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The Romanov Empress

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For readers of Philippa Gregory and Alison Weir comes a dramatic novel of the beloved Empress Maria, the Danish girl who became the mother of the last Russian tsar. 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 Russ For readers of Philippa Gregory and Alison Weir comes a dramatic novel of the beloved Empress Maria, the Danish girl who became the mother of the last Russian tsar. Even from behind the throne, a woman can rule. Narrated by the mother of Russia’s last tsar, this vivid, historically authentic novel brings to life the courageous story of Maria Feodorovna, one of Imperial Russia’s most compelling women who witnessed the splendor and tragic downfall of the Romanovs as she fought to save her dynasty in the final years of its long reign.                   Barely nineteen, Minnie knows that her station in life as a Danish princess is to leave her family and enter into a royal marriage—as her older sister Alix has done, moving to  England to wed Queen Victoria’s eldest son. The winds of fortune bring Minnie to Russia, where she marries the Romanov heir and becomes empress once he ascends the throne. When resistance to his reign strikes at the heart of her family and the tsar sets out to crush all who oppose him, Minnie—now called Maria—must tread a perilous path of compromise in a country she has come to love.                   Her husband’s death leaves their son Nicholas as the inexperienced ruler of a deeply divided and crumbling empire. Determined to guide him to reforms that will bring Russia into the modern age, Maria faces implacable opposition from Nicholas’s strong-willed wife, Alexandra, whose fervor has lead her into a disturbing relationship with a mystic named Rasputin. As the unstoppable wave of revolution rises anew to engulf Russia, Maria will face her most dangerous challenge and her greatest heartache.                    From the opulent palaces of St. Petersburg and the intrigue-laced salons of the aristocracy to the World War I battlefields and the bloodied countryside occupied by the Bolsheviks, C. W. Gortner sweeps us into the anarchic fall of an empire and the complex, bold heart of the woman who tried to save it.


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For readers of Philippa Gregory and Alison Weir comes a dramatic novel of the beloved Empress Maria, the Danish girl who became the mother of the last Russian tsar. 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 Russ For readers of Philippa Gregory and Alison Weir comes a dramatic novel of the beloved Empress Maria, the Danish girl who became the mother of the last Russian tsar. Even from behind the throne, a woman can rule. Narrated by the mother of Russia’s last tsar, this vivid, historically authentic novel brings to life the courageous story of Maria Feodorovna, one of Imperial Russia’s most compelling women who witnessed the splendor and tragic downfall of the Romanovs as she fought to save her dynasty in the final years of its long reign.                   Barely nineteen, Minnie knows that her station in life as a Danish princess is to leave her family and enter into a royal marriage—as her older sister Alix has done, moving to  England to wed Queen Victoria’s eldest son. The winds of fortune bring Minnie to Russia, where she marries the Romanov heir and becomes empress once he ascends the throne. When resistance to his reign strikes at the heart of her family and the tsar sets out to crush all who oppose him, Minnie—now called Maria—must tread a perilous path of compromise in a country she has come to love.                   Her husband’s death leaves their son Nicholas as the inexperienced ruler of a deeply divided and crumbling empire. Determined to guide him to reforms that will bring Russia into the modern age, Maria faces implacable opposition from Nicholas’s strong-willed wife, Alexandra, whose fervor has lead her into a disturbing relationship with a mystic named Rasputin. As the unstoppable wave of revolution rises anew to engulf Russia, Maria will face her most dangerous challenge and her greatest heartache.                    From the opulent palaces of St. Petersburg and the intrigue-laced salons of the aristocracy to the World War I battlefields and the bloodied countryside occupied by the Bolsheviks, C. W. Gortner sweeps us into the anarchic fall of an empire and the complex, bold heart of the woman who tried to save it.

30 review for The Romanov Empress

  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. 4 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 sister, 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 Dostoevsky) 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. 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

  5. 5 out of 5

    Holly B

    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. 

  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. 3 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.

  9. 3 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.

  10. 3 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.

  11. 3 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.

  12. 3 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 ☆

  13. 3 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

  14. 3 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.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    Author Interview: https://historicalfictionreader.blogs...

