THE ROMANOV EMPRESS
BY C.W. GORTNER
Publication Date: July 10, 2018
Hardcover; 448 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
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 her husband’s 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 II 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.
Princess Dagmar of Denmark or Minnie is a daughter to Denmark's King Christian IX and sister to Alexandra, who would marry Edward VII and become Queen of the United Kingdom. Minnie knows she too must marry and would rather marry for love. When she meets Nicholas Alexandrovich, or Nixa, the Tsarevich of Russia, Minnie is taken. However, as fate would have it, Minnie marries Nixa's brother, Sasha, Tsesarevich Alexander of Russia, and eventually becomes Grand Duchess Maria Feodorovna of Russia. Minnie must adjust to Russia, a new religion and rules of royalty. Minnie exceeds in her role and is a driving force within the Russian government. Although, times are changing in Russia and things become dangerous for Minnie and her family. Minnie sees that the government also needs to change. When her beloved Sasha passes, Minnie's son, Nicholas becomes Tsar. Nicholas' wife, Alexandra is not as diplomatic as Minnie and finds herself in a war of wills with Minnie. As actual war finds its way to Russia's door, Nicholas heeds his wife's opinion and that of her mystic Rasputin over Minnie's and brings the downfall of the Russian empire with him.
With historically accurate detail, The Romanov Empress gives an in-depth and entertaining look at the amazing woman behind the storied last Tsar of Russia. Told from Minnie's point of view from the time she was a teenager through her son's death, we get a full view of her life. I went into this book not knowing much at all about this time in Russia's history and I was very pleased that I was able to learn about Russia through her eyes. As Minnie came to love Russia, she saw the faults as well as its amazing features. Minnie wanted Russia to grow, change and survive, but as a woman she could only offer so much guidance to the men in her life. I enjoyed seeing how Minnie was able to affect change in the government, even if the men did not always listen. I also took to heart her and her sister, Alix's motto of living to the next day: "You will live,...You can do nothing else." It was very insightful to see Minnie's relationship with her son Nicholas and his wife Alexandra especially when Rasputin came into the picture. I did not know the breadth of Rasputin's influence on Russia at the time and his relationship with Alexandra and her children. Maria's story brings us through the fabled deaths of her son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren. While I knew of this story, I was unaware of the reasons behind it and the political climate of Russia at the time. Overall, an astounding and epic tale of Tsarina Maria Feodorovna.
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.
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Praise for The Romanov Empress
“Gortner’s mesmerizing historical novel (following The Vatican Princess) depicts the remarkable life of the mother of the last Russian tsar. This insightful first-person account of the downfall of the Romanov rule will appeal to history buffs; at its core, it’s the powerful story of a mother trying to save her family and an aristocrat fighting to maintain rule in a country of rebellion, giving it an even broader appeal.” —Publishers Weekly
“A sweeping saga that takes us from the opulence and glamor of Tsarist Russia to the violent, tragic last days of the Romanovs. C. W. Gortner breaks new ground here, skillfully painting an intimate, compelling portrait of this fascinating empress and her family.” —Stephanie Dray, New York Times bestselling author of America’s First Daughter
“The Romanov Empress has all the glitter and mystery of a Faberge egg, the outer decadence and beauty of Imperial Russia unfolding to reveal the mysteries and horrors within. The waning days of a doomed dynasty are recounted by the vivacious but tough Danish princess who would become one of Russia’s most revered tsarinas, only to see her line end in war and revolution. Gortner pens a beautiful tribute to a lost world, weaving a tale sumptuous as a Russian sable.” —Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Alice Network
“A vivid, engaging tale of Tsarina Maria Feodorovna, the mother of Russia’s last Tsar, her loves and her heartbreaks, bringing the troubled final decades of the Russian Empire to life.” —Eva Stachniak, author of The Winter Palace
C. W. Gortner holds an MFA in writing, with an emphasis on historical studies, from the New College of California. He is the internationally acclaimed and bestselling author of Mademoiselle Chanel, The Queen’s Vow, The Confessions of Catherine de Medici, The Last Queen, The Vatican Princess, and Marlene, among other books. He divides his time between Northern California and Antigua, Guatemala.
To learn more about his work and to schedule a book group chat with him, please visit his website. You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.