THE GRASSHOPPER KING by Elizabeth Boatwright Coker


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Another period marathon in which the headlong prose chatters along like the rattling coach which, in this sequel to the author's Blood Red Roses (1977), carries Angelica Berrien and husband Beau from Vera Cruz to Puebla in 1865. Angelica has had to flee from the charge of murdering a rapacious Yankee officer; and Beau is leaving his burnt-out South Carolina plantation to join a group of Confederate exiles planning to start a colony in Mexico--which will support Emperor Maximilian from Austria, the ""Grasshopper King,"" against the nationalist movement led by Juarez. On the way to their new home Angelica tangles wits with sinister Don Carlos Miranda (rumored to be Juarez' heir apparent). And then Beau, a golden man who wears a white sombrero, meets Maximilian, while Angelica, against her will, becomes a lady-in-waiting to gloomy, severe Empress Carlotta . . . but finds a friend in feisty Princess Agnes zu Salm, who was once a circus bareback rider in Ohio. Also arriving in Mexico is Beau's brother Phillip, a jaunty sort who has the hots for Angelica but whose sympathies are more or less with Juarez. The revolution heats up; Juarez advances while the French and other nationals withdraw and the Yankees egg on Juarez; Maximilian adopts a Gotterdammerung bravura; Carlotta goes abroad to plea for help; and the Last Days arrive. Eventually, then, Beau and the Emperor are captured while Agnes and Angelica make a wild crisscross journey, meeting sensual General Diaz, Juarez (""who did not glisten""), and Don Carlos, who plays with drugs and nudity. And finally Maximilian will be executed, Beau will die in a Custer-like shoot-out, and Angelica might just be off to Mexico again with Phillip. The political talk is plausible, but Angelica's often isn't (""I would fool him with my lightness""); and though more ambitious in scenery and scope than Roses, this is again overwritten, sometimes slovenly, and altogether a bit much.

Pub Date: April 27th, 1981
Publisher: Dutton