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The Romanov Empress: A Novel of Tsarina Maria Feodorovna

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Narrated by the mother of Russia's last tsar, this 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 its final years.


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Narrated by the mother of Russia's last tsar, this 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 its final years.

30 review for The Romanov Empress: A Novel of Tsarina Maria Feodorovna

  1. 4 out of 5

    Angela M

    This is a journey through Russian history from 1862 - 1918, the court of the Romanovs, who considered themselves ordained by God to rule. It’s compelling and dramatic and a fabulous way to read history through C.W. Gortner’s portrayal. I wish I could think of words better than compelling and dramatic to describe this book, but in truth it is these things. It’s the story of the Romanov dynasty, but in essence it’s Maria Feodorovna’s story. She was spirited , intelligent, beautiful, stubborn, a de This is a journey through Russian history from 1862 - 1918, the court of the Romanovs, who considered themselves ordained by God to rule. It’s compelling and dramatic and a fabulous way to read history through C.W. Gortner’s portrayal. I wish I could think of words better than compelling and dramatic to describe this book, but in truth it is these things. It’s the story of the Romanov dynasty, but in essence it’s Maria Feodorovna’s story. She was spirited , intelligent, beautiful, stubborn, a devout wife and mother and a woman whose place in Russian history is firm, heeding her mother’s advice that , “Even from behind the throne, a woman can rule.” A Danish Princess from a royal family of not much means, she was not accustomed to all of the amenities of royalty until her father’s fate changes, but more importantly hers as she is engaged to be married to Tsarevich Nicholas, Nixa until he succumbs to meningitis. His dying wish that she would marry his younger brother Alexander seals her fate as she marries “Sasha”, grows accustomed to the opulent life that the court offers, falls in love with her husband and Russia. This is a story of power, of love, of family, revolution and war from the height of Romanovs to their fall. Lovers of historical fiction, especially Russian history shouldn’t miss this. I received an advanced copy of this book from Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine through NetGalley.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader

    5 huge stars to The Romanov Empress! ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ Historical fiction fans will not want to miss C.W. Gortner’s latest novel! I would also offer, if you enjoy perfect storytelling involving an enthralling and strong woman, this book is also for you. The Romanov Empress is narrated by the mother of Russia’s last tsar. Maria (formerly “Minnie”) Feodorovna is born a Danish princess; however, while her family has rank due to title, it is low on funds. Her story begins when she is a teen, and her si 5 huge stars to The Romanov Empress! ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ Historical fiction fans will not want to miss C.W. Gortner’s latest novel! I would also offer, if you enjoy perfect storytelling involving an enthralling and strong woman, this book is also for you. The Romanov Empress is narrated by the mother of Russia’s last tsar. Maria (formerly “Minnie”) Feodorovna is born a Danish princess; however, while her family has rank due to title, it is low on funds. Her story begins when she is a teen, and her sister, Alix, is about to marry the Prince of Wales, son of Queen Victoria. I find Queen Victoria especially fascinating, so it was intriguing to hear about her from Maria’s point-of-view. Maria also is set for a royal marriage to keep her family’s status, and while it is not an easy or simple journey, especially for her heart, she marries the Romanov heir who later takes the throne. The descriptions of the setting as she arrives in St. Petersburg were absolutely mesmerizing. Later Maria’s husband dies, and her son, Nicholas, is now the ruler of a disintegrating empire that is struggling in every way. She attempts to guide her son, but her efforts are futile with Nicholas’ wife and Rasputin having the emperor’s ear. The Romanov Empress is epic in its scope, and the writing is exquisite, while also being highly readable. The rich setting is replete with opulence and grandeur balanced with war and extreme turmoil. I savored this reading experience, and Maria is a memorable and inspiring historical figure who falls in love with Russia and does her best to honor and uphold it. It is a story of family, sacrifice, strength, and ultimately, love. Thank you to Random House/Ballantine for the complimentary copy. The Romanov Empress is now available! My reviews can also be found on my blog: www.jennifertarheelreader.com

  3. 5 out of 5

    Tammy

    I admit that I’ve only read two of Gortner’s historical novels and enjoyed them both but this is far, far better than most historical novels I’ve read including his. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that Gortner is approaching Alison Weir territory. The Romanov Empress presents a peek at the era from 1862 through 1918 narrated by Tsarevna and eventual Tsarina, Maria Feodorovna formerly known as Dagmar of Denmark. Keep in mind that this is an imagined account so there are a few (very few) modific I admit that I’ve only read two of Gortner’s historical novels and enjoyed them both but this is far, far better than most historical novels I’ve read including his. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that Gortner is approaching Alison Weir territory. The Romanov Empress presents a peek at the era from 1862 through 1918 narrated by Tsarevna and eventual Tsarina, Maria Feodorovna formerly known as Dagmar of Denmark. Keep in mind that this is an imagined account so there are a few (very few) modifications of the facts. For factual biographies of the Romanov Dynasty, I would suggest anything written by Robert K. Massie. The Romanov Dynasty ruled Russia for four-hundred years and thought themselves to rule by divine right. Entitled doesn’t even begin to describe the excessive extravagance and royally haughty attitudes of this powerful family. The chasm between the haves and the have nots was the percursor to the eventual demise of the Romanov family rule. We see Maria Feodorovna develop from an uncertain, teenage bride in a foreign land into the strong, domineering and fiercely patriotic matriarch of a powerful family. The names and familial connections can be a little confusing (nothing like Tolstoy) as people come and go and come back again but Gortner provides family trees which I found myself referencing every once in a while just to be sure that I had the relationships right. There is also a map which furnishes a visual of the cities and palaces that populate this novel. From French couture, opulent gems and blindingly brilliant balls to arranged marriages, revolutions, war and murder, you will find The Romanov Empress to be fast paced and fascinating. If you like historical fiction, don’t miss it.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Holly B (semi-hiatus until Jan)

    A compelling fictional story based on the life of Empress Maria Feodorovna and narrated by the mother of Russia's prior tsar.  She was the Princess Dagmar of Denmark before marrying the heir to the Russian throne.  She goes by "Minnie" and at the tender age of nineteen begins a life that will take her down many paths. I was fascinated with the ambiance of the time period in Russia.  Luxurious living, the royal jewels and all the Russian culture to the heartbreak of disease and war, this was such A compelling fictional story based on the life of Empress Maria Feodorovna and narrated by the mother of Russia's prior tsar.  She was the Princess Dagmar of Denmark before marrying the heir to the Russian throne.  She goes by "Minnie" and at the tender age of nineteen begins a life that will take her down many paths. I was fascinated with the ambiance of the time period in Russia.  Luxurious living, the royal jewels and all the Russian culture to the heartbreak of disease and war, this was such a captivating story. I loved following Minnie's life in Russia from the palace to the fight to save their empire. Minnie ultimately had to face many struggles and she proved to be such a strong woman and a bold leader.  She will witness the collapse of the Romanov dynasty and try to hold her family together. The politics, the strong family bonds as well as all the inner family drama added to the intrigue of this absorbing tale set in a turbulent historical time period. It is well written and richly detailed. I enjoyed reading about the Romanov Dynasty. Review will post to my Blog on July 24,2018 as part of blog tour.  Amazon review will post on publication date July 10,2018. 

