The Romanov Empress

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 10 Aug 2018

Member Reviews

While the detail in The Romanov Empress is beautiful, the story simply moved far too slowly to hold my attention. Typically, a slow-moving story doesn't deter me, but the characters failed to capture my interest enough to continue to the end. Thank you for the opportunity to read and review this book.
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This was a fabulous book. Gripping and heart-wrenching, Gortner has a very good voice for the last Dowager Empress of Imperial Russia. While this is a work of fiction, it has answered some questions that I have had about the reign of Nicholas II.
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I enjoyed it overall.  But I found the narrator to be a bit fatiguing;  Her relentless defense of a corrupt regime made sense in context, but it made me impatient with her.
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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.
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First sentence: "We should dress alike," I said on that afternoon when life changed forever. I didn't yet understand how profound the change would be, but I could feel it as I sat riffling through the heap of boxes sent by Copenhagen's and London's finest emporiums, packed with satin-bowed shoes and beribboned hats, silk undergarments, dresses, corsets, shawls, leather gloves, and cloaks made of fine cashmere or Scottish wool.

Premise/plot: The narrator of this one is Maria Feodorovna (aka Minnie, aka Princess Dagmar of Denmark, aka Empress of Russia). Her husband was Emperor Alexander III. Her son was Emperor Nicholas II--the last tsar of Russia. She was a daughter, sister, princess, wife, mother, widow, mother-in-law, grandmother, empress, and dowager empress. The novel is written in first person--for better or worse. And this one spans decades.

My thoughts: I wanted to love this one. I wanted to be swept up, up, and away into this historical novel featuring several royal families. I wanted to find the narrative captivating, fascinating, intriguing, compelling--anything and everything but dull. To be honest, the book isn't dull so much as it is un-exciting.

I felt several degrees removed from all the action, from all the drama. Perhaps the narrative was supposed to reflect the poise, the dignity, the restraint, the respectability, the polish of the Empress? Perhaps the purpose was to focus solely on the interior thought life of a woman and not really get into the ACTION and DRAMA of the times in which she lived? I'm not sure.

It was interesting to read a book about the Romanovs from the perspective of a survivor. It didn't make the book less sad, less tragic. It was her son. It was her grandchildren. Obviously most--if not all--of her concern was towards their safety and not her own. She wasn't worried about herself--but them. How could they be saved? How could they be rescued? How could they be smuggled out of the country? She was out of touch--for the most part except for a few smuggled letters--with the people she loved most in the world. Their lives were in danger and she knew it. She lived with it. The last section of the book was the most intense. It almost made up for the dullness of the other five sections.

I would definitely read a nonfiction biography about her. I think her story probably is worth reading. But perhaps fiction wasn't the way to go--for me.
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I am a bit obsessed at the moment with Russian history, and this book foreshadowing the doom that was to befall the Romanov dynasty did not disappoint. Told from the point of view of Russia's last great Tzarina, Maria Feodorovna. Dagmar is a Danish princess. At the beginning of the book, she is nearly 16 years of age, and under the shadow of her older sister, who is about to marry into English Royalty. Dagmar eventually becomes Maria, and along with her new name, new religion, and adopted country, integrates herself and becomes a well respected figure in the Russian Imperial Family. Maria's headstrong nature and honor helped maintain the Romanov family's strong popularity in the 1800's, but it could not prevent its eventually downfall, the pull of Rasputin, and the political unrest. The characters, scenery, and events were rich with detail, but never dry. The dialogue felt true to the time period. This book is a real treat for fans of historical fiction, and in particular, of learning about the Romanov dynasty and its demise. Thank you NetGalley for this ARC.
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I loved this book! Highly recommend. I've always been very interested in the Romanovs -- this was a fresh take on something I've read so much about. I appreciate NetGalley for helping me get a copy of this.
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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?
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Maria (Minnie) Feodorovna, born a princess of Denmark, she later marries Alexander III, Tsar of Russia. This book tells her story from a princess whose family did not have a lot of money in spite of their title to become the wife of the future tsar and mother of the last tsar of Russia. Through Minnie's eyes we see the excesses of the imperial court but also the simple family life that Minnie grew up in. We see the affects of revolution and how they shaped her husband and her son and led to the demise of the Romanovs. Even knowing how the story ends, it is still a fascinating read.
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I loved this book.  I generally like historical fiction, but this book went beyond because it was so well researched.  The author did a wonderful job of making me feel like I was there in Norway and Russia.

