The Romanov Empress: A Novel of Tsarina Maria Feodorovna

The Romanov Empress: A Novel of Tsarina Maria Feodorovna

by C. W. Gortner


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780425286166
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/10/2018
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 35,367
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.60(d)

About the Author

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.

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The Romanov Empress: A Novel of Tsarina Maria Feodorovna 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
wordsandpeace 4 months ago
VERDICT: Powerful historical fiction presentation of Maria Feodorovna, her family, and all of Russia’s and Europe’s history during her long life. The book offers a huge historical fresco, starting in the Yellow Palace Copenhagen, before Marie Sophie’s (Princess Dagmar) engagement to Nixa in 1864, so when the tsar was Alexander II. And her sister Alix is promised to Queen Victoria’s son. The story of Maria’s marriage is like fiction. Sometimes, reality can be as nightmarish as fiction… I enjoyed all the details about the cultural differences between Denmark and Russia, seen through the eyes of the young heroine. The network of connections between all the European families is well explained, showing that marriage was most of the time not a question of love between two persons, but for political and strategic alliances between countries. Though it could eventually grow into love. Maria Feodorovna managed to escape when the tsar’s family was butchered, and she lived old, so the book was a good overview of Russia’s history during its last 3 tsars and of the European political scene during all that period. Therefore, we see the Nihilists, the Bolsheviks, the beginning of Lenin. At times, I actually found it a bit too long, but I guess it had to be this way, seeing Maria’s long life (1847-1928). As usual, Gortner excels at telling history through the eyes and experience of women.
SherreyM 5 months ago
As a long-time fan of historical fiction, I am always on the lookout for some period or place in history about which I know very little. Such is the case with the Romanov family and Russia. When NetGalley offered The Romanov Empress by C.W. Gortner, another favorite of mine, I immediately requested a copy. One of the unique features of Gortner’s story of the Romanov lineage is his choice to tell the story through the eyes and experience of Maria Feodorovna, a strong and bold woman, even at age 19 who marries the Romanov heir and herself becomes Tsarina of Russia as well as mother of the last tsar, Nicholas. Gortner creates a realistic character in Maria, also called Minnie, by sharing her life growing up as a princess in Denmark and known as Dagmar. The story is told through Maria’s voice. Her family was poor to the extent the women made their own clothes, did their own cleaning and laundry. Yet Maria’s sister married the eldest son of Queen Victoria, and Maria goes on to marry the heir to the Romanov throne. An obvious step up for not only these sisters but their entire family. A seamless blending of the familial, political and romantic areas of life brings The Romanov Empress to life. We, the readers, are able to relate on a personal level to the characters with this look at this overview of Russian life. Gortner also drew on the use of a character not often written about; most often we read historical novels set in Russia in this time period and focus on Anastasis and Tsar Nicholas. It was lovely and refreshing to read about someone lesser known in the Romanov family. Gortner also qualifies a remarkable teacher of history no matter the setting. I knew little of the Romanovs until reading The Romanov Empress. Thanks to Gortner’s research and factual presentation I feel a little more in touch with that part of history. My Recommendation: If you are a fan of historical fiction, especially that set in Russia during the time of the tsars and tsarinas, you will fall in love with The Romanov Empress. Settings are so full of glitter and light as to feel you are there among the ball gowns and the uniforms. The dialogue is easily captured and used to build the story from character to character. Not a moment when you will feel like sitting this book aside.