  5. 4 out of 5

    Cheri

    “Don’t you know They’re talkin’ bout a revolution It sounds like a whisper” --“Talkin’ Bout a Revolution,” Tracy Chapman, Songwriters: Tracy Chapman https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q2wne... Danish princesses, the daughters of the man who would come to be Denmark’s King Christian IX, Marie Sophie Frederikke Dagmar, Minnie, or Dagmar to her father, and her older sister, Alexandra, Alix, were both predestined to marry into royalty. Alix, of course, would marry first, and married Edward VII (Albert Ed “Don’t you know They’re talkin’ bout a revolution It sounds like a whisper” --“Talkin’ Bout a Revolution,” Tracy Chapman, Songwriters: Tracy Chapman https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q2wne... Danish princesses, the daughters of the man who would come to be Denmark’s King Christian IX, Marie Sophie Frederikke Dagmar, Minnie, or Dagmar to her father, and her older sister, Alexandra, Alix, were both predestined to marry into royalty. Alix, of course, would marry first, and married Edward VII (Albert Edward), known to his family as Bertie, the son of Queen Victoria. Minnie meets, and ultimately is courted by Nixa, Nicholas Alexandrovich, Tsarevich of Russia, and a courtship ensues, and suddenly she finds herself busy preparing for a new life. ”Nixa had chosen me, for me. I’d not made it a simple task, but in the end he won my heart—not because he was the tsarevich but because of who he was inside. I fell in love with Nixa Romanov himself, with his gentle spirit and noble soul.” Plans are being made, letters exchanged, professional portraits are taken, and exchanged, and – romantic that he is – he sends her a box of books. Russian fairy tales, poetry, novels by Tolstoy, and a Russian primer. Purchases were made for her trousseau, in order that she could ”travel to my nuptials dressed in the latest styles.” All was going smoothly when the telegram arrived. She notices first the quiver in her mother’s voice when she says her name. Something has happened. Her Nixa has been thrown from his horse, and the situation has worsened. He has asked to see her, and they must leave quickly, he has spinal meningitis. Along the way, praying for a miracle, for his recovery, she thinks of the life together they have planned, but can’t envision, can’t bear to think of a life without him. Nixa, understanding his duty to his country as well, seeks to obtain a promise from Minnie to marry his brother, Sasha, from whom he extracted a matching promise. Eventually she concedes, wanting to offer him some solace in his last minutes. Maria Feodorovna as she came to be known to the world, but still Minnie to family, marries Sasha, Tsesarevich Alexander of Russia, Minnie becoming Grand Duchess Maria Feodorovna of Russia. In time, she will come to be the mother of the last Russian tsar. It is a time of much change, although serfdom had already been done away with, there is much anarchy and the people want more. It is a country, at the start, of those that have everything they need and everything they want, while others live in poverty. And while Maria has grown somewhat accustomed to her more opulent lifestyle, she is moved by the conditions. While she never was as poverty stricken as some of these people, she did not grow up in an affluent home. As much as she tries to persuade Sasha to improve the conditions of the poor, he can’t concern himself with such things. Politics and policies through the generations, the lavish luxury, revolutions, designer ball gowns, manipulations, the gems, dissention, the palaces, the poverty. It’s a land on the brink. Enter Rasputin, and piece-by-piece it all goes to hell, through massive manipulation. Everywhere around her, it seems Maria can’t make anyone see what is happening, but nothing will stop her from trying, and her frustrations abound. This is the first book I have read by C.W. Gortner, who has painted a lovely picture of this woman, from her earlier years to her later years, and this time and place in history. It’s a look at a life that was, at times, fraught with peril, and at times filled with love. It certainly is not your average life, and I felt that it was a very thorough, perhaps sometimes overly so, look at this very unique time and place in history, covering the years 1862 through 1918. Years filled with power struggles and revolution, and while there may be a few adjustments, amendments or adaptations to this fictionalized account, it is clear after reading this that the author has clearly done his research. Pub Date: 10 JUL 2018 Many thanks for the ARC provided by Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine Books

  6. 5 out of 5

    abby

    If you like your Russian Revolutions without all that unpleasantness about starving peasants and Bolshevik firing squads, this is the book for you. It follows the life of Empress Maria, wife to Alexander III and mother to the doomed Nicholas II. She was born Dagmar of Denmark-- called Minnie-- a minor princess in a royal line of diminished circumstances. When her father unexpectedly inherits the Danish throne, Minnie is arranged to marry the heir-apparent of Russia, Nicholas, but he dies before If you like your Russian Revolutions without all that unpleasantness about starving peasants and Bolshevik firing squads, this is the book for you. It follows the life of Empress Maria, wife to Alexander III and mother to the doomed Nicholas II. She was born Dagmar of Denmark-- called Minnie-- a minor princess in a royal line of diminished circumstances. When her father unexpectedly inherits the Danish throne, Minnie is arranged to marry the heir-apparent of Russia, Nicholas, but he dies before they are married. She then marries his younger brother, Alexander, in what starts out as a marriage of duty rather than one of love. However, over time, Alexander and Minnie grow to love one another, and Minnie embraces her role as the Empress of Russia. The first half of this book covers the period from Minnie's engagement until the death of her husband, Tsar Alexander III. The second half covers the years of her son Nicholas II's reign, up until Minnie is forced to flee Russia in 1918. The first half is better reading. That's because Minnie starts as a young outsider, learning how to be a Tsarina in the "backwater" of imperial Russia, but ages into an entrenched, entitled royal who does little besides complaining about her grown children. This book really seems to want its readers to hate Alexandra, Minnie's daughter-in-law and Nicholas II's wife. And goodness knows Alexandra was a hysterical idiot. But despite this book's clear intentions, I found myself sympathizing with her over Minnie, who quite resembles a mother-in-law from Hades at times. Minnie as petty and controlling with her family and clueless about the peasantry, while always believing she's in the right. I did enjoy her enduring frenemy relationship with her sister-in-law, Miechen. But, overall, once Minnie's husband dies, there's nothing to ground her character, and her narration starts to read like gossip. Who knows how much of the Maria Feodorovna from this book is real and how much is the author's creative narration. But if author Daisy Goodwin could write Queen Victoria of all people into a sympathetic character, I tend to think the failings of Minnie's character in this book rest squarely on C. W. Gortner's shoulders. I think readers of light historical fiction and Romanov fans will enjoy this. 3.5 stars.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Marialyce

