The Last Great Dance on Earth is the triumphant final volume of Sandra Gulland's beloved trilogy based on the life of Josephine Bonaparte. When the novel opens, Josephine and Napoleon have been married for four tumultuous years. Napoleon is Josephine's great love, and she his. But their passionate union is troubled from within, as Josephine is unable to produce an heir, and from without, as England makes war against France and Napoleon's Corsican clan makes war against his wife. Through Josephine's heartfelt diary entries, we witness the personal betrayals and political intrigues that will finally drive them apart, culminating in Josephine's greatest tragedy: her divorce from Napoleon and his exile to Elba. The Last Great Dance on Earth is historical fiction on a grand scale and the stirring conclusion to an unforgettable love story.
Gulland completes her elaborately detailed Josephine Bonaparte trilogy (The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B.; Tales of Passion, Tales of Woe), taking up the story in 1800 at Paris's Tuileries Palace, where 36-year-old Josephine and her younger husband, Napoleon (who has just become France's First Consul), are desperately trying to conceive. Despite numerous questionable "cures," Josephine remains barren. Her daughter from her first marriage, Hortense, marries Napoleon's brother and produces a son Napoleon wishes to adopt in order to establish a hereditary succession. When this plan fails, advisers claim Napoleon's authority has been weakened. As Napoleon and Josephine rise to power, ultimately being crowned emperor and empress, Gulland does a remarkable job of showing how rumors and disloyalties changed the course of history. Under increasing pressure to produce an heir, Napoleon divorces the heartbroken Josephine, calling the act a noble sacrifice they both must make for the Empire. Napoleon remarries, and a son is born; soon after, he leaves for his unsuccessful invasion of Russia, his last campaign before abdication and exile. Josephine dies shortly thereafter, in 1814, ending her life with thoughts of Napoleon. Florid prose floods the tale, and the diary style of the first-person narrative is limiting, but neither of these problems seriously handicaps the novel. Gulland brings to life an exciting period in Europe's past through the eyes of one of its most famous women. The popularity of the first two installments assures an avid following, but this meticulously researched tale stands alone as a romance of epic proportions.