  16. 4 out of 5

    The Just-About-Cocky Ms M

    Folks, I will lay this out for you right now so you can decide if you wish to read the review. It’s only fair to warn you, yes? I swore I’d never touch another fluffy, over-dramatized, highly imaginative but woefully researched book by this individual. However, like a toothache, sometimes you just have to keep poking to see if it might get better. Were it not for NetGalley, I would have walked on by, as the song says. Take a look at the cover. All pretty pastels and such, with the empress gazing o Folks, I will lay this out for you right now so you can decide if you wish to read the review. It’s only fair to warn you, yes? I swore I’d never touch another fluffy, over-dramatized, highly imaginative but woefully researched book by this individual. However, like a toothache, sometimes you just have to keep poking to see if it might get better. Were it not for NetGalley, I would have walked on by, as the song says. Take a look at the cover. All pretty pastels and such, with the empress gazing out at the snow. But here’s the thing: the dress and hairstyle are all wrong for the historical period [and it’s an image from stock at that]; no imperial palace had plate glass windows or draperies like that; and St. Petersburg has classical architecture rather than onion-domed cathedrals—that’s Moscow, where the imperial family rarely if ever went. And then the book blurb trumpets that this one is for fans of Philippa Gregory and Alison Weir, two historical hacks I dislike for their butchering of history. Now, let’s take a look at the tale behind the implausible cover. Once again we get a first-person narrative of a young woman who will be thrust onto the historical and dynastic center stage and do the following: bemoan her fate; get past that; learn a few words of Russian, although the Romanovs spoke English and French far more than Russian; become an Orthodox Christian; get married in splendor; reproduce; and then wait for the inevitable string of tragedies so she can wring her hands in true histrionic fashion. I found no real sense of Minnie, the little Danish royal whose life would change so dramatically. She rambled through endless pages with all the depth, subtleties, and character of a paper doll, often saying things that made little sense and doing things that made even less sense because no predicate was ever established for much. She morphs from Minnie to the allegedly austere and formidable Maria Feodorovna, but that transformation seems to occur off-stage, as it were. None of the rest of the Romanovs, to include that power couple Nicholas and Alexandra, so historically kin to Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette through their blindness, refusal to change, and fondness for absolutism in a changing world, fare any better. I was often reminded of an oversized Fabergé egg when, its jeweled lid lifted, tiny enameled and jeweled people dance and bow without a word, all stiff and formal. It’s quite a waste, really, with such a rich smorgasbord of historical characters, even clichéd Rasputin and the dissolute Prince Yusupov, to pepper the pages with yet end up with 3% beer instead of robust vodka. The dialogue, on the whole, is clunky, especially between Maria Feodorovna and whoever is in the room with her speaking as if they are reading long excerpts from Wikipedia or the latest imperial ukase penned by Sergei Witt before his assassination. You know, the dreaded “As you know, Bob…” amateurish method of informing the reader of what’s what. In the alternative, we get boatloads of chirpy, syrupy, and unintentionally amusing conversations between and among the least likely folks to speak this way. I’m no prude with regard to graphic violence, sex, or language when they are all well-written, used judiciously, and as a realistic component of a particular scene. Unfortunately, all three pop up in the oddest places, almost as if the author thought he needed to wake his readers up, or shock them with what was, to me at least, the equivalent of junior varsity locker room antics. I suppose my biggest giggle about this tiresome excuse for historical fiction occurred elsewhere when a reader asked if it were historically accurate. The person who responded said that after reading this novel, she looked up Empress Maria Feodorovna in Wikipedia and found that indeed the book was very accurate. Oh, dear me! Wikipedia, the fount of historical knowledge… but it doesn’t appear as if this tale were even researched at that pitiful level. So all you peeps who think you’ll actually learn some Russian history if you read this, here’s a suggestion: if you want to read something rigorously reliable, well-researched, and compellingly written, read Robert K. Massie’s books on the last of the Romanovs. Trust me—you will think you’ve discovered another imperial Russian family altogether. But if you are happy with the Kardashian version, then you’ll really enjoy this one. And thanks ever so, NetGalley, for sending a copy of this book my way.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Tammy

    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.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Carlissa