    5 tragic stars You can find my reviews here: https://yayareadslotsofbooks.wordpres... Over the last week or so, I have been so very fortunate to have read two fantastic historical fiction novels, one about Patsy Jefferson and now this wonderful novel about the Russian Empress, Maria Fedorovna. Maria Feodorovna (Dagmar of Denmark) was a Danish princess. Her parents were of royal blood yet somewhat impoverished. Through the lines of succession, Dagmar's father became the king of Denmark and his chil 5 tragic stars You can find my reviews here: https://yayareadslotsofbooks.wordpres... Over the last week or so, I have been so very fortunate to have read two fantastic historical fiction novels, one about Patsy Jefferson and now this wonderful novel about the Russian Empress, Maria Fedorovna. Maria Feodorovna (Dagmar of Denmark) was a Danish princess. Her parents were of royal blood yet somewhat impoverished. Through the lines of succession, Dagmar's father became the king of Denmark and his children went on to be married to various rulers or to lead various European countries. Dagmar was originally betrothed to Nicholas who was the heir to the Russian throne. Tragically, he died of meningitis and supposedly had begged that Dagmar marry his younger brother, Alexander, who would eventually become Alexander III the tsar of Russia. She did and became the Empress of Russia. She and Alexander had four sons and two daughters. One of her sons, Nicholas, would ascend the throne and become Nicholas ll. He would marry Alexandria and they would have five children. In 1917, with the advent of the Russian Revolution, Nicholas and his family were held and eventually murdered by the revolutionaries. Maria, went onto live to the age of eighty outliving four of her children. Mr Gortner has written a book about Maria that was both riveting and engrossing. He made Maria become quite real in both her regency, and her life as a wife, a mother, and a grandmother. He portrayed the glory, the fabulous riches, and the majesty of the time when the tsars ruled. They had it all, a divine right to who and what they were, many times forgetting the people they ruled and the dreadful lives many of them were forced to lead. Maria's life was one of entitlement and yet she too, was a tragic figure. She is shown to have an iron will and to be concerned for her subjects. However, hard as she tried to make both her husband and later her son aware of the need for the people to have a voice in their government, she did not succeed. She lived gloriously, jewels, clothes, travel, all was at her very fingertips. She would go on to lose it all as revolution swept the nation, and Maria lost not only her wealth and status, but also her children and grandchildren. In the end, it was a story of sadness. One can certainly have it all and then lose everything. The author made Maria real. He brought out the many conflicts she had in her life, the tragedies that followed her starting with the loss of her betrothed Nicholas, to the death of her husband Alexander, the death of two of her children, to that of her exile and death of her son and daughter in law and their five children. He includes in his telling the effect that Rasputin had on the royal family and the various heads of state and their familial relationships. I can't recommend this book more highly to those who so relish historical fiction novels. Truly this was a book that was able to make the reader know the real characters so very well and feel their triumphs, their joys, but mostly their sorrows. "If I have given my all, and still do not win, I haven't lost. Others might remember winning or losing, but I remember the journey." (Apolo Ohno) For Maria, herself, had the journey of a lifetime. Thank you to C.W. Gortner, Random House Publishing, and NetGalley for a copy of this fantastic story of a woman who had ultimate power and grace.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    Fantastic! Nicholas II and his family will always be one of history’s greatest tragedies. Revolutions don’t come about from one event, they come from many, many years of strife. It was interesting seeing these events unfold through Minnie’s eyes. She was a formidable woman that was as devoted to Russia as she was to her family. Gortner is a fantastic writer that puts life into his characters and enables history to come alive through his writing. Highly recommend.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Whitney

    Overall: This book is amazing!!! A story of love, power, history, passion, and war centered on the Romanovs. An incredible account of the life of Maria Feodorovna but also a detailed account of Russian history from 1862-1918. This is one of the best historical fiction novels I have read in a long time. Epic in scope with exquisite writing and depth of characters, I highly recommend to lovers of historical fiction, the Romanovs, Russian history, and anyone looking for an enthralling story of a st Overall: This book is amazing!!! A story of love, power, history, passion, and war centered on the Romanovs. An incredible account of the life of Maria Feodorovna but also a detailed account of Russian history from 1862-1918. This is one of the best historical fiction novels I have read in a long time. Epic in scope with exquisite writing and depth of characters, I highly recommend to lovers of historical fiction, the Romanovs, Russian history, and anyone looking for an enthralling story of a strong woman. 5/5 or 9/10 Summary: This is the story of Maria (formerly “Minnie”) Feodorovna who is the mother of the last tsar of Russia. She is born a Danish princess, becomes engaged to marry Tsarevich Nicholas, “Nixa” until he dies from meningitis. His dying wish is that she marry his younger brother “Sasha.” Minnie agrees and the story follows her life as she grows accustomed to the opulent life of the Russian court, falls in love with Sasha and subsequently Russia, and her role as mother, tsarina (empress), and dowager empress. This book follows the history of the Romanovs from their height up till their fall and gives a great account of the revolution and events leading up to their eventual demise. The Good: I could go on an on here, but the heart of this story is Minnie’s character and her story. A quote from her that helps you to understand her character a bit more: “Even from behind the throne, a woman can rule.” Minnie is intelligent, beautiful, spirited, stubborn, and passionate. It is difficult not to love her and the author does a fabulous job bringing her to life. The other characters (main and supporting) are also brought to life and bring so much color to this book. The writing is superb and I felt engrossed in the story from the very beginning. The author does a great job at covering a large part of history in a 450 page novel; it is fast-paced, interesting throughout, but still gives a lot of depth to the events and the characters. Truly one of the best historical fictions books I have ever read. The Bad: Very little to say here but I do wish we saw a bit more of the other side of the story. This book is focused on the glitz and glamor (which is much more enticing than starving peasants and rebels) but there were reasons behind the revolution that I wish we saw more of. Minnie gives thought to some this a few times but it is very superficial and I wish it went into a bit more detail. However, if that were to happen it would lengthen the story considerably. I would certainly have read it and continued to love it if it were longer, but overall still a great read and now I am just going to read more about this period of history from other perspectives!

  10. 5 out of 5

    TL

    I received this via Goodreads Giveaways in exchange for an honest review. All my opinions are my own:). --- My thoughts are scattered on this a bit so bear with me. Initial reaction: SO GOOD. Wow. Review: Sometimes I just wanted to shake these people for the decisions they made. From a certain point, you can see why they did what they did and the circumstances that brought everything about but still... Makes you wonder if Sasha had met with his father before he was murdered, would it have changed any I received this via Goodreads Giveaways in exchange for an honest review. All my opinions are my own:). --- My thoughts are scattered on this a bit so bear with me. Initial reaction: SO GOOD. Wow. Review: Sometimes I just wanted to shake these people for the decisions they made. From a certain point, you can see why they did what they did and the circumstances that brought everything about but still... Makes you wonder if Sasha had met with his father before he was murdered, would it have changed anything? or made things worse? Would they have reached a compromise? I'm leaning towards no, considering what was going on at the time but who knows? Would Sasha have still burned his father's papers regarding Duma and a constitution? Perhaps. I can see the reasoning in his head behind what he did but I still mentally kicked him in the balls and threw him into next Tuesday. Would anything have helped saved them? Were things falling into place as they were meant to? If certain things had happened a different way or not happened at all, would it have made a difference? Or was the path set from the beginning? Were they powerless to stop the wheels from turning? Maybe some would say the family was cursed. I haven't read much on all the Romanovs yet (I was fascinated by the story of Anastasia when I was younger after I watched the animated film, and her possibly surviving the family's massacare. I remember looking up things on the internet and printing out articles/pictures. Wondering what she looked like as a grownup, what her life would have been after surviving...) but Alexandra was setting my teeth on edge in here quite a few times. More than once she reminded me of my sister-in-law (I could tell you stories all day long about her) and I was aching to tell her off. A couple of times I wondered if she was an introvert or just naturally standoffish. She didn't strike me as shy but I could be wrong. Calculating a couple times yes, and the type to treat everything as a State Secret That Nobody Must Know and Keep Out of Our Business (again I have relatives like this)... at least with Minnie/Maria. Maybe she was jealous/intimidated of her mother-in-law, and just wanted her out of the picture so she didn't have to be in her shadow? Or she wanted to be the only one influencing her husband, to keep everything around her in control? Who knows what was going on in her mind? I admired Minnie's restraint in dealing with her sometimes, my brain-to-mouth filter probably would have failed more than once if I was her. If I'm wrong, be gentle.. as I've said, I haven't read much on the whole family yet. Hoping to do that soon. I'm just stating things that came into my head during my time with this book. I have looked a few things up here and there while reading to see pictures and to get bits of info and whatnot whatnot but as of now that's all so far. The writing captivated me from the beginning, it felt like you were there with Minnie every step of the way. I admired her for persevering and not backing down. She wasn't a perfect woman, but she was certainly something. There times I didn't know how she kept it together, kept herself going. The author did a wonderful job of depicting the complexities of the times and the court... once again I say I am glad not to live back then, navigating the waters of that system... always having to watch your back so to speak. The tension in the air during Nicholas' reign was well done, so thick you could cut it with a knife. Once everything started going downhill, it had the feeling of natural disaster that wouldn't be stopped for anything. Near the end, you know what's coming and you kind of brace yourself in a way, despite knowing the outcome and that it won't change just for you. Makes you sad and angry, for various reasons. What Minnie thought privately who knows, but can't blame her for holding onto the hope they somehow survived. Would highly recommend.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    I pity the man who does marry you, Dagmar of Denmark. You'll not be easily tamed. Thus begins the tale of Tsarina Maria Fedorovna, daughter of Denmark's King Christian IX, wife of Tsar Alexander III and mother of Tsar Nicholas II. "Minnie" is a fiery spirited woman who is not shy to say what's on her mind. We learn that she and her siblings grew up living like commoners making their own clothes and taking part in different domestic tasks. But when their father is chosen as Denmark's next King D I pity the man who does marry you, Dagmar of Denmark. You'll not be easily tamed. Thus begins the tale of Tsarina Maria Fedorovna, daughter of Denmark's King Christian IX, wife of Tsar Alexander III and mother of Tsar Nicholas II. "Minnie" is a fiery spirited woman who is not shy to say what's on her mind. We learn that she and her siblings grew up living like commoners making their own clothes and taking part in different domestic tasks. But when their father is chosen as Denmark's next King Dagmar and her sister, Alexandra find themselves much-desired brides. As her sister finds marriage to the son of Queen Victoria, Minnie cannot fight the lure of an adventure that Russia holds. Of course, she has no idea that in making this choice that she will witness the ruination of the Romanovs. As I have stated before (and more recently in my review of The Vatican Princess ) no one is able to weave in-depth historical research into a compelling narrative with more passion than C.W. Gortner. The first person account appears so realistic and heartfelt that I almost imagined I was reading from Minnie's diary. This was the kind of read that didn't need the bookmark. I was on the edge of my seat from beginning to end. Goodreads review published 02/04/20

