The Romanov Empress

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 10 Aug 2018

Member Reviews

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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The Romanov Empress is one of the best examples of historical fiction I have read in a long time. It has everything - exquisite details, a compelling time period, a charismatic historical figure, and extensive research seamlessly compiled into an amazing story of excess, privilege, and politics. Mr. Gortner works his magic once again to bring readers back to Imperial Russia and allows you to view its downfall from a different perspective, lamenting what was and what could have been. It is a fascinating story, one that captures your mind and your heart to the detriment of everything else while reading.

Many an author has tackled the fall of the Romanov dynasty in some fashion, usually from the last tsar's and his family's perspective as they focus on the tragedy of their deaths. Mr. Gortner instead opts to focus on the final dynastical matriarch, Maria Feodorovna. In doing so, we get a better idea of life before, during, and after the Russian Revolution. Moreover, we get a different look at Nicholas II, his beloved wife, and their children, one that diminishes the myth surrounding this doomed family. It all makes for a wealth of information that helps explain the complicated history of the Russian peasant versus the Russian monarchy to show how many years in the making the Revolution was.

Moreover, while the story revolves around Maria and her family, Mr. Gortner is even-handed in showing the mistakes both sides made along the path to revolution. He does not hide her husband's policies and use of brute force designed to root out opposition against the royal family. Nor does he hide just how ineffectual Nicholas II is. What is most surprising is how he holds nothing back in regards to Alexandra and how her domineering attitude and abject refusal to see reason about her husband, family, and Rasputin exacerbated a political situation that was already tenuous and had a direct connection to the fate her family suffered. The whole thing reads like a juicy soap opera, but it is a soap opera backed up by a plethora of research. In my mind, this only makes the story that much more compelling.

Alongside the complex politics is this story of Maria herself, a young woman of royalty raised in a household that did not have a lot of money, comparatively speaking. It was only as she approached marrying age wherein her father inherited the Denmark throne, thrusting her virtually overnight into the intrigues, etiquette, and complicated relationships that hallmark a life of royalty. Unlike other coming-of-age stories, which is essentially what The Romanov Empress is, Minnie did not question her role in furthering those ties by the requirement that she marry. She may have hoped for a love match, but she did not hesitate when duty overshadowed that. Converting her faith to Russian Orthodox, learning a new language, absorbing new customs, leaving her family to live among strangers - none of it phased her. Later, we watch her tackle challenge after challenge with the same pragmatic approach, whether it is assassination attempts, challenges to her authority, or the demise of her entire world. She was a formidable woman, worthy of everyone's respect regardless of how you feel about royalty in this day and age.

Then there is the appeal of the Russian royal society and lifestyle. The jewels, the art, the fabrics, the food, the ceremony - Mr. Gortner brings it all back to life in a way that makes you lament its loss. The details are vivid, so much so that he makes whatever he is describing seem almost too amazing. You find yourself looking up the palaces and other residences, the famous jewelry, and as many images as you can find of the people and their dresses just to make sure that none of it is a fantastic dream. The wealth of this family is mind-boggling, as is the fact that the remaining Romanov family fled and lived the rest of their lives essentially in poverty. While some readers may feel they got their just desserts, maintaining that much wealth while their nation essentially starved, but I cannot help but feel saddened by what the world lost when Lenin took power.

The Romanov Empress is the type of novel that is virtually impossible to ignore. You have difficulties finding a good stopping place while reading, and you constantly think of it when you are not reading it. You lament the fact that you were either not alive or not aware of the remaining Romanovs while they were still alive. While you might not approve of any type of monarchical rule, you cannot help but feel that it would be awesome to be able to see the Romanov splendor in its heydey. Minnie's story haunts you as you constantly ponder all of the "what ifs" that make up her history and wonder how different the world would be had any part of her story been different. Tsars who have been dead for over a century seem more real to you than the current farcical U.S. leaders. Mr. Gortner has given new life to a long-dead female force of nature, and the world is a little better as a result.
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This book is my favorite historical fiction book that I’ve read not just this year but in a very long time. The vivid details and descriptions really pulled me in and made it impossible to get out of my head.
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Loved this book. You always hear about the Russian Revolution and the killing of Tsar Nicholas and his family, especially was Anastasia killed or did she live. But I have never heard the history of The Dawager Emperess Maria Feodorovna. We never studied this time in history, I think we may have touched it one day in history class. So it is very interesting to me. And who does not love Disney’s Anastasia??!!

Although this was highly fictionalized with conversations, i learned a lot about the connections between the Russian, English, Greek, Danish, and German royals. I have seen pictures of King George and Tsar Nicholas, and yes, they could have been brothers ( FYI - check out a recent picture of Duchess Kate’s brother, who I know is no relation, but just look and then look at the one of King George and Tsar Nicholas together—— told ya!). But I had no idea of the, shall I say hatred, between Maria and Alexandra, talk about ice cubes. But very interesting to learn Alexandra was so authoritative in the Russian court. But it was Maria that tried to hold the Empire together.

This book was good, I would highly recommend it. It has just the right amount of history, drama, and romance. It definitely peeked my interest to read more about the Romanovs and the Russian Empire. 

