The Accidental Empress

A Novel

The Accidental Empress

New York Times bestselling author Allison Pataki follows up on her critically acclaimed debut novel, The Traitor’s Wife, with the little-known and tumultuous love story of “Sisi” the Austro-Hungarian Empress and captivating wife of Emperor Franz Joseph.

The year is 1853, and the Habsburgs are Europe’s most powerful ruling family. With his empire stretching from Austria to Russia, from Germany to Italy, Emperor Franz Joseph is young, rich, and ready to marry.

Fifteen-year-old Elisabeth, “Sisi,” Duchess of Bavaria, travels to the Habsburg Court with her older sister, who is betrothed to the young emperor. But shortly after her arrival at court, Sisi finds herself in an unexpected dilemma: she has inadvertently fallen for and won the heart of her sister’s groom. Franz Joseph reneges on his earlier proposal and declares his intention to marry Sisi instead.

Thrust onto the throne of Europe’s most treacherous imperial court, Sisi upsets political and familial loyalties in her quest to win, and keep, the love of her emperor, her people, and of the world.

With Pataki’s rich period detail and cast of complex, bewitching characters, The Accidental Empress offers a captivating glimpse into one of history’s most intriguing royal families, shedding new light on the glittering Hapsburg Empire and its most mesmerizing, most beloved “Fairy Queen.”
  • Howard Books | 
  • 512 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781476790220 | 
  • February 2015
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Author Allison Pataki talks about her new novel 'The Accidental Empress'

Bestselling Author Allison Pataki discusses the little-known and tumultuous love story of “Sisi,” the Austro-Hungarian empress and captivating wife of Emperor Franz Joseph in her new novel The Accidental Empress.'

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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Accidental Empress includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Allison Pataki. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1) Though Sisi was often referred to as “The Fairy Queen,” this is not your typical fairy tale, in which a girl falls in love with a prince and the two of them live happily ever after. Could Sisi and Franz Joseph have had a happy marriage? Why or why not? How does Pataki’s novel take up the notion of “happily ever after” as it relates to the lives and marriages of the novel’s characters?

2) When Sophie learns of her son’s intention to marry Sisi, the archduchess has this to say: “She is not fit. It is as simple as that. She is too young—a child really, too giddy. Unable to fulfill the role and all of its obligations.” What was it about Sisi that made her, in Sophie’s eyes, “not fit” for the role of empress and wife? Was Sophie at all correct? Why did Sophie prefer that her son marry Helene?

3) As eager as she is to marry Franz Joseph, Sisi quickly becomes overwhelmed and intimida see more

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About the Author

Allison Pataki
Photograph © Tricia McCormack

Allison Pataki

Allison Pataki is the New York Times bestselling author of The Traitor’s Wife and The Accidental Empress. She graduated Cum Laude from Yale University with a major in English and spent several years writing for TV and online news outlets. The daughter of former New York State Governor George E. Pataki, Allison is a regular contributor to Huffington Post and, as well as a member of The Historical Novel Society. Allison lives in Chicago with her husband. To learn more and connect with Allison visit or on Twitter @AllisonPataki.