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sonja Arlow

    2.5 stars Maybe I should just admit to myself once and for all that I am just not that interested in the Romanovs. I also don’t think the first person narrative worked very well. Empress Maria spent a lot more time discussing the royal jewels than contemplating the suffering of the Russian people that lead to the revolution. You don’t get to understand how and why the Russian people suffered more and more with each new tsar. I mean who wants to read about starving peasants when there are dresses an 2.5 stars Maybe I should just admit to myself once and for all that I am just not that interested in the Romanovs. I also don’t think the first person narrative worked very well. Empress Maria spent a lot more time discussing the royal jewels than contemplating the suffering of the Russian people that lead to the revolution. You don’t get to understand how and why the Russian people suffered more and more with each new tsar. I mean who wants to read about starving peasants when there are dresses and jewellery to discuss? And the most interesting character of all, Rasputin, only gets a few short mentions of his influence over Nicolas and Alexandra. Even with the few Russian words thrown in here and there the story felt as if it could have played off in any royal court in any country. And my, what is with all the smoking? It was so prevalent that every second scene had Empress Maria or some other character light up to smoke away their angst. The last ¼ was good and I finally started feeling some empathy for the Russian royals but for me it was too little too late. There are a lot of people who loved this but sadly this book just did not work for me.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Stacy

    Interview with C. W. Gortner & Giveaway! Stop by https://twogalsandabook.com/ and read interview with acclaimed best selling author C. W. Gortner and enter to win! One winner will receive a physical copy of any one of C. W. Gortner's books-- winner's choice! Giveaway starts midnight (tonight) 1/6/2019! Open to US residents only (sorry international readers!) Good luck! Interview with C. W. Gortner & Giveaway! Stop by https://twogalsandabook.com/ and read interview with acclaimed best selling author C. W. Gortner and enter to win! One winner will receive a physical copy of any one of C. W. Gortner's books-- winner's choice! Giveaway starts midnight (tonight) 1/6/2019! Open to US residents only (sorry international readers!) Good luck!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Susan Johnson

    I will admit right up front that I am not a Russian history expert, in fact far from it. I have always shied away from it maybe because of the names, maybe because I am lazy. This is the most readable book about Russia I have ever read and I loved it. I had no idea of the main character, Tsarina Maria Feodorovna formerly known as Dagmar of Denmark, and the mother of the last Tsar, Nicholas, even existed. Sure I knew Nicholas had a mother but that's how far my knowledge went. Maria was the daught I will admit right up front that I am not a Russian history expert, in fact far from it. I have always shied away from it maybe because of the names, maybe because I am lazy. This is the most readable book about Russia I have ever read and I loved it. I had no idea of the main character, Tsarina Maria Feodorovna formerly known as Dagmar of Denmark, and the mother of the last Tsar, Nicholas, even existed. Sure I knew Nicholas had a mother but that's how far my knowledge went. Maria was the daughter of a very poor Danish royal family. They sewed their own clothes and did their own housework. Yet her sister went on to marry Queen Victoria's oldest son and thus became the Queen of England. Maria went on to become the Tsarina of Russia. Not bad for two poor children. The royalty pool of eligible spouses is very small and everyone seems to be related somehow to Victoria of the fertile loins. She becomes accustomed to the life of luxury easily. Fabulous furs, fantastic jewels, Faberge eggs, lavish parties, breath taking dresses and lots of household help dominate the royal lives. The serfs have recently been released from slavery with no planning for their futures. With no jobs or education, they are starving and are less impressed with the signs of riches. There is a lot of rioting, assassination attempts and murders. The Royal Family seems mystified at the serf's unhappiness. Isn't it OK to be hungry as long as your rulers are covered in jewels? Maria is a nuanced character though. She heads and actually works for the Russian Red Cross. She founds the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. She takes nursing classes and turns her palaces at various times into hospitals. She also dances until 4 am many nights. She is also a domineering mother who really doesn't allow her children to make their own choices or have their own opinions. Her daughters manage to stand up to her but not her sons. So it is a surprise to her but nobody else when her oldest son, Nicholas, marries a domineering woman. She is a different kind of domineering but domineering all the same. The wheels of the Revolution are set in motion with that marriage. It was interesting to read about how the Revolution started years and years before it actually took place. It is fascinating to read about all the relationships including the ones to all the Royal Houses in Europe. In fact it made Russian history interesting to me for the first time in my life. If you like really good historical fiction, you will like this. It's so well written and accessible that it's a joy. I recommend it highly. Thanks to Net Galley for a copy of this book.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Frank Phillips