Minnie was born a Danish princess but falls in love with the Russian son of the Tsar.  When he dies unexpectedly, she marries his brother and eventually becomes the Empress Maria Feodorovna, the Tsarina of Russia.  The book tells the story of her life and her family.  Her sister married the Prince of Wales and became Queen, and her son became Tsar and was killed in the Russian Revolution.

An excellent book.  Thanks to Ballantine Books and NetGalley for the ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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I am such a fan of Russian history, particularly the Romanovs.  The amount of historical coverage was spectacular as told from Tsarina Maria Feodorovna‘s view.  The characters were well developed, the story was very descriptive.  Just lived this book and look forward to reading my from this author as a lot of research went into this book.
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Oh did I love this book!!  It is one of the most wonderfully engrossing books I have read in a very long time.  I have always enjoyed reading anything about Nicholas and Alexandra and this extremely well-written book about Tsar Nicholas' mother was excellent.  The story, based on fact, is entirely from the point of view of Tsarina Maria Feodorovna and the reader feels as if they are truly there with her as she lives a lifestyle few ever experience.  The descriptions of jewels, clothing and palaces are richly detailed in such a way that could be tedious but in this author's hands is simply fascinating.  

From her youth Minnie was always sharp and forward thinking.  She grew up a Danish princess, married the Russian heir, Alexander, and ultimately became Empress.  She came to love her adopted country and tried as best she could to help both her husband and son with their work as rulers of a people who over time, in response to various edicts passed down, became increasingly unhappy and thus the seeds of revolution were planted.

The only thing missing was a family tree at the beginning of the book.  The Romanovs were a big family and it would have been nice to refer back to it while reading.   However, I would very strongly recommend this book even without the family tree, to anyone.    

Many thanks to NetGalley, the publisher and the author for a review copy.  This is my honest opinion.
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This was a fascinating look at the Romanov family. It was fast paced in the beginning and beautifully written, though the second half of the book dragged on a bit. I have always been fascinated by the Romanovs and it was nice to read a book from a different point of view than the usual. I loved the way the author portrayed the opulence and riches of the Roman court during this time period. If you enjoy Russian history and the Romanovs, this book is worth the read.
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I was nervous when I first opened this. Another whiney woman that doesn't want to get married, but then falls in love. Great! *sarcasm*. However, immediately this book took a different turn. The main character, Maria, is so much more. Having lost her first one and adjusting to her new one she faces trial after trial all while becoming the power behind her husband. Her character jumped out in this book and made me want to read more about the real woman, as well as more by this author (shockingly this is my first C.W. Gortner book). I can't wait to read more.
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Loved this gripping historical fiction of the Romanov legacy. Learned much about the last Russian tsars, told with humanity and flair. Wonderful and captivating description of the aristocracy and opulence in palaces of St. Petersburg, with its spiraling downfall at the hands of the oppressed Bolsheviks. Amazing characters, interesting family feuds, and altogether fast paced. Thank you NetGalley for this reader copy edition. All opinions are my own.
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We all know the tale of the doomed Romanov family, but many have never heard it from the point of view of its last great matriarch. The Romanov Empress covers the life of Maria Feodorovna, beginning near her sixteenth birthday and ending with her death. Her public life began as a Danish princess, the second-born daughter meant for a life of servitude. Little did she know it would be to the Russian people. Her grit, strength, perseverance and honor helped maintain the Romanov family's strong popularity in the 1800's, and that same honor may have led to its ultimate demise. This book is a joy for historical fiction fans, and will leave them begging to learn more about this fascinating part of history.

