C.M. Mayo takes an in-depth look into one of Mexico's most turbulent times when its government was plagued by invaders (the Yankees and the French), in-fighting, and disease, like yellow fever.
The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire by C.M. Mayo and published by Unbridled Books is a historical novel that chronicles the short reign (about 3 years) of Maximilian, the undercurrent of political ambition, the clash of cultures, and internal familial machinations.
The novel opens in Washington, D.C., with Alice Green who meets and falls in love with Angelo de Iturbide, a secretary for the Mexican Legation. They marry and move to Mexico, where Alice (known as Alicia in Mexico) gives birth to their son, Agustín de Iturbide y Green. Leaving the Mexican shores, readers will journey across the Atlantic to Trieste, Italy, to meet Maximilian von Habsburg who reluctantly agrees to become the Emperor of Mexico. There are a number of nuances political and otherwise that can get confusing for readers unfamiliar with some of Mexico's history, but these instances are easily overcome as the story unfolds. It is clear from the use of multiple perspectives in this novel that the main character is not Maximilian, Agustin, Alice, Angelo, the Iturbides, the French invaders under Napoleon III, or the Republican upstarts led by Benito Juarez. The main "character" of this novel is Mexico and its future and how that future is shaped by all of these players, their decisions, and in some cases their indecision.
Mayo is an impeccable researcher and craftswoman who fleshes out historical figures in a way that remains true to their historical actions and creates characters who are well-rounded and memorable for readers. Her ability to juggle multiple points of view is unparalleled--from the perspective of Agustin's nanny to Maximilian himself.
One of the most captivating sections of the novel occurs between pages 147-153 in which Maximilian is preoccupied with matters of state and the Iturbide family's sudden breach of a contract with the emperor with regard to their son Agustin. Mayo weaves in Maximilian's frantic thoughts, rants, and arguments with his physical tossing about in his bed, as he mashes the pillow into submission, kicks off the sheets, and sits upright in bed as he determines the best course of action to save face and depict Mexico as a strong nation.
Readers will agree that her prose is poetic.
Overall, this epic novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, takes on a convoluted period in Mexico's history and the complicated families ruling or eager to rule in the mid-19th Century. Mayo does exceptionally well with multiple points of view, description, and character development to create a vivid dramatization. The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire would make a great book club selection and discussion.