    Fantastic. Once again, Gortner proves he is a force to be reckoned with in this genre with this impeccably researched and detailed novel! This story gave me a perspective into the Romanov dynasty I'd never even considered as I am a bit embarrassed to admit, I knew little to nothing about Minnie, or Maria Feodorovna, prior to reading this book. What a treat it was to read Minnie's story, as she takes us back to when the Romanov imperial family were regaled and respected, leading us through three Fantastic. Once again, Gortner proves he is a force to be reckoned with in this genre with this impeccably researched and detailed novel! This story gave me a perspective into the Romanov dynasty I'd never even considered as I am a bit embarrassed to admit, I knew little to nothing about Minnie, or Maria Feodorovna, prior to reading this book. What a treat it was to read Minnie's story, as she takes us back to when the Romanov imperial family were regaled and respected, leading us through three generations of Romanov rulers, up until the inevitable revolution and fall of the Romanov dynasty and end to imperial Russia. It was incredibly heartbreaking to read as the events unfolded from a mother's perspective. I can't imagine the gut-wrenching turmoil this woman went through as she fled to safety, not knowing where,let alone how her family was. It may have been hard to read at times, but i'm incredibly grateful for reading this novel and believe it will appeal to fans of many genres, not just historical fiction. This will definitely rank up at the top of my 2019 reads and will remain so undoubtedly through the end of the year. I recommend everyone giving this one a shot, even if it's the audio book format as I did every other chapter, you will be grateful that you did!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie Anze

    "It was inexplicable, unexpected but I truly realized then that in marrying the heir to Russia, I'd done more than bind myself to a stranger. I had bound myself to a dynasty and an empire, to centuries of women before me who'd done their duty for their country. I was no longer the impoverished daughter of a once-negligible family, a princess of no power. I was indeed a Romanov now, with all the challenges, privileges and obligations my rank entitled." FIVE STARS FOR AN INMERSIVE NOVEL ABOUT A STR "It was inexplicable, unexpected but I truly realized then that in marrying the heir to Russia, I'd done more than bind myself to a stranger. I had bound myself to a dynasty and an empire, to centuries of women before me who'd done their duty for their country. I was no longer the impoverished daughter of a once-negligible family, a princess of no power. I was indeed a Romanov now, with all the challenges, privileges and obligations my rank entitled." FIVE STARS FOR AN INMERSIVE NOVEL ABOUT A STRONG WOMAN!!! Almost a quarter into January and I am just logging in my first book of the year. I had initially wanted to finish reading this book sooner buy when I started it, I realized quickly that this was one narrative I had to take my time with and savour the moment. I am glad I did because C.W. Gortner has delivered a magnificent and rich narrative about the last Dowager Empress of Russia. I have to admit that prior to reading this book, my knowledge of Russia and the Romanov family was quite limited so reading this book was a treat. Princess Dagmar of Denmark becomes engaged and marries the heir to the throne in Russia, Alexander III. Being a foreign bride, Grand Duchess Maria Feodorovna (having had her name changed after converting to the Orthodox faith) begins to learn about her new family and home. In time, she wins over the people of Russia, earning ther respect and trust. When her father-in-law is murdered, her husband becomes the Tsar and she, the Tsarina. Having to assume the role in a haste, the new Tsarina first braces for the role to eventually fully embrace it. As her family grows, tensions in Russia do as well threatening revolution. When it comes the time for her first-born son, Nicholas II, to assume the role of Tsar, she remains by his side, giving advice and support all while Russia continues to be in turmoil.Things go further awry when she clashes with the new Tsarina, her daudgter-in-law Alexandra. Through it all, Maria remains a staunch supporter of her family and Russia. WOW! This is a most excellent book. Completely entralling, well reasearched and with a gorgeous prose, this is the narrative of the last lines of the Romanov family. The narrative is told from Maria's POV as she journeys from Danish princess to Tsarevna to Tsarina to Dowager Empress. Charcaterization was top notch. Gortner showed each chareacter with their virtues & vices but still showig their vulnerabilities. I especially liked how he depicted the relationship between Maria and her daughter-in-law Alexandra, the tension palpable between them. Maria Feodorovna is a srong and imposing woman that made her fair share of mistakes. Gortner depicts her in a light that is flattering withour denying her shortcomings. This is one of the best rendered historical fiction books I have ever read. Informative as well as a great story, Gortner seeamlessly mixes fact and fiction. What a fabulous way to kick-off my reading challenge. "Even from behind the throne a woman can rule. It is what royal wives must do. Do you think your father (Maria's father) would be the King he is without me? I am the whip that prods him. I am his ears and eyes, his conscience and council. Without us, most men would stay little boys." Princess of Denmark turned Tsarina and ultimately Dowager Empress, Maria Feodorovna is certainly a fascinating woman. Bethroned to the heir of Russia, Maria adapted to her new surroundings after marriage (on an interesting sidenote, most of her siblings married into a royal line and became royals themselves).She became quite successful in her role as Tsarina, hosting balls in high society and earning the trust of the Russian people. She had tact and great diplomatic skill. Her daughter-in-law was the complete opposite: she kept herself shut away from the imperial court and the people. When Nicholas II, her son, assumed the role of Tsar she became a trusted political advisor. Maria held great influence over her son in the first years of his reign but that ended as the tensions between her and Alexandra increased. During Nicholas' troubled reign, most in Russia disliked the influence that the current Tsarina had through him in state affairs. As for Maria, she remained respected. By the time she died, she still believed that her family had not perished during the revolution (she lived ten years longer than the last Tsar of Russia).

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kristy K

    I love learning about history. Especially that of times and people that aren’t as well known as say, WWII or King Henry VIII. Yet as much as I love learning about it, reading about it can at times be a bore. Enter historical fiction. While, obviously, fictionalized these accounts are brought to life and give us a glimpse into what events may have been like (and hopefully educate us a little along the way). Most of us know about the Romanov dynasty because of Catherine the Great, Peter the Great, I love learning about history. Especially that of times and people that aren’t as well known as say, WWII or King Henry VIII. Yet as much as I love learning about it, reading about it can at times be a bore. Enter historical fiction. While, obviously, fictionalized these accounts are brought to life and give us a glimpse into what events may have been like (and hopefully educate us a little along the way). Most of us know about the Romanov dynasty because of Catherine the Great, Peter the Great, and most likely, Rasputin and the fall of the Tsars. So it was refreshing to read a historical fiction novel about the Romanov’s that centered not around Anastasia or Tsar Nicholas, but about Tsarina Maria, Nicholas’ mother. The Romanov Empress blends politics, love, and family together to create a spellbinding tale of the Tsarina’s life. Along the way I had a bit of a history refresher, learning the familial links between herself and the many other rulers in Europe. Gortner does a great job bringing these historic characters to life and many times I felt I was right there in the middle of a ball or trekking along Russia’s cold streets. If you are a fan of historical fiction or Russian history, I highly recommend. And if you’ve read any of Gortner’s previous works, which do you recommend next?