**Thank you NetGalley for an advanced copy of this novel.
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I chose this book because I'd visited St. Petersburg last year. Years ago, in junior high, we studied Russoan history. This book brought it all to life. I'd actually visited many of the places mentioned in the book, but they were just museums and tourist attractions. Reading this book, I saw how the rooms were used for dancing and parties and for everyday living. When there, I saw larger-than-life-size portraits of Dagmar, Sasha and their children. This book made them real people whose lives weren't as charmed as they appeared. 
The main point I took away was that, although they led an opulent lifestyle, ruling was never easy.
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I love Russian history. I was in 11th grade when I first learned about Russia and the reign of the Tsars. The lavishness, the intrigues, the jewels, the deaths. It all amazed and intrigued me, but it was the reign of the last Tsar,  Nicholas the Second and Alexandra and their family, that has captured my attention the most. So when this book became available on NetGalley and I realized it was about Nicholas' mother, I jumped at the chance to read it. And I will tell you, I was not disappointed. 

 This is a story of Princess Dagmar of Denmark, who became Tsarina Maria Feodorovna when she married Prince Alexander [who then became Tsar Alexander the 3rd when his father was assassinated on his way to the Winter Palace] and her life in the palaces of Russia and how she raised her family, loved her husband and helped him rule Russia and then how she survived after his death at the age of 49] and tried to help her son, Nicholas the Second rule Russia when it became clear he was not even remotely ready to take the throne. 

I had always thought that Nicholas was ill-equipped to take the throne in Russia and that his wife [who he seemed to adore, but this story shines a light on just how tempestuous that relationship really was - Alexandra was also ill-equipped to be a princess/Tsarina {both Minnie and Sasha were against the marriage as they did not think that she was possessed of the right character to be Empress of Russia} and it shows over and over and over and never more than when she introduces the mystic Rasputin to the court] was also not a great Tsarina [see anything to do with Rasputin], but the history books don't talk about a lot of things that were behind the scenes. I truly believe that Nicholas' inability to yield [and listen to those who were wiser than he was] and Alexandra's love of Rasputin and her willingness to put him before anything else is what brought the Tsar-reign to its horrible demise. 

Tsarina Maria [Minnie] was often headstrong and opinionated and often that does not work in her favor. But I never doubted her love of Sasha [Alexander the 3rd], of her children [even the difficult ones] and of Russia, the land that began as not hers but one that she grew to love and adore and was bereft to leave at the end. She had strength that most women would envy and the idea that she outlived her assassinated son by 10 years is heartbreaking in itself. 

This was a very well done book - it had so many parts of that particular history that I didn't know and I was just soaking it all up and it was interesting to see how correct I was in my assumptions of just what Nicholas and Alexandra really did and how inappropriate they truly were to rule Russia. 
I loved learning about Minnie and her life and even though I felt [at one point] that this could have been about 2 hours shorter [the audiobook is almost 18 hours], I don't regret reading this and I certainly don't regret that 2 hours, no matter how I felt when I was reading it. 

Thank you to Ballentine Books and NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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I just LOVE a good historical fiction and this book did not disappoint. I've been super interested in the history of the Romanov family lately  and this book follows the life of Tsarina Maria Feodorovna through her rise to Tsarina and the subsequent fall of the Romanov empire at the hand of her son.  Think balls, gowns, palaces... to nothing. It's top to bottom a great telling of the end of the Romanov empire.  If you too are interested in this fascinating royal family of Russia I highly recommend this book... but also you MUST check out I Was Anastasia which is probably my favorite book so far this year and I thought The Romanov Empress was a great companion read to that book. (please note, an Advanced Review Copy of this book was provided to me in exchange for my honest opinion)
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The Romanov Empress is a fictional story based on the life of Empress Maria Feodorovna and narrated by the mother of Russia's prior tsar.  Empress Maria Feodorovna was the Princess Dagmar of Denmark before marrying the heir to the Russian throne.  She goes by "Minnie" and her tale starts of when she is nineteen. 

This story was fascinating and I was fascinated with the whole tale but I loved how the author gave the reader the right feel of the setting of that time period in Russia.  It had everything from lavish living, to the Russian royal jewels and the culture to disease and war. This story was just absolutely amazing. I enjoyed following the Empress life in Russia from the palace to saving their empire. The Empress had to face many struggles throughout the book but she proved herself to be a resilient and determined woman and an even bolder leader. Especially, as she has to witnesses the collapse of the Romanov dynasty and try to hold her family together. The book is a page turner from the politics, to the strong family bonds that include inner family drama with trickery. It is well written and I recommend this book to all including those who love to read period pieces.
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