Whether or not the portrayal is historically true, it is difficult to say. But the portrayal is quite fascinating and one can read the lengthy book from cover to cover only to fathom and understand the character of Desiree Clary. There is something remarkable in her character. Napoleon's mother appeals to her to intervene in order to save a life. Her sister Julie clings to her for support. Napoleon's first wife Josephine depends on her and seeks comfort from her on the night of her divorce. It is Desiree who is instrumental in Napoleon's surrender and who prevents the shedding of blood.
It is not merely her importance that matters. She happens to be there and continues to be there when needed. There is, in her, a hidden strength and resourcefulness. She is also very brave. When her sister and her children, her nephew and niece and Napoleon's stepdaughter's sons come to her for protection and she finds herself short of money, she does not borrow money, she does not sell her jewelry; instead she goes straight to her father's silk warehouse (after a lapse of many years) and collects her share of the money. She does not even hesitate to sell silk at the counter. Here she learns that her sister Julie's husband had regularly been drawing his share. She is far too human and non-materialistic to be bothered by materialistic considerations.