Kristy_K 6 months ago
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 the 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?
jmchshannon 10 months ago
The Romanov Empress is one of the best examples of historical fiction I have read in a long time. It has everything - exquisite details, a compelling time period, a charismatic historical figure, and extensive research seamlessly compiled into an amazing story of excess, privilege, and politics. Mr. Gortner works his magic once again to bring readers back to Imperial Russia and allows you to view its downfall from a different perspective, lamenting what was and what could have been. It is a fascinating story, one that captures your mind and your heart to the detriment of everything else while reading. Many an author has tackled the fall of the Romanov dynasty in some fashion, usually from the last tsar's and his family's perspective as they focus on the tragedy of their deaths. Mr. Gortner instead opts to focus on the final dynastical matriarch, Maria Feodorovna. In doing so, we get a better idea of life before, during, and after the Russian Revolution. Moreover, we get a different look at Nicholas II, his beloved wife, and their children, one that diminishes the myth surrounding this doomed family. It all makes for a wealth of information that helps explain the complicated history of the Russian peasant versus the Russian monarchy to show how many years in the making the Revolution was. Moreover, while the story revolves around Maria and her family, Mr. Gortner is even-handed in showing the mistakes both sides made along the path to revolution. He does not hide her husband's policies and use of brute force designed to root out opposition against the royal family. Nor does he hide just how ineffectual Nicholas II is. What is most surprising is how he holds nothing back in regards to Alexandra and how her domineering attitude and abject refusal to see reason about her husband, family, and Rasputin exacerbated a political situation that was already tenuous and had a direct connection to the fate her family suffered. The whole thing reads like a juicy soap opera, but it is a soap opera backed up by a plethora of research. In my mind, this only makes the story that much more compelling. The Romanov Empress is the type of novel that is virtually impossible to ignore. You have difficulties finding a good stopping place while reading, and you constantly think of it when you are not reading it. You lament the fact that you were either not alive or not aware of the remaining Romanovs while they were still alive. While you might not approve of any type of monarchical rule, you cannot help but feel that it would be awesome to be able to see the Romanov splendor in its heydey. Minnie's story haunts you as you constantly ponder all of the "what ifs" that make up her history and wonder how different the world would be had any part of her story been different. Tsars who have been dead for over a century seem more real to you than the current farcical U.S. leaders. Mr. Gortner has given new life to a long-dead female force of nature, and the world is a little better as a result.
10936617 11 months ago
This author is a master storyteller. She pulled me in to loving the main character, Minnie, formally Marie Feodorovna, Romanov Empress of Russia, right from the start. Minnie is so vibrant and alive, full of spunk and spirit. Before reading the book I knew the Romanov name and that they were the last ruling family before the Russian Revolution and not a whole lot more (other than that the Tsar and his family were executed). This book really made the events that led up to that revolution clear, both in Russia and abroad. At every turn I wanted her son, the Tsar, to heed her advice and somehow derail the events to come. But, of course, that could not happen. I love historical fiction because it takes those stories that seem dry and just events from the past and suffuses them with life. Although many of the characteristics of the Romanovs were attributed by the author, and we can only suppose what they might have said and done, enough of history remains to provide that skeleton that the author fleshes out for us. This is not a short, quick read. This is a substantial and weighty story of a family that could not accept the coming changes in their country and their rule, despite the obvious disquiet of their subjects and the fomenting revolutionaries. What might have been if Minnie's father-in-law had not been killed before he could install the Duma (the Russian version of a Parliment/ Congress)? Or if her husband, Sasha, had been willing to concede and form one during the early years of his rule after his father's death? By the time Minnie's son, Nicky, gave in it was really too late; too much blood had been shed, too many costly mistakes made. Occasionally, I had trouble keeping all of the family members straight as there was much repetition in naming, much for tradition's sake and also due to form when ascending to power (like in England, they took on a ruling name). It was lucky that the author, or the family in real life, bestowed nicknames on most of the main characters so I could keep all of the Alexanders, Alexandras, Maries and Vladimirs straight. I hope this author continues to write historical fiction. She made the intricate history of the Romanovs enjoyable and untangled the complicated threads of the historical events around the last ruling family of Russia.
rendezvous_with_reading More than 1 year ago
There is SO much history in this novel and the author handles it deftly. The story moves along at a good pace. There are a lot of Nicholas and Alexanders in the Russian family, but the author keeps them all sorted out for you, and the family tree at the beginning of the book is a big help. Maria Feodorovna was eyewitness to some amazing events and upheavel, not just in Russian history, but European history. The narrative really helps you understand just how interconnected and related the royal houses of Europe were at such a pivotal time in history as WWI.I loved that this novel inspired so much additional reading online. The author really researched his subject well and this makes me want to read more of his works. If you love European history, I highly recommend this one.
