The Académie Susanne Dunlap Book Review

Sigh. Sometimes when you read a book’s summary, you think WOW it sounds like this book and I are MEANT TO BE. And then you read the book and have a deep soul connection. Other times, you read the book and unfortunately end up disappointed. Friends, I did not experience a deep soul connection with The Académie by Susanne Dunlap.

The Academie

The AcademieÂ

The Académie is the story of three young girls – Eliza Monroe, future US President James Monroe’s daughter, Hortense  de Beauharnais who is the stepdaughter of Napoleon Bonaparte , and Madeline who is an actress in the Comedie Francaise or however you spell it. Eliza and Hortense strike up a friendship at their French boarding school, run by Madame Campan who was a bedchamber attendant to Marie Antoinette. After getting over the reign of Terror, France is starting to put itself back together and the girls go to the school to learn how to be hostesses. Madeline is in love with Hortense’s brother, Eugene. Set in France during 1799 the story mainly focuses on the romantic interludes of the three girls and the growing friendship between Hortense and Eliza while Madeline is sort of on the periphery.

Unfortunately, I could not connect with the characters. I think this might have been because of the multiple narrators. Just as I would begin to get comfortable with or care about a character, the narration would switch to the point of view of another character. Like, I would have liked Hortense and maybe picked her as my favorite, but THEN she acts super back-stabby at the end. Eliza starts as a petulant child and while she changes, I couldn’t find myself caring because it seemed like I didn’t get that much time with her.

And Madeline. WELL. I thought she was interesting with her race and the societal implications that surrounded her being a Creole in 1799 in France which did not have slavery as opposed to America. Like ,that bit was really interesting and added some depth. BUT WHOA, okay Madeline got obsessive and felt awkwardly painful to read about.

Plus, I was so turned off by the end. It came out of left field to me. And I legit said out loud – ‘the F is this?’ Like, it was SO dramatic. And okay, I know some people like that sort of thing, but I was kind of snapped out of it. While I enjoy historical fiction,  The Académie was not the book for me.

Disclosure: Received for review via Netgalley.

Other reviews of The Académie by Susanne Dunlap:

Fiction Folio
Tripping Over Books
The Readventurer

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. That’s sad. I’ve liked the books I’ve read from her so far.

  2. I had a mixed experience with Dunlap’s In the Shadow of the Light but I was seduced by the cover of this one-it just looks like a book I’d like! I anticipate having problems with this book although I do have a soft spot for multiple narrators and I definitely want to read more about Napoleonic France.

  3. For once I agree 100% with a negative review; this is exactly how I felt about this book as well. Too bad since I had such high expectations..:)

  4. Oh, that’s a shame. I like historical fiction a lot, too and have been wanting to read a Susanne Dunlap book for a while. The premise of this one is really cool; too bad it didn’t work for you. I may still keep this on my TBR list, though, as the premise really does interest me and I’ll see what the book’s like for myself.

    • I think you should keep it on your list! I agree that it’s best to form your own opinion instead of not trying something just because one person doesn’t like it.

      I hope you do enjoy the Academie or one of her other books. I’m hoping to try and enjoy one of her other reads.

  5. Yeah, I was not impressed with this one at all. The ending was ridic! I do want to try another Dunlap book, though, because I’ve heard good things, but this one was not great.

    • YES! The ending is what killed me. Like, I would have enjoyed it a whole lot more if it weren’t for that heap of crazy.

      • Eh, I don’t think this one was salvageable for me, even if the ending had been kickass. I hated all of the narrators, and they all kind of sounded the same…except that that one chick was seriously unhinged. I mean, I can see why, because her mother was freaking nutso, but still oy.

        And did all three ladies have to be stupid?

  6. I was so very excited for this, but I felt pretty much the same way as you. For me, the only highlight was Madeline, but again? She got really awkward really fast.

    I really liked Dunlap’s writing style, but this just wasn’t the book for me either. I would like to try something else from her though.

    • YES! Like when Madeline does what she does, I’m like I just can’t take this anymore.

      And word, her writing style is fabulous. I’m definitely going to read another of her books as well.

  7. You’re not the only one who has said similar things to this… I haven’t read yet, but even without the mixed reviews I don’t really think this would be the book for me. I’m all for this time period and whatnot, and think it’s crazy cool that there’s a Creole girl in it (this and the Cajun culture are very interesting to me), but unless there doesn’t seem to be much more substance than their romantic interludes and general petty girlness… But like I said.. haven’t read it so I won’t be overly judgmental 🙂

  8. You know, I have yet to read a positive review for this book & that’s so disappointed. I was really looking forward to loving this novel & it seems like I wasn’t the only one who had high expectations.

    • That sucks. I think there’s a few of my goodreads friends who gave this a positive review. I don’t know I’m all for forming your own opinion based on a book. So maybe if you are still interested, just adjust your expectations?

  9. Sadness! I truly hate when the book sounds so good and you have such high hopes and…nothing. No connection. No love. Happens in every genre and with books I least expect. Hope your next read is awesome!

  10. aw that’s too bad because the idea itself does sound really interesting, especially since I’m a big French history fan 🙁

  11. That first paragraph (above pic) is so accurate. So true.

  12. I really liked the other YA books I read by this author but all the others only had one main character. I haven’t read this one yet but it’s in my TBR.

  13. Dude I’ve read similar situations to yours so many times. And I really want to like this book. I’ve got it but I keep putting it off because of everyone else’s reactions. Big sigh. And the cover is so pretty too. Bummer.

  14. I must say this is one of the nicest bad reviews I have ever read. It sounds like you really tried to connect with the book. Thanks for being honest. I was going to skip this one anyway (and I was a History major) lol.

  15. bummers, sorry to hear you didn’t like the book. I hadn’t heard about it before reading your review, but I’m glad that you forewarned me away from it. It may be an ok book for some, but I think I’ll spend my time on other books I know that I will love.

    Great review! Your reading sacrifice will not go unnoticed!

  16. What a shame with such a nice cover. I shyed away from it because it seemed like a weird mishmash of historical characters forced into a private school setting. I’ve noticed a lot of YA using different narratives and it’s something that’s actually a very difficult thing for authors to pull off. The voices are rarely distinct enough.


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