  18. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Aranda

    I loved that this book took me on a journey through most of Empress Maria Romanov’s life. It truly felt like I was there with her through all the joys and trials she and her family had to face. Boy we’re there a lot too... I laughed, cried, laughed out loud, and everything else in between with everything the Romanovs went through as heads of Russia. Regardless of how people feel about them, living in fear for your and your family’s lives is tough to go through. The social and political unrest ri I loved that this book took me on a journey through most of Empress Maria Romanov’s life. It truly felt like I was there with her through all the joys and trials she and her family had to face. Boy we’re there a lot too... I laughed, cried, laughed out loud, and everything else in between with everything the Romanovs went through as heads of Russia. Regardless of how people feel about them, living in fear for your and your family’s lives is tough to go through. The social and political unrest rings similar to what’s going on in the USA right now. This was an incredible reading experience that any historical fiction lover should give a try. #6 Read for Medievalathon: Earned the title of Queen and have a horse companion as I have read a tall book. Feels like I have a good trio of animals.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Krista

    Rating: 4.5 stars rounded down to 4 stars This book was riveting! I knew a proverbial car crash was eminent, but I couldn’t look away. Much has been written about the ill-fated Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Tsarina Alexandra; and the mystery surrounding their deaths and the deaths of their five children in 1918 during the Bolshevik years in Russia. I suspect that many readers are probably at least slightly familiar with this generation of the Imperial Russian Romanov dynasty. In The Romanov Empress, Rating: 4.5 stars rounded down to 4 stars This book was riveting! I knew a proverbial car crash was eminent, but I couldn’t look away. Much has been written about the ill-fated Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Tsarina Alexandra; and the mystery surrounding their deaths and the deaths of their five children in 1918 during the Bolshevik years in Russia. I suspect that many readers are probably at least slightly familiar with this generation of the Imperial Russian Romanov dynasty. In The Romanov Empress, C.W. Gortner has taken us back two generations from their deaths, and explained how they ended up where they did. He has told us the story of how the last couple of pre-revolutionary (pre 1917) generations of Romanov’s lived and ruled and how things might have turned out differently if different choices had been made at any one of multiple places along the way. The book’s primary character is Maria Feodorovna, who is Nicholas II’s mother. She was named Dagmar and was born into a penniless European duchy in 1847. Her father unexpectedly inherited the role of King of Denmark, at which point she became known as Princess Dagmar of Denmark. Her older sister Alexandra (Alix), married the British Prince Edward. She went on to become the Queen Consort of England after Victoria died, and Edward was crowned King Edward VII. At age nineteen, Dagmar changed her name to Maria Feodorovna when she converted from Lutheranism to the Russian Orthodox Church before marrying Alexander Romanov who would go on to become Alexander III upon his coronation. They married in 1866 at which point her title became, Grand Duchess Maria Feodorovna of Russia. Sasha and Minnie, as they were known within their family, eventually had six children. Five of whom survived to adulthood, and whom they raised during a very tumultuous time in Russian history. Sasha’s father was ultimately killed by a bomb after having survived several previous assassination attempts. Sasha and Minnie were crowned Tsar and Tsarina in 1883. Sasha’s father, Alexander II was on the verge of agreeing to allow a parliamentary system to be adopted in Russia. After Alexander II’s assassination, Sasha clamped down harshly on the factions that were pushing for reform, and refused to allow any sort of parliamentary system to be created in Russia. One wonders how the fate of Russia and the Romanovs might have changed if Alexander II had survived to implement his political plan. The ensuing years in the story take Minnie from a young bride, to a widow in 1894. After 1894 she influenced her children as Dowager Empress. She tried to have her son, Tsar Nicholas II, implement some of his grandfather’s plans. Instead he was heavily influenced by his wife Alexandra (Alicky) and in turn she was heavily influenced by the prophet-like figure of Rasputin. He would not relinquish any control to a representative form of government. That decision coupled with the weakening of the Russian empire during WWI, and the resulting inability to clamp down on dissident factions ultimately lead to the 1918 massacre. This work of historical fiction was riveting, if a tad bit long. While the book kept building towards the denouement of the last days of the Romanov’s in Russia, Gortner kept my attention by describing the history preceding the collapse of the Romanov’s in an approachable way. Minnie lived to be 80 years-old, and she lived through such a tumultuous time in world events. I knew enough of Russian history before starting this book to know that the Romanov story wasn’t going to end well, but the book explained how they ended up as they did. It also explained so much more about the interconnectedness of European royalty at the time. I found it fascinating and really well-written Thank-you to NetGalley; Ballantine Books; and the author, C.W. Gortner; for providing a free ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Expected Publication Date: July 10, 2018

  20. 4 out of 5

    James Martin

    I just finished “The Romanov Empress” by C.W. Gortner. Having read most of his books, I have to say that this is his best. A writer of this kind of subject faces several hurdles. One is world building. The historical setting involving all of Europe and its royalty is daunting, but it was created so effectively as to draw in the reader to time and place. A second challenge is to render the main character in all her strengths and weaknesses in a way that is fair to her and to history. The main cha I just finished “The Romanov Empress” by C.W. Gortner. Having read most of his books, I have to say that this is his best. A writer of this kind of subject faces several hurdles. One is world building. The historical setting involving all of Europe and its royalty is daunting, but it was created so effectively as to draw in the reader to time and place. A second challenge is to render the main character in all her strengths and weaknesses in a way that is fair to her and to history. The main character and the closest satellite persons around her all shine with their own personalities and quirks. Last, the biggest hurdle is creating a story in which you, the reader, know the end because it is historical, and yet, the story grips you in human aspects so that, chapter by chapter, you are propelled to the end. And~after reading, you might~with a sense of irony or pangs of regret~ask yourself: But for a decision made, bad timing, or a character flaw, how history might have played out so much differently. “The Romanov Empress” comes highly recommended.

  21. 4 out of 5

    BAM The Bibliomaniac

    Netgalley # 13 3.5 stars not quite a 4 for me Many thanks go to C W Gortner, Ballantine Books, and Netgalley for the free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. This is the fictional retelling of Princess Dagmar of Denmark, Her Majesty Alix's older sister, who is affianced to Tsarevich Nixa but married his brother, Sasha. They became the parents of Tsar Nicolas of the Russian Revolution, which does take up the end of the book, but it is not the sole topic-not nearly. Most of it deals Netgalley # 13 3.5 stars not quite a 4 for me Many thanks go to C W Gortner, Ballantine Books, and Netgalley for the free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. This is the fictional retelling of Princess Dagmar of Denmark, Her Majesty Alix's older sister, who is affianced to Tsarevich Nixa but married his brother, Sasha. They became the parents of Tsar Nicolas of the Russian Revolution, which does take up the end of the book, but it is not the sole topic-not nearly. Most of it deals with her relationships with her parents and her husband. This book reminds me of Daisy Goodwin's historical fiction. Very feminine narrative. Tries to pull at the reader's heartstrings . She does a good job. I enjoyed the book.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Tammy

    I was mesmerized by Empress Maria, a Danish girl from Denmark who was the mother of Russia’s last tsar, Nicholas. Beautifully written this novel transports you back in time with her marriage to Russia’s tsar through the extermination of her son and his family, along with another son marking the end of the Romanov Family Dynasty in power for 300 years. Eloquently spoken by the woman who fought to save it, her story was amazing to read. A dramatic page turner for me. I absolutely loved it! A must I was mesmerized by Empress Maria, a Danish girl from Denmark who was the mother of Russia’s last tsar, Nicholas. Beautifully written this novel transports you back in time with her marriage to Russia’s tsar through the extermination of her son and his family, along with another son marking the end of the Romanov Family Dynasty in power for 300 years. Eloquently spoken by the woman who fought to save it, her story was amazing to read. A dramatic page turner for me. I absolutely loved it! A must read for Historical fans! 5 ☆

  23. 4 out of 5

    Joanna Smith

    Wow, I loved this book so much! The characters were so engaging and the history jumped vividly off the pages. The passion, love and disputes between family and extended family members was so well written that it would relate to anyone in this century. I certainly could understand the complexities of the family dynamics the Romanovs went through. ‘The Romanov Empress’ explores family bonds, love, and loyalties and has a sad ending but is a wonderful retelling of Russian history and politics.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Simon

