"The Stolen girl" and "the French sultana" both explore the legend of Naksidil the French woman in the Turkish imperial harem

According to legends two French girls in the West Indies had their fortune told and were both assured they would be queens. Years later one of them becomes the wife of the French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. Her niece however disappears during a sea voyage. She ends up being sold into the imperial harem in Istanbul. Although there is hardly any historical evidence to this legend it is told in many books.

The first novel is a story about a French woman who became the favourite of two sultans and the mother of a third. The history of that era is known and described in book 2. This however is the romanticised prequel to real history and it is a delight to read if you like historical romance novels. The first wife however would in real life have ended up on the bottom of the Bosporus.

The second novel in the series somehow reads different. Maybe because the writer had to stick to history and maybe because it spans many years.  I am quite familiar with this era in Turkish history what influenced the suspense side of the story. In general it feels more like a history book than a novel. What makes Selim so attractive? How do the women react on sharing the same man? Not that much explored. The people do not really come to life. But if you are interested in history it is a lovely way to catch up on Napoleon and France and on the lives of the sultans.

 More then 20 years ago I read another novel about this legend - serialised in a magazine - and that was a lot better.


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