Fredreeca2001 More than 1 year ago
This is a tragic story narrated by Tsar Nicholas’ mother, Maria. She is a 19 year old Dutch princess when she marries Sasha, the Romanov Heir. When her husband dies and Nicholas becomes the Tsar, she desperately tries to guide him. Due to many various being Nicholas’ wife...the tragedy cannot be stopped Maria is a character lost in history. I do not think I have read very much about her. However, she should not be forgotten. She was smart and tough. Even though I knew how this story was going to end, I could not stop reading. The would’ve, could’ve, should’ves which follow this tsar, even before he was born, are astounding. From his grandfather, who released the serfs. He thought he was doing a good deed. He just did not understand the serfs had no education or skills. To his father, who refused to have a constitution or to even understand the rebels point of view. Nicholas inherited a mess of a country. He was just not strong enough or smart enough to make the right changes. I have always been a fan of books set in Russia and this one is amazing. I can’t say enough about this book! C. W. Gortner hit it out of the park with this one! This story is so vivid, so well researched and so well written! Don’t miss this one!
CRSK More than 1 year ago
“Don’t you know They’re talkin’ bout a revolution It sounds like a whisper” --“Talkin’ Bout a Revolution,” Tracy Chapman, Songwriters: Tracy Chapman 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.
Penmouse More than 1 year ago
The fictional story of Dagmar of Denmark tells about how she rose from A somewhat noble but in impoverished beginning and later became Empress of Russia.Well We often hear about the Romanov family And how they met their fate in the basement, We don't read much about what happened to Dagmar who married Sasha Romanov became Imperial Highness Maria Feodorovana. The Romanov Empress tells about the trials and travails of Maria known as Minnie and how she almost married one brother, later ended up marrying another brother, bore her children and the loss of her son Nicholas. While historical fiction, the book reads like history and the characters come to life making this book a good read. Recommend. Review written after downloading a galley from NetGalley.
Penmouse More than 1 year ago
The fictional story of Dagmar of Denmark tells about how she rose from A somewhat noble but in impoverished beginning and later became Empress of Russia.Well We often hear about the Romanov family And how they met their fate in the basement, We don't read much about what happened to Dagmar who married Sasha Romanov became Imperial Highness Maria Feodorovana. The Romanov Empress tells about the trials and travails of Maria known as Minnie and how she almost married one brother, later ended up marrying another brother, bore her children and the loss of her son Nicholas. While historical fiction, the book reads like history and the characters come to life making this book a good read. Recommend. Review written after downloading a galley from NetGalley.
Etain More than 1 year ago
An absolutely amazing book! Over the years the Romanovs have been written about extensively, if not obsessively. Mostly on the reign of Nicholas II and Alexandra-the opulent lifestyle, the scandals, and their horrific ending. However, Gortner has written in the voice of Minnie, Princess Dagmar of Denmark, and the mother of the last Russian tsar, Nicholas II. He begins her story in 1862, when Minnie is 15, and the family's fortune have dramatically and suddenly changed. This is a sweeping story, covering 56 years, broken into six parts, and truly breathtaking form. Gortner's ability to write in a woman's voice is incredible, and, in my opinion, rarely done well. This is Historical Fiction at its finest; almost 450 pages of a well researched, beautifully written account of Empress Maria Feodorovna. Five Stars.