    I hate to whine (which will be news to my wife and several of my closest friends), but I read this book because my friend Maggie guilted me into it. Although to be fair, it didn't take much. I am a sucker for novels about my historical obsessions --- my dream novel would probably have Wallis Simpson, Richard III and Marie Antoinette all traveling together on the Titanic, only to wind up adrift in a lifeboat with Grand Duchess Anastasia and the Kaiser. Some enterprising fanfic writer should get o I hate to whine (which will be news to my wife and several of my closest friends), but I read this book because my friend Maggie guilted me into it. Although to be fair, it didn't take much. I am a sucker for novels about my historical obsessions --- my dream novel would probably have Wallis Simpson, Richard III and Marie Antoinette all traveling together on the Titanic, only to wind up adrift in a lifeboat with Grand Duchess Anastasia and the Kaiser. Some enterprising fanfic writer should get on it. Where was I? Oh, yeah. It didn't take all that much arm-twisting because, hello, Romanovs. I write this review after 1) purchasing the book, because I support authors 2) actually reading the book, because I am constitutionally incapable of not finishing a book I start --- honest to God, I have even read Mike Huckabee's memoirs, people! --- and 3) experiencing the dread of writing a review about a Subject Close to People's Hearts (Romanovs, royalty, Nicholas, Alexandra). This can be dangerous territory, because people who develop inappropriate crushes on dead people can get judgy about these kinds of things. What kinds of things, you ask? Oh, Kevin. I could unfold a tale that would freeze thy young blood. Ahem. Anyway . . . ever since Shakespeare decided to write Richard III, we have been dealing with authors' efforts to rewrite history so as to conform to their peculiar literary needs. Which I get. We know literally nothing about Richard's interior life, so why not make it up if you wind up with a villain that Laurence Olivier made into a romp for his audience? Marie Antoinette and Anastasia, alas, come through loud and clear in the historical evidence. Both were dull and immature until the time came for a display of courage. But we do know what they were actually like because of surviving letters and journals, so if you are going to reinvent them, that may crop up. I once read a YA novel (still sitting on my shelf) in which the Tsarevich was texting some 8th grade girl in 2007 with a burner phone she managed to get to him. There is another in which Grand Duchess Tatiana is turned into a vampire. SPOILER ALERT: She is not happy with that. One other masterpiece has Alexandra shooting death rays from her eyes! Romanovs in particular suffer from reinvention. Gortner isn't that nuts, yet there is not one single character in his novel about the life of Maria Feodorovna, Nicholas II's mother, who is true to his/her actual historical avatar. This despite a blurb touting The Romanov Empress' "authenticity." Assuming that the reader knows anything at all about the last Imperial Family, this book will disappoint. Assuming that the reader has any interest in literature, this book will do worse than that. Gone With the Wind works because Mitchell creates a "real" world despite the fact that it bears no actual relationship to the Confederacy. But we get invested in Scarlett, Rhett, Melanie, Ashley (not really, no one cares about Ashley) and Mammy. We want to see what happens to them. Again, not Ashley. It's kind of the pleasure that Harry Potter gives me, because Tara is as realistic as Hogwarts, but I do want to know what happens to all of them. If Gortner had replaced the actual personalities of the Romanovs with new and improved models, he might have had a chance, although a quick look at his thud-thud-thud style probably means he still would have been in trouble. The dialogue ranges from incredible to --- well, boring. When Maria talks to Nicholas about the Duma and takes the time to carefully explain to both her son and the reader what a Duma is, things get a bit slow. And while I do get the temptation to shove Alexandra under the bus, Gortner never offers an opinion as to what made the marriage work. The net result is that she rolls through the book as a sort of Frau Blucher from Young Frankenstein. Other characters are picked up and dropped like Polish last names at Ellis Island. Sometimes Gortner is just historically wrong, and I am curious as to why he deviated. Rasputin puts the mystic moves on the Dowager Empress. Maria and her daughter Olga show up at Spala during Alexei's medical crisis, where they meet Anna Demidova. Natalie Wulfert is described by MF as unattractive in The Romanov Empress, when in real life she was considered a great beauty. Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna is pictured as a general blue meanie to her mother when in fact she was so devoted that she stayed with Matushka Dearest long after older sister Xenia lit out for the territory. It was the Queen Alexandra "limp" that society women copied, not the use of a cane. Alix giving Minnie advice on how to let your children have independent lives is hilarious given the way the real Queen Alexandra treated her sons and daughters. I could go on, but suffice it to say that you will know less about Maria Feodorovna when you finish the novel than when you started. One last thing. What on earth is up with all the smoking? It's too bad Bette Davis is dead, because she would be dream casting as Maria, with maybe Miriam Hopkins as Miechen. The two of them smoke their way through The Romanov Empress, constantly lighting up and stubbing the ashes out in cut-glass bowls and such. They carry their cigarettes in Cartier cases. Because . . . luxury. Honestly, their scenes together (as well as with Felix Yusupov's mom) reminded me of nothing so much as Dynasty, with Joan Collins swanking around popping grapes into her mouth and smoking those cool-looking Silva Thins from the 80s. But only Davis would probably have been right for the Great Scenes in The Romanov Empress. "Alexis has hemophilia?!!! Nicky, light me up!" They had real tobacco stamina back in the day.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Tracy

    I knew very little about the Romanov Family when I started this book. Literally, I knew the name, where they came from and not much more. It took me a little bit to get into it but the last half of the book I was enthralled and didn't want to stop reading. The story of Tsarina Maria Feodorovna, I have to say, was an amazing one! I had no idea her sister was Queen of England and that she had quite the network of family not only in Russia but in other countries too. I was constantly googling for pi I knew very little about the Romanov Family when I started this book. Literally, I knew the name, where they came from and not much more. It took me a little bit to get into it but the last half of the book I was enthralled and didn't want to stop reading. The story of Tsarina Maria Feodorovna, I have to say, was an amazing one! I had no idea her sister was Queen of England and that she had quite the network of family not only in Russia but in other countries too. I was constantly googling for pictures while reading! I had heard of Rasputin, but really knew nothing of who or what he was. I can only say I found his rise to power to be unbelievable and his character was certainly creepy! I admire the Empress' attitude and strength, even if I didn't always agree with her decisions. Sometimes I very much agreed with her decisions and wanted to kick people for not doing what she said! All in all this was a great read! I learned a lot about Russia, the people and what they were dealing with. The author did a great job with this story!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Tammy(PeaceLoveBooks)

    If you love historical fiction and royalty, this is a MUST read!! I have always been fascinated my the Romanovs and the mystery surrounding their deaths. The Romanov Empress tells the story of the mother of Russia's last tsar, Maria Feodorovna. I was instantly transported to the past by C.W. Gortner's amazingly descriptive writing of breathtaking palaces, royal intrigue and glamour along with some very sad and heartbreaking times. The amount of research he must have done for this book is stagger If you love historical fiction and royalty, this is a MUST read!! I have always been fascinated my the Romanovs and the mystery surrounding their deaths. The Romanov Empress tells the story of the mother of Russia's last tsar, Maria Feodorovna. I was instantly transported to the past by C.W. Gortner's amazingly descriptive writing of breathtaking palaces, royal intrigue and glamour along with some very sad and heartbreaking times. The amount of research he must have done for this book is staggering! Well done!! This is the first book I have read of C.W. Gortner and I will be looking at his other works.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Gill Paul