    I enjoyed this book, but I did have a hard time keeping track of all the Romanov relatives! Everyone seemed to have a nickname and it was hard to keep track of who was who. I liked the first half of the book better than the last half; Minnie, as Tsarina Maria Feodorovna was called, was more likable when she was young and first married to Sasha, who became the tsar. When Sasha died and their son, Nicky became Tsar, Minnie became very domineering and just plain unlikable. It was an interesting loo I enjoyed this book, but I did have a hard time keeping track of all the Romanov relatives! Everyone seemed to have a nickname and it was hard to keep track of who was who. I liked the first half of the book better than the last half; Minnie, as Tsarina Maria Feodorovna was called, was more likable when she was young and first married to Sasha, who became the tsar. When Sasha died and their son, Nicky became Tsar, Minnie became very domineering and just plain unlikable. It was an interesting look at the family life of the Russian Tsars. Thanks to Netgalley, the author, and the publisher for the chance to read and review this book.

  19. 5 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

  20. 3 out of 5

    Carole P. Roman

    CW Gortner writes enjoyable history. Princess Dagmar-Minnie- Maria Feodorovona comes alive in this book that takes her from an unknown Danish princess to the Empress of Russia and the mother of the ill-fated Nicholas II. I enjoyed the way Gortner depicted how she embraced her new life, learned to love her husband, and raised her growing brood of Grand Dukes and Duchess as the night dimmed on the days of Emperors and Empresses and the blaze of revolution laid waste to their privileged world. Gortn CW Gortner writes enjoyable history. Princess Dagmar-Minnie- Maria Feodorovona comes alive in this book that takes her from an unknown Danish princess to the Empress of Russia and the mother of the ill-fated Nicholas II. I enjoyed the way Gortner depicted how she embraced her new life, learned to love her husband, and raised her growing brood of Grand Dukes and Duchess as the night dimmed on the days of Emperors and Empresses and the blaze of revolution laid waste to their privileged world. Gortner capably differentiates all the various nobles, making identifying all the players and their roles easy to remember. This is a book that refused to be rushed, the beginning introducing the reader to the grand courts filled with opulence and eccentric personalities of late 19th-century royalty. The book shifts as Minnie gains confidence in her role as the Tzar's wife. She tries to soften Alexander III's autocratic leanings to no avail. Her children both thrill and disappoint her, their life's choices affecting the future of the dynasty in ways that would come to haunt them as the world changed. We all know what happened in Russia after the revolution. Gortner recreates credible explanations of how the Romanov dynasty spiraled toward disaster and humanized the royal victims with believable personalities and vivid descriptions of a world that vanished forever.

  21. 3 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.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Angie

    5 stars... I have loved everything I have read by CW Gortner, but this surpassed my expectations! The writing was superb...voiced so well by Minnie. I was truly engrossed the whole book! I have done peripheral reading on Russian royalty, mostly starring Tsar Nicolas' children. The Romanov Empress covers this and so much more! Although the plight of the last Russian Tsar is covered, it is minimal while still giving a good picture of the time period and family life. Dagmar of Denmark, aka Tsarina Ma 5 stars... I have loved everything I have read by CW Gortner, but this surpassed my expectations! The writing was superb...voiced so well by Minnie. I was truly engrossed the whole book! I have done peripheral reading on Russian royalty, mostly starring Tsar Nicolas' children. The Romanov Empress covers this and so much more! Although the plight of the last Russian Tsar is covered, it is minimal while still giving a good picture of the time period and family life. Dagmar of Denmark, aka Tsarina Maria Fedorovna, aka Minnie bridges several generations of Romanovs, and gives us insight into more than just her son's rule. It was fascinating to me! Her family touched many of the main countries Royal families in ways you probably didn't know before. Even if she wasn't the mother of Tsar Nicolas, her story would be so interesting and relevant. It begins with her slightly impoverished childhood in Denmark and reading it will tell you where it ends. I highly recommend it to lovers of Royal or Russian fiction-you won't want to miss it! **Many thanks to NetGalley, CW Gortner, & Random House Publishing Group-Ballantine for an ARC to read and honestly review!**