MarziesReads More than 1 year ago
4.5 Stars This engaging historical novel about the life of Tsarina Maria Feodorovna, neé Princess Dagmar of Denmark, evocatively captures the last seven decades of the Russian Romanov dynasty. Dagmar, who went by the nickname Minnie, came from relatively humble beginnings in life, a strong contrast to the life she led when she married Tsarevich Alexander Alexandrovich. Prior to the Russian Revolution, she had been one of the wealthiest women in the world. Minnie, or more formally Princess Marie Sophie Frederikke Dagmar of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, was born into an impoverished royal-blooded family in Denmark. One of six children, when her family was raised to rule in Denmark she saw the entire family's fortunes change in less than a decade, as she and her siblings married into or were appointed to powerful royal houses of Europe. Closest to her sister Alix, who married Bertie, Prince of Wales and son of Queen Victoria, and related to most of the great royal houses of Europe, Minnie lived a truly incredible life. During the course of her life in Russia, she saw the country descend into disaster and revolution. Fiercely loyal and a family person, Minnie endured considerable personal loss, beginning with the untimely death of her beloved fiancé Tsarevich Nixa, to whom she was happily engaged, prior to marrying his younger brother, Grand Duke Alexander, who later became Tsar Alexander III. Minnie went on to raise five children to adulthood, including her firstborn son, the ill-fated Nicholas II. With her powerful charisma and socially adept nature, Minnie had helped smooth over some of the problems of the revisionist reign of her husband Tsar Alexander III, a conservative leader who reversed a number of liberal reforms of his predecessor-father. His death after only thirteen years as tsar placed Nicholas II at the head of the Romanov trainwreck. While he initially took his mother's advice in the early years of his reign, he eventually supplanted her with his somewhat unstable wife Alexandra as his chief advisor, spelling disaster for the Romanov line. Minnie lived to see all of her sons (her son George Alexandrovich died in a vehicle accident in 1899, and her remaining sons Tsar Nicholas II and Grand Duke Misha Alexandrovich who were cruelly murdered by the Bolsheviks), along with her grandchildren from Nicholas die before her, her own exile into penury, and a country she had loved for fifty years descend into the chaos of revolution. The story of Maria Feodorovna is truly epic in its scope. While I had some trouble with the early parts of the book dealing with royals marrying for love versus duty (honestly, wasn't it way more duty than love for women marrying into these Royal European families?), the story of the last Romanovs is so gripping that you get swept away by Minnie's amazing and ultimately tragic life. This was a stirring and well-researched novel. By the way, I do have to say that looking at photos (supplied on my blog's review post and Goodreads post!) of Dagmar and Nixa versus Dagmar and Sasha, you can't help but feel that there was great reciprocity and fondness between the former star-crossed pair. Her sadness over Nixa's loss is captured poignantly in this novel. Still, a year and a half later, her family had her packed off to St. Petersburg to marry his brother Sasha. Duty called.
Leah_E More than 1 year ago
The Romanov Empress is the fictionalized story of Tsarina Maria Feodorovna, wife of Alexander III and mother of Nicholas II, the last Romanov Tsar. The story is told from her point of view, and starts with her childhood as Princess Dagmar of Denmark. Born in the mid 1800's, her family, like most in Europe at the time, intermarried, making their family reunions interesting. Her older sister married The Prince of Wales, Queen Victoria's heir, and became Queen consort, her older brother the King of Denmark, and her younger brother became King of Greece. Related by marriage to the German Kaiser, this also made WWI, and the eventual downfall of the Romanov's very interesting. Maria was a very strong woman. Although she was a Princess, the Kingdom of Denmark was not wealthy like the Romanov's, and she was raised in what we would say was a "normal" manner. She and her siblings had chores, their Mother made their clothes, and they did not have palaces full of servants. Maria had originally been engaged to Alexander's older brother, Nicholas (aka Nixa). Nixa died of meningitis, and his dying wish was that his brother, Alexander, marry Dagmar. Although neither was interested in the other, they both loved Nixa so much that they did indeed marry and Maria (the name she adopted after converting to Orthodoxy) and Alexander feel deeply in love with each other. Maria was a most beloved Empress of Russia. Despite her Danish background, she truly loved the Russian people, and endeared herself to them. She became the head of the Russian Red Cross and started the Russian version of the Humane Society for the fair treatment of animals. This was a volatile time in Russia. Alexander's father had freed the serfs, but this was not a well thought out plan, and the uneducated, unskilled serfs flocked to the cities to find better paying jobs. This was happening all over the world, but the staggering size of the Russian Empire amplified the situation, and groups fought and protested for more self-rule and the establishment of a Duma. Even before the Communist Revolution, the Nihilists became known for their bombs and attempts at killing the Emperor and his family. They succeeded in killing Maria's FIL, Alexander II. This event, and the overall fear of assassination and bombing would be present for the rest of the Romanov reign. The one part of her life that Maria had trouble with was her children. Although their house was filled with love and respect, her children did what they wanted when it came to marriage. Most famously, her son, the Tsaravich, Nicholas who would become the last Romanov Emperor. He married Alexandra of Hesse, a German principality. Maria was famously anti-German, as were the Russian people, and from the beginning, she and Alexandra did not get along. This animosity increased as Alexandra gave birth to 4 girls before giving birth to the Tsaravich Alexei who suffered from hemophilia and was sickly from birth. Maria's husband, the Tsar, died young-ish, and Maria didn't think that Nicholas was ready to be the Emperor. She tried to guide him, as she had been a confidant of her husband, but her son had fallen under the spell of his wife, who was herself under the spell of Rasputin. This book doesn't go too far into the Rasputin legend, as it is Maria's story, but you get the sense how distraught Maria was at watching that family disintegrate from the outside. The story then moves through the outbreak of WWI and the Russian Revolution of 1918.
bookluvr35SL More than 1 year ago
This book is narrated by the mother of Russia's last Tsar, Maria Feodorovna. It begins as Minnie, as she was known by family, was a Danish princess set to marry into the Romanov family. It covers her entire life, the ups and the downs.. I have to say, this book was absolutely fascinating. I knew next to nothing of the Romanov Empire, so this was completely new to me. It was heart-wrenching to read some of the things she and the other members of her family were forced to endure. The book was written in such a way as to make you feel like you were right there witnessing everything first hand. This is definitely a must-read for fans of historical fiction!
MugsyMae More than 1 year ago
I absorbed this book! I've always had an interest in the Romanov family and the Tsars of Russia, but didn't know much about the young Danish princess, Minnie, who became Maria Fedorovna, mother of the last Tsar and one of the most wealthy, powerful, and respected women of her time. Because Minnie is the narrator of the story, we are provided a unique perspective into the Russian aristocracy and life before, during and after WWII. I was captivated from the first page.
CozyOnUp More than 1 year ago
The story Princess Dagmar of Denmark who went on to become the infamous Tsarina Maria Fedorovna. The story covers The life, love and history of “Minnie’s life. While I was familiar with the Romanov Dynasty I have never enjoyed hard core historical novels. However the author has taken a far different approach and takes the liberty of telling the story from Minnie’s perspective. While some of the writing may not be true, the historical events are. This made reading the book far more enjoyable for me and I could relate to her story, heartbreaks, and love of all things family. While a longer book, and knowing full well how the story ultimately ends, you will find that you can’t put it down and don’t want the book to end. A brilliant approach to telling the story. If you like historical fiction, this is your Summer read!