    Some books I race through, eager to find out what happened next, but with The Romanov Empress, I knew what was going to happen and I read slowly, savouring every nuance. The Romanovs are one of my specialist subjects yet I learned a lot from this masterful fictional biography of Maria Feodorovna, known as Minnie, who goes from being a Danish princess to Tsaritsa of Russia and then to dowager empress after her husband’s death. She is the mother of the hapless last tsar Nicholas II, and watches wi Some books I race through, eager to find out what happened next, but with The Romanov Empress, I knew what was going to happen and I read slowly, savouring every nuance. The Romanovs are one of my specialist subjects yet I learned a lot from this masterful fictional biography of Maria Feodorovna, known as Minnie, who goes from being a Danish princess to Tsaritsa of Russia and then to dowager empress after her husband’s death. She is the mother of the hapless last tsar Nicholas II, and watches with horror as his wife Alexandra leads him to jeopardise his throne. As a character, Minnie is so beautifully drawn that she steps from the pages fully formed. She has political wisdom beyond her years, yet she also loves fashion and parties and beautiful interiors, such as she creates at her Anichkov Palace. She is Danish but develops a deep understanding of the Russian people. She is a shrewd judge of character and I enjoyed reading about her relationship with her sister-in-law Miechen, based on a large dose of rivalry but with a certain fondness too. The atmosphere of St Petersburg society is superbly captured but the core of the book concerns Minnie’s difficult relationship with Alexandra, mother of her five grandchildren. Every mother-in-law will recognise the struggle to deal with a woman who has bewitched your son – it’s a timeless story – but most do not have so much to lose. Alexandra’s reclusiveness alienates the Russian aristocracy, and her reliance on mystics, most famously the promiscuous Rasputin, tarnishes her name indelibly. She and Nicholas were naïve and completely out of touch with the times, but they were not evil. Minnie does her best to counsel Nicholas but she has lost her influence and soon it is too late to turn back. It’s an extraordinary achievement to explain the entire background to the Russian Revolution through the eyes of one character, but C.W. Gortner manages to make it compulsive reading. Anyone interested in the tragedy of the Romanov dynasty will lap it up, but I also recommend it to all fans of historical fiction as a portrait of an indomitable character, a survivor with great charisma, who did her utmost to save her family.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Annette

    This is a story of a young woman who came from impoverished royal family, became Russian tsarina and one of the wealthiest women in the world. In the end, she was forced to flee the country during the Russian Revolution, leaving her penniless and dependent on the charity of the British royal family. This is a story of Princess Dagmar of Denmark, whose eldest son was the last Russian monarch. She marked the history as a resilient woman, who early on learned the Russian language, embraced its peopl This is a story of a young woman who came from impoverished royal family, became Russian tsarina and one of the wealthiest women in the world. In the end, she was forced to flee the country during the Russian Revolution, leaving her penniless and dependent on the charity of the British royal family. This is a story of Princess Dagmar of Denmark, whose eldest son was the last Russian monarch. She marked the history as a resilient woman, who early on learned the Russian language, embraced its people and customs, and devoted her time to charities rather than politics. But when needed she knew how to rule. “Being a member of the imperial family came with obligation. I had discovered mine.” It was administration of the Red Cross. In 1866 Princess Dagmar of Denmark, known as Minnie, agrees to marry Alexander III of Russia. Once in Russia, she converts to Orthodoxy and adopts her new name Maria Feodorovna. “I was no longer the impoverished daughter of a once-negligible family, a princess of no power. I was indeed a Romanov now…” Her time in Russia, from early on, is marked by revolutions. The Nihilists are against anything established in social order including monarchy and religion. Minnie’s husband’s father, the ruling tsar Alexander II frees the serfs. He recognizes that change is inevitable. She understands her father-in-law as well as she recognizes that her husband stands for something else, and she needs “to pry open his constrained view.” As he stands by, “Autocracy, orthodoxy, and nationality are the three pillars of Russia, where the tsar is ordained by God to rule, not to tear down God’s rule.” The freed serfs move to the cities in search of jobs, but this creates another exploitation of cheap labor at factories. This gives Nihilists fuel to urge serfs to rise up against monarchy. She offers her help in managing Red Cross as their help might be very much in need in case of brewing revolutionary war. The experience makes her eyes wide open, “While we dwelled in splendor, Russia suffered right under our unseeing eyes. (…) Not only was the need overwhelming, there seemed to be no way to relieve it.” Now, she understood the hatred of Nihilists. “It took months of disentangling the bureaucratic knots that had resulted in more than half of the Red Cross funds being redirected into unscrupulous pockets…” After the death of her husband, her oldest son Nicholas becomes the Emperor, and his wife tsarina, who takes the title from Minnie. This and other issues put restrains between two women. With poor economy and rising riots and violent demonstrations, the tsar declares Russia under a semi-constitutional monarchy. What his father had planned years ago and he was opposed to, now was a reality. In 1917, the provisional Duma and Soviet government assume charge of the state. The story starts very strong, with moving prose intertwined with rich historical details, it moves from the palaces of Copenhagen to the palaces of Saint Petersburg and outside the city. White nights and cold winters are infused with rich traditions and trials of life. Human emotions are beautifully expressed through the lives of imperial family, who were privileged, but humans as the rest of us. However, the last 30% of the book is a bit drawn-out, slowing the pace. It is enlightening to have an overview of the events, and to be acquainted with the influence of Grigori Rasputin over the royal family. But to keep the pace steady, the end of the book could have been a bit more condensed. Overall, it is a very interesting read and highly recommend it. Also, highly recommend The Confessions of Catherine de Medici by C.W. Gortner. About one of the most powerful women of her time. @FB/BestHistoricalFiction

  29. 5 out of 5

    Pam Jenoff

    I highly recommend this story of the Danish princess who marries the Romanov heir and becomes the mother of the last Russian tsar. Gortner is a master of historical detail and arresting plot, and the birds-eye perspective of Maria Feodorovna as one of the greatest dynasties in history falls in truly gripping.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    Fascinating fictional biography of Maria Feodorovna, tsarina of Russia. We see her grow from an awkward teenager, born Princess Dagmar of Denmark, to Dowager Empress of Russia, during the reign of her son, Nicholas II. We follow her story through the reigns of three emperors: her father-in-law, Alexander II, her husband, Alexander III, then her son, Nicholas, whose reign and subsequent abdication mark the end of the Romanov dynasty. Strangely enough, the fall of the Romanovs was prophesied by Ra Fascinating fictional biography of Maria Feodorovna, tsarina of Russia. We see her grow from an awkward teenager, born Princess Dagmar of Denmark, to Dowager Empress of Russia, during the reign of her son, Nicholas II. We follow her story through the reigns of three emperors: her father-in-law, Alexander II, her husband, Alexander III, then her son, Nicholas, whose reign and subsequent abdication mark the end of the Romanov dynasty. Strangely enough, the fall of the Romanovs was prophesied by Rasputin, should this strange man be killed. This was interesting to read of this period of Russian history from this matriarch's viewpoint. I was stunned by the author's treatment of Nicholas's meddlesome wife, Alexandra. Usually she is treated very sympathetically in everything I've read so far but here perhaps the author gave us a completely different point of view, which maybe reflected more honestly peoples' real feelings. I appreciated the family trees of the Danish and Russian dynasties; they brought clarity to so many characters with such similar names and who was related to whom. I also liked the Afterword where the fates of the various Romanovs were laid out. According to the author, there are maybe 100 Romanov descendants alive today. I thank LibraryThing for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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