Monday, August 20, 2018

Audio Review: The Romanov Empress by C.W. Gortner

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.

Published July 10th 2018
by Ballantine Book
Audible - 17 hrs, 49 mins

C.W. Gortner has been a favorite of mine since reading The Last Queen. He writes vividly, creating strong characters with realistic personalities breathing life into history with each new book release.

The Romanov Empress is one of my most anticipated books of 2018. I had signed up to be part of the HFVBT and was about 30% of the way through reading when life got chaotic and I ended up dropping out, switched over to the audiobook. It’s tricky doing that sometimes, will it work? Will I enjoy it reading more? In this instance the audio was wonderful - Katharine McEwan was the reader and one of my favorites. Coming in at almost 18 hours, my time driving, sitting and waiting just flew by.

I love reading about women that aren’t well know but still played a big part in the past. The Romanov’s are relatively new to me (this is my 3rd book) and coming from this perspective really gave me a sense of the background to what took place in 1918. Told through the eyes of Nicholas II’s mother was perfect. First introduced as a young women in Denmark her transition to a Russian Empress marked her as a strong woman, smart and compassionate and fiercely devoted to her family.

Reading a CW Gortner book is always a treat. With attention to detail, lots of history (without sounding like a history book) he has written a captivating story of a turbulent time in Russia’s past. I was actually hoping for a different outcome. He made me care for the family and citizens of that country. It’s evident the author has not only done extensive research but also has a passion for the era - it shines through in his writing.

I highly recommend this book to those that love reading about strong women in history that we rarely hear about.

 My thanks to Amy at HFVBT’s and Random House for an advanced copy (via Netgalley).

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