It’s not a secret that I love historical fiction. It is one of my favorite things to read. I also really love Russian history – I even took a Russian history class in college. And yet, I don’t think I’ve ever read a historical fiction novel set in Russia. Why? I have no idea. So when The Romanov Empress came along, I couldn’t resist.
(All reviews are spoiler-free unless otherwise noted.)
(From Goodreads) Even from behind the throne, a woman can rule.
Narrated by the mother of Russia’s last tsar, this vivid, historically authentic novel brings to life the courageous story of Maria Feodorovna, one of Imperial Russia’s most compelling women who witnessed the splendor and tragic downfall of the Romanovs as she fought to save her dynasty in the final years of its long reign.
Barely nineteen, Minnie knows that her station in life as a Danish princess is to leave her family and enter into a royal marriage–as her older sister Alix has done, moving to England to wed Queen Victoria’s eldest son. The winds of fortune bring Minnie to Russia, where she marries the Romanov heir and becomes empress once he ascends the throne. When resistance to his reign strikes at the heart of her family and the tsar sets out to crush all who oppose him, Minnie–now called Maria–must tread a perilous path of compromise in a country she has come to love.
Her husband’s death leaves their son Nicholas as the inexperienced ruler of a deeply divided and crumbling empire. Determined to guide him to reforms that will bring Russia into the modern age, Maria faces implacable opposition from Nicholas’s strong-willed wife, Alexandra, whose fervor has lead her into a disturbing relationship with a mystic named Rasputin. As the unstoppable wave of revolution rises anew to engulf Russia, Maria will face her most dangerous challenge and her greatest heartache.
From the opulent palaces of St. Petersburg and the intrigue-laced salons of the aristocracy to the World War I battlefields and the bloodied countryside occupied by the Bolsheviks, C. W. Gortner sweeps us into the anarchic fall of an empire and the complex, bold heart of the woman who tried to save it.
I’ve studied a fair amount of Russian history (mainly the Russian Revolution), and have always been fascinated by the Romanovs. But one figure I had never really read much about is Maria Feodorovna, the mother of Nicholas II. The Romanov Empress was pretty much my first encounter with her (apart from the animated Anastasia – and we all know that’s not the most accurate). And I loved her. This book portrayed her as a strong, but flawed woman who loves her family deeply. Her life as the empress of Russia was glamorous, but also tragic. She lost children and her husband, and had to watch the dynasty she married into collapse with the assassinations of her son, Tsar Nicholas II and his family.
This was a difficult book to read because so many tragedies plagued the Romanovs. While I was consistently engrossed but it, I still read it fairly slowly. It was hard to read too much at once, especially knowing these events really happened. But it was also completely engrossing. I found myself very invested in the story, even though I already knew the ending.
The Romanov Empress is just a really great historical novel. It was just as good as some of my all-time favorite historical fiction novels. It felt a bit like Alison Weir’s Six Tudor Queens books, and we all know how much I adore those.
★★★★☆ – I loved The Romanov Empress. It was a solid 4.5-star read for me. I enjoyed getting to know Maria so much, and I just had such a great reading experience with this book. I will definitely be reading more of C. W. Gortner’s work in the future. If you like historical fiction (or Anastasia) I highly recommend this book.
The Romanov Empress was just released on July 10th, and is available in bookstores now – pick up a copy on Amazon if you’re interested!
To get the audiobook for free, use this link to sign up for a free trial of Audible and choose The Romanov Empress as one of your two free books.
The Romanov Empress was generously provided to me by the publisher. All opinions are my own.
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