  23. 4 out of 5

    Cathy

    (3.5 stars) As the book’s subtitle makes clear, A Romanov Empress concentrates on the life and experiences of the woman who would become known as Maria Feodorovna, Tsarina of Russia.   From her childhood as a member of the impoverished Danish royal family, through the tragic circumstances of her marriage to Tsar Alexander and finishing with the events of the Russian Revolution, Minnie, as she is called by intimates, acts as the reader’s perceptive observer. A Romanov Empress covers a turbulent pe (3.5 stars) As the book’s subtitle makes clear, A Romanov Empress concentrates on the life and experiences of the woman who would become known as Maria Feodorovna, Tsarina of Russia.   From her childhood as a member of the impoverished Danish royal family, through the tragic circumstances of her marriage to Tsar Alexander and finishing with the events of the Russian Revolution, Minnie, as she is called by intimates, acts as the reader’s perceptive observer. A Romanov Empress covers a turbulent period in Russian history but presents it largely from the perspective of the Imperial family with limited treatment of the lives of the Russian population.   Thus the emphasis throughout is on the domestic goings on within the Imperial household, meaning social and political developments in Russia are viewed predominantly for their ability to threaten the future of the Romanov dynasty. The author gives us an intriguing picture of a woman who wielded what power she could from ‘behind the throne’, in particular the important business of making suitable strategic marriages for her children and relatives with other crowned heads of Europe.   Life in the Imperial household is one based on precedence and formality, a life of luxury that contrasts with the poverty experienced by much of the Russian population.  However, eventually even the Tsar and his family cannot be entirely cushioned from the impact of growing social and political unrest. When Minnie’s son, Nicholas, inherits the throne following the death of her husband, he chooses not to heed her advice about how to deal with the increasing unrest resulting in violent scenes that only make matters worse.  Not for the first time when reading about the lives of women in history, this reader wondered whether things might have played out quite differently had a woman like Minnie been in charge instead of being relegated to the sidelines. I found the relationship between Minnie and her sister, Alix, really touching.  The way they supported each other through the many and various tragedies in their lives, including the deaths of children and spouses, was heart-warming.   I found it interesting that the author presents the relationship between Minnie and her daughter-in-law, Alexandra, as anything but convivial; especially given they seemed to have much in common in terms of their background and lack of preparation for the roles they found themselves in by marriage.  So much for female solidarity! The book has an impressive level of detail and is definitely not a quick read; it’s clear the author must have undertaken an immense amount of research.  Personally, I enjoyed the first half of the book where the reader is really immersed in the daily life of the Imperial household more than the second, where external events come more to the fore.  Throughout the book, there are a lot of different characters to keep track of and I certainly needed to make frequent use of the helpful family tree to check names and relationships. The Romanov Empress is a fascinating insight into the life of a woman who lived through a turbulent period in Russian history.  I received a review copy courtesy of publishers, Ballantine Books, and Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, in return for an honest and unbiased review.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lilisa

