help to add more depth to the famous person’s story.

  2. Pingback: France Book Tours stops for March 9-12 | France Book Tours

  3. Pingback: Ruth Hull Chatlien on Tour: The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte | France Book Tours

  4. thanks for your nice review. this is definitely such a rich book, neat to help us extend our knowledge of the Bonaparte family

  5. rhchatlien says:

    Reblogged this on Ruth Hull Chatlien and commented:
    Another review for my novel:

  6. Colline says:

    This is one to put on my list. I love historical novels.

  7. Wow! This sounds like a fascinating read. I had no idea there were Bonapartes in the US either. I love historical fiction. Thanks for another great review, TB.

    Hugs from Ecuador,

  8. I had no idea about this brother and his ambitious wife. Sounds captivating. 🙂

  9. Interesting. I didn’t know about Napoleon’s siblings and in-laws and their stories. I love fiction based on real history.

  10. rhchatlien says:

    Thank you for your review.

  11. Pingback: Betsy Patterson Bonaparte, “Queen of Recyle, Refresh, & Re-purpose” | Dressing for Comfort, Confidence & Style

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s