Emily Grace Acres More than 1 year ago
"In that instant, as I beheld the people of my newly adopted country, crying out my newly bestowed title, a rush of heat surged in me, erasing the chill of the air. 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 dynasty and an empire, to centuries of women before me who'd done their duty for their country." Tsarina Maria Feodorovna was a remarkable woman, starting out her life as daughter to a poor Danish duke in title alone. Upon the passing of the Danish king, having no heirs of his own, Maria's father assumes the throne thrusting Maria and her family into the royal spotlight. Afraid of being forced to marry for political gain Maria found herself in love with just the man she is supposed to marry, the Tsarevich of Russia. Unfortunately for Maria, her betrothed died an untimely death, not before asking of her one last thing, that she marry his brother, the new heir to the throne. Consenting, young Maria Feodorovna was thrust into the world of the wealthiest royals on earth, learning the rules of court and her new role as wife and Tsarevna. This historical novel goes on to follow Maria for the rest of her life as she faces everything from hosting lavish galas, to hiding from assassins, to the eventual Russian revolution under Lenin. This piece of history was entirely new to me having learned almost nothing about the last Romanovs and boy, is it fascinating. Tsarina Maria Feodorovna is the perfect vehicle for it, her being such a strong and interesting woman, and written so well in this book. The story covers decades and still manages to be incredibly readable and manages to avoid the dry tone that I find so often in historical novels. Thanks at least in part to the author's use of complex characters and descriptive prose. I loved the sense of claustrophobia that slowly builds throughout the story as Maria goes from being one of the most powerful women in the world to her slow confinement and fear of the nihilists and revolutionaries. I think Gortner was able to capture this gradual collapse of the Russian empire in the minds of his characters beautifully. In the second half there were times that I felt the story drag just a bit, the plot being largely one tragedy or big event after the other, but I'm sure this is nothing if not accurate. This historical novel definitely sparked my interest in this history and now I'm dying to learn more about it! If you like in-depth looks at history or character studies of strong women this book will surely be for you. "One doesn’t need to meet the wolf to know when to bolt the door."
literarymuseVC More than 1 year ago
“We existed in a dream, enclosed in our lacquered splendor like the varnished miniatures of our fabled Easter eggs, even as the world beyond our gates began to crumble.” The world of Maria (Minnie) Feodorovna begins as a child, then known as Dagmar of Denmark, living in a simple world that dramatically changes as her father becomes the King of Denmark. Maria is grateful for the closeness of her family in the coming years when her sister Alix becomes Queen of England and others marry to other rulers or royalty. Maria marries Sasha or Alexander, Prince of Russia, then becoming part of the four hundred-year-old Romanov dynasty as the Empress of this great nation. Maria’s early years in Russia are full of dancing, fine dining, and the gentle love of her Sasha, gruff but gentle, fiercely devoted to his autocratic role as Emperor of all of Russia. He gives Minnie the first of the Faberge eggs that unfold with multiple layers of grand, gorgeous jewels, special editions not available to the public. The current climate, however, is not kind to the Romanovs. By the time that Alexander realizes that autocratic rule is tearing his nation apart with poverty and civil war, it is too late. Rather than implement the change of a Parliament or Duma, he tragically dies and Nicholas, their eldest son, refuses to authorize his father’s will, a position he insists on upholding as the nation begins to unravel. The influence of the Dowager Empress waxes but quickly wanes with the competing influence of Nicholas’s wife, the Empress Alexandra. Maria is wise beyond her years but cannot control the family scandals as her children, nieces and nephews begin to ignore custom and tradition. The strong-willed, austere Alexandra embraces the peasant monk, Rasputin, who appears to be responsible for repeated healings of the son of Nicholas and Alexandra. Royalty and high society couples dance the nights away, wearing the finest couture encrusted with luxurious jewels, vacationing with each other in a style that resonates with a reminder of “Nero fiddling while Rome burned.” However, the reader shares in Maria’s growing sadness and shock as familial and national events culminate in disaster. Words cannot convey the depth of this comprehensive depiction of both the Empress Maria Feodorovna and the Romanov family. It is truly a brilliant story, replete with virtues and vices, fierce loves and hates, glamor and scandals. This reader hated for this amazing, well-crafted novel to come to an end. Read it once, twice – know this is a classic work of historical fiction, soon to be named among the “best” accounts of the Romanov family in its final days!