    The central figure of this book is Maria Feodorovna or Minnie, the mother of the last tsar of Russia. Of the royal house of Denmark, Minnie wasn’t meant to marry the tsar she did…Accepting her fate, she takes on the role of empress and becomes the strong, influential wife of the tsar. Despite not being Russian, she holds her own and becomes a crucial part of the court. But all’s not well with uprisings becoming frequent and devastating. Her reign as empress transitions when her husband dies - pa The central figure of this book is Maria Feodorovna or Minnie, the mother of the last tsar of Russia. Of the royal house of Denmark, Minnie wasn’t meant to marry the tsar she did…Accepting her fate, she takes on the role of empress and becomes the strong, influential wife of the tsar. Despite not being Russian, she holds her own and becomes a crucial part of the court. But all’s not well with uprisings becoming frequent and devastating. Her reign as empress transitions when her husband dies - passing the baton to their son Nicholas. We know the history, the fall of the Romanov Empire and the eventual fate of members of the family. What C.W. Gortner does is take us into the day-to-day lives of the royal family and of the times. Full of intrigues, the positioning and the distinct dislike Minnie had for her daughter-in-law Alexandra, including the inexplicable relationship Alexandra had with Rasputin. There were so many characters who passed in and out of the book that I sometimes felt Gortner would have been better served not including all of them. While Minnie was definitely the central character and well fleshed out, I felt there was something missing - she felt flat and more like a character in a book rather than a real-life person - unlike the other two Gortner books I’ve read - Mademoiselle Chanel and The Last Queen. I enjoyed those two much more than this one. However, I learned more about Russia, Minnie and the fall of the Romanovs. I just didn’t enjoy it as much as the author’s other books. My three stars do mean it was good and worth the read! Thanks to NetGalley and Ballantine Books for the opportunity to read and review this book.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    WOW, what a book! This was my first attempt at reading about the Romanovs in any capacity and it was quite an introduction. It took me a month to read this, but I enjoyed that time immensely. I’ve read a few of C.W. Gortner’s books and they seem to be polarizing for me. This was definitely one of the better ones. We follow Princess Dagmar, known as “Minnie”, over the course of her very long life, from her childhood in Denmark, to her sister’s wedding in England (where we meet an aging Victoria); WOW, what a book! This was my first attempt at reading about the Romanovs in any capacity and it was quite an introduction. It took me a month to read this, but I enjoyed that time immensely. I’ve read a few of C.W. Gortner’s books and they seem to be polarizing for me. This was definitely one of the better ones. We follow Princess Dagmar, known as “Minnie”, over the course of her very long life, from her childhood in Denmark, to her sister’s wedding in England (where we meet an aging Victoria); we also see her engaged to the tsarevich, Nicholas, and then eventually his younger brother, Sasha. She witnesses the assassination of her father-in-law, the painful death of her husband, and then has to contend with her wretched daughter-in-law, Alexandra. All but two of Princess Dagmar’s children precede her in death. We know this will be a sad story because we know what ultimately destroys the Romanovs, and yet, Gortner somehow manages to make that almost a side note in this unbelievable account of Dagmar’s life. She faced so much death at a young age, a great war, a revolution, the dissolution of a 300 year old dynasty, the brutal execution of her children and grandchildren, and finally, exile. I think this certainly could have been edited down a bit (I didn’t need to know all the details about which granddaughters slept in what rooms, or who packed what in how many trunks), and I wonder if it would have worked better as two separate books. Nevertheless, this is a wonderful read if you are willing to devote the time to it. See more of my reviews: Blog // Instagram

  26. 3 out of 5

    Penmouse

    The fictional story of Dagmar of Denmark tells about how she rose from A somewhat noble but in impoverished beginningAnd 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 marr The fictional story of Dagmar of Denmark tells about how she rose from A somewhat noble but in impoverished beginningAnd 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.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Gracelyn Buckner

    2 Stars DNF. A disappointing start to Netgalley. Not going to do a real review.

  28. 3 out of 5

    Joyce

    5 stars This is Minnie’s story as told by her. It is the mid-1860’s in Denmark. Minnie is the second daughter of newly elevated Danish royalty. Her father became King and her mother, she later sees, is the power behind the throne. Following her sister Alix’s marriage to Prince Albert “Bertie”, Queen Victoria’s son, Minnie was betrothed to Nixa. Nixa was the heir apparent to the Russian throne. Dubious, but willing to meet him, Minnie falls in love. Following a fall from his horse, Nixa came down 5 stars This is Minnie’s story as told by her. It is the mid-1860’s in Denmark. Minnie is the second daughter of newly elevated Danish royalty. Her father became King and her mother, she later sees, is the power behind the throne. Following her sister Alix’s marriage to Prince Albert “Bertie”, Queen Victoria’s son, Minnie was betrothed to Nixa. Nixa was the heir apparent to the Russian throne. Dubious, but willing to meet him, Minnie falls in love. Following a fall from his horse, Nixa came down with spinal meningitis and passed away. Minnie was heartbroken. On his deathbed, Nixa told Minnie to marry his brother Sasha. Sasha is now the heir to the throne. Upon her marriage to Sasha who is more brutish and not near as refined as Nixa was, her name is changed to Maria Fedoroyna and she must convert to the Russian Orthodox faith. Minnie’s father-in-law, Tsar Alexander II is very kind to her. He is being threatened and pursued by the nihilists. Alexander questions Minnie’s happiness. She equivocates. Sasha is in no way ready to take the throne. He carouses and drinks too much. He is unaware of current events. Alexander asks Minnie to subtly educate him in the ways of becoming the Tsar. Minnie gave birth to her first child. It was a son Sasha named Nicholas in honor of his grandfather. Tsar Alexander said it was a fortuitous name. Nicholas was a slight child, unlike his siblings who were “real” Romanovs. When the Nihilists set a bomb at a site where the royal family was to dine, several people were killed. But the royal family survived because while they were waiting in the next building over, Sasha was late to the affair. Tsar Alexander wanted them all arrested and he would not be lenient as he was with an earlier attempt on his life. He set up the Okhrana, a new and powerful side of the secret police. Sometime later, the anarchists are successful. They murder Tsar Alexander II with a bomb. Sasha becomes Tsar Alexander III immediately. Minnie is now the Tsarina and she has serious doubts about the family’s future. Nicholas is their heir apparent. When sixteen-year old Nicholas falls for a twelve-year old impoverished German girl from Hesse that he has nicknamed “Alicky,” Minnie resents her and takes an immediate dislike to her. She has a distrust of all things German that goes way back. When Nicolas is twenty-three, he is still determined to marry Alicky whose proper name is Alexandra in defiance of his parents. Sasha passes away due to kidney failure following another assassination attempt on the royal train. He was trapped for a while under some shrapnel and was badly injured. On his deathbed, he finally gives Nicholas permission to marry Alicky, or Sunny as he has come to call her. Minnie has a very difficult relationship with her daughter-in-law. Sunny is unhappy for she believes now that she is empress, she should be given first place in all affairs. But that is not the Russian way. The Empress Dowager is still given the primary position in society. Sunny won’t go to public affairs and keeps mainly to her own devices. She doesn’t like living in the city and retreats often with Nicholas to the country estate of Tsarskoe Selo and is barely civil to Minnie. She only very reluctantly converted to the Russian Orthodox faith. Minnie decides to withdraw from the apparent competition, for Nicholas takes Sunny’s side in every argument. This is a decision she will regret. She sets about getting her other children married and wants to see them happy. She travels to Denmark to visit her parents, and following the death of her aged mother, to visit her ailing father. She loses her son George to consumption. Sunny has formed a relationship with a medium. Soon, the news about her consulting mystics gets about town. It is a huge scandal – in direct opposition to the Church. The political is heating up again, but all anyone wants to talk about is the Tsarina’s obsession with mystics and the occult. Nicholas is ignoring the affairs of state. Minnie receives ministers in her chambers who are all complaining about Nicholas’ handling of the business of the empire. It is clear to Minnie that Alexandra is unsuitable and is distracting Nicholas far too much from his duties. A war with Japan and Nicholas’ inept direction of the troops and unpreparedness made his reputation take a dive. The assassination of one of his war ministers only exacerbated the problem. Credit for the murder was taken by a new group calling themselves the Social Democrats. These people were inspired by the socialist leaning of Karl Marx. Alarmingly, this group was gaining adherents and growing by leaps and bounds. During all this strife, Alexandra finally gave both to a boy they named Alexi. They were overjoyed. When Alexi’s umbilical cord would not stop bleeding, the doctor pronounced that Alexi was a hemophiliac. The disease ran in Queen Victoria’s family, and Alexandra was the Queen’s granddaughter. The word around the capital was talk of a revolution. The people were angry about the war with Japan and the heavy losses suffered by the Russian troops. The distrust and antipathy against Nicholas was reaching a rabid level. A peaceful march to the palace devolves into a riot. Many, many are killed under Nicholas’ orders. Minnie and the rest of the royal family despair, for this time Nicholas has gone too far. Moscow erupted in civil unrest. Factory works went on strike. Martial law was declared. When Nicholas finally acceded to form a constitution, the rioting was temporarily quelled. However, one agitator was not giving in. His name was Vladimir Lenin. He named his party the Bolsheviks. He demanded power by the proletariat and the abolition of the imperial rule. Nicholas ordered Minnie to go to Denmark and not return until he said so. Upon her return to Russia nearly a year later, the Social Democrats are even more powerful and are calling for the Tsar’s abdication. Alexandra has a new “friend.” His name is Grigori Rasputin. He is known as a lecher, orgies and public drunkenness. Hardly the kind of association for a Tsarina. He claims to be a mystic and prays over people to heal them. Minnie heads to Tsarskoe Selo to find out for herself. He has begun to recommend to Alexandra certain politicos that should be appointed to the Duma. She, of course recommends them. They will vote whichever way Rasputin has told them. When a letter of Alexandra’s to Rasputin is published in a newspaper, more civil unrest breaks out. The prime minister is murdered. Minnie implores Nicholas to dismiss Rasputin before Alexandra’s reputation suffers any more. With Russia at war once more, this time with Germany, the situation in Russia has gone from bad to worse. The plot to murder Rasputin succeeds. The bitter winter freezes to death the soldiers in the hospital wards. Nothing is working right. They cannot get fuel to heat the hospital or their homes. People are starving and begging for food. The war is going badly. At Alexandra’s behest, Nicholas decides to take over the military himself despite the fact that he knows nothing about war. He will take no counsel. By March of 1917, the end had begun. Minnie and a few members of her family must flee across Russia to avoid capture by the Bolsheviks. When put under house arrest, it came as no surprise. When word arrives of the deaths of Nicholas and his family, Minnie refuses to believe it. She cannot believe it. The horror is too great. She is convinced to leave Russia on a British ship – but only if they’ll take other refugees with them. She travels to England and then back to Denmark where she lives out her days. Minnie was never a shy or retiring woman. She was outspoken, sometimes to her detriment. But she lived well despite all that she suffered. She was at the time the wealthiest woman in the world. From her very humble beginnings, this was quite the change. But, later in life she carefully forgot that part of her life when she berated her daughter-in-law Alexandra for living so plainly. None of us are immune to the vagaries of reconstructing our memories. This book describes Tsarist Russian very well. Its landscape and its people are vividly portrayed in beautiful language. The unrest of the common people and those who fan the flames are discussed in detail. The glitter and pomp of the court; the dances and suppers which are in deep contrast to the poverty of the ordinary peasants are all described very well. It talks about the upheavals and dissent that occurred in Russian in the early 20th Century. It describes the beginnings of the revolution and its inevitable conclusion. It is very well written and is laid out in a linear fashion. It is easy to read for both historians and Russian aficionados. I don’t know how historically accurate it is, for while I have read much about Russia, Minnie herself is a fairly new character for me. But, the book was truly enjoyable. I liked reading about this strong and determined woman. This is my first book by C.W. Gortner and I can guarantee that I will be looking at his other books. It was both an interesting and exciting read. I want to thank NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine/Ballantine for forwarding to me a copy of this most entertaining and informative book for me to read and enjoy.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Maria11

    Epic read and journey is the only way to describe this book. I haven’t read a historical read in awhile because they just can’t hold my attention lately, but not this one. This story leaped off the pages and pulled you straight into Imperial Russia. The beauty and richness seeped in short sidedness, conflict, and drama. Minnie rises above her obscurity to marry the Russian heir. It is amazing to see the political workings to arrange a marriage. Woman are just pawns in the play to be dealt where t Epic read and journey is the only way to describe this book. I haven’t read a historical read in awhile because they just can’t hold my attention lately, but not this one. This story leaped off the pages and pulled you straight into Imperial Russia. The beauty and richness seeped in short sidedness, conflict, and drama. Minnie rises above her obscurity to marry the Russian heir. It is amazing to see the political workings to arrange a marriage. Woman are just pawns in the play to be dealt where they will bring to most connections. I was googling constantly throughout the book to get more information because it pulled me in. I couldn’t believe how everyone was related and they kept marrying each other! You can see why genetic problems occurred. Minnie is well written and believable. She isn’t written as this perfect person which makes the story even better. She has her tantrums, but always puts her big girl pants on to rise to the occasion and make the best of the situation she can. She is beautiful, arrogant, demanding, and loyal. She shows that being royal isn’t what we picture it to be. To be successful there are tons of scaraficing you must do, whether you want to or not. The Russian trip to self destruction could have been avoided if her children weren’t so weak and self centered. Nickolas’ downfall was of his own making with the choices he made. The story did drag at times and you just got bogged down with the history at times. The story did have to roll out that way to be successful I think. I loved the story and expanded my mind! Received a copy from the publisher through NetGalley. I will be checking out more from this author.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ashley *Hufflepuff Kitten*

    IT'S NARRATED BY MARIA FEODOROVNA I NEED IT

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