Thank you to NetGalley and C. W. Gortner for this great read.  I am not required to give a favorable review.
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Amazing amazing book that kept me wanting to hear more about Minnie. The author has written fabulous books about other royals throughout history such as Catherine de Medici and the Spanish Queen Juana and this book was just as amazing as his previous ones. I have read every book on Romanov history and the author’s storytelling of Empress Maria was fantastic.
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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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I love the story. The details are lush and wonderful.  This author's writing gets better with every novel. If you like history fiction give this author a go.
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I have a fascination with history in general. I really love the mystery that has always surrounded the Romanov family.   This was a lengthy book but in the spirit of full disclosure.....it was AMAZING.  I couldn't put it down.  The way the story is told from Maria Feodorovna's point of view adds so much to the plot.  C.W. Gortner wove a story that combined truth and embellishments into a wholly believable tale of intrigue, mystery, family, murder, and politics.  5 stars all the way!
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Covering decades in the doomed Romanov Court, veteran author C.W. Gortner uses his many strengths as a historical fiction writer to illuminate the life of Dagmar of Denmark, who became known to history by her adopted name of Empress Maria Feodorovna. Mother to the last Tsar of Russia, this kind and clever woman left an impact all her own both on her family and on the country she adopted as her own.

Dagmar, who usually answered to the name Minnie though she had a plethora of nicknames, led a fascinating life. The second daughter of an impoverished and unexpected king of Denmark, her story is full of both heartbreak and quiet determination. Fiancee first to Tsarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich, but the eventual wife of his brother Emperor Alexander III, her romantic life was unpredictable and tangled. Her many allegiances -- to her beloved home country, then to Nixa, then her autocratic husband, and finally to her children and grandchildren -- made the intersections of her identity relatable and recognizable to modern readers. She was a woman pulled in many directions who did the best she could for her country and for her descendants.

Life in the Romanov court is brought to vibrant reality under Gortner's pen, albeit with a few improvisations on the factual. Minnie's introduction to Russian culture and perspective is fresh and atmospheric; seeing Russia through the eyes of the tsars and their family is memorable. Some details and events have been adjusted, moved, or ignored to streamline the narrative and the authorial decisions make sense; Minnie's life was long and convoluted but the gist of her story is contained within The Romanov Empress. She's presented as a whole person; fallible and flawed, but one who no doubt tried to stave off the inevitable decline of her 400-year-old dynasty.

Large in scope but without sacrificing the finer details, The Romanov Empress paints a realistic and researched version of Dagmar. Her personality and opinions shine through, even when overruled by her more despotic spouse; a figure in the Russian court for most of her life, it's easy to get lost in the romanticized version of this period in history. But Maria was a real woman, who loved, lost and then tried to find her grand-daughter after the worst horror befell her extended family. Through all the stages of her public life -- impoverished princess to wary tsarevna to strong-willed tsarina -- Minnie never lost her quiet strength or her deeply-held beliefs. She was an impressive woman and Gortner shows her in all her imperfect humanity.
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Thank you to Netgalley for giving me the chance to read and review, "The Romanov Empress"
by C. W. Gortner. As a lover of historical fiction novels, this one truly blew me away. I can also say with 100 percent certainty that this is the best book of the year and my most new favorite work of historical fiction. I have never read a historical fiction novel that touched so many of my emotions.  I loved Maria Feodorovna. She was fearless and always stood up for what she believed in, despite women not having many rights in the 1800's and 1900'.s. The Romanovs were very admirable. There really is not enough wonderful things that I can say about this novel. If you love historical fiction, this is the holy grail.
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Romanov Empress is written about the life of Tsarina Maria Feodovna as if she was telling the story.  I had my hesitations regarding a historical fiction book  written in the first person.  And to be honest,  my opinion wasn’t changed after reading Romanov Empress.  I do admire the amount of research that C.W. Gortner did.  He covered a lot of history.  It must have been a  challenge to write this book in the 1st person without distorting history since there may have been events happening that Maria Feodovna was unaware.  I respect authors for taking the time and effort to educate and entertain those of us who enjoy historical fiction. 
	  I am sure those who like books written like a diary account will really enjoy this book.  It is always a temptation to give a 5 star reviews  when receiving a free copy.  However, while there were a lot of positive things that could be said about Gortner,  Romanov Empress  missed the mark for me.   I had a hard time finishing it. I received a free copy in exchange for my honest review. 

I posted review on Amazon and Good reads. Because I was not impressed with this book, I limited my reviews to those two sites.
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I found The Romanov Empress to be a fascinating read from cover to cover.  The detailed research done by C. W. Gortner is extraordinary.  He has, changed some dates and anglicized many of the Russian names, but I felt, having read a lot about the time of Nicholas II and Alexandra and, of course their execution but not much about his parents, he gave us a precise story.  I have always been fascinated by Russian history and by now you are aware of my passion for historical novels....this detailed intriguing story did not disappoint me, in fact it makes me want to find more novels and non-fiction about this period in time. I was aware of the intermarriage of the European royals, but this telling put these marriages in perspective. The world, in all ways, was at a major turning point and now, a century plus years later, is still in turmoil. Can we change our destinies, I doubt it, but shouldn’t we learn from history or are we destined to keep making mistakes!!!!  Oops, seems a bit deep doesn’t it....perhaps Tzarist thinking!  Let’s get to our story....

It is basically a love story of a man and woman who happen to rule Russia and their children and their children’s children.  It is also the story of a very strong woman, “Minnie” (the Tsarina), who was instrumental, to a great extent, in forward thinking of women’s rights as well as preserving, above all else, the Romanov dynasty, which she supported, in all ways, until the very end. We learn about her sister’s marriage to Bertie, The Prince of Wales, Queen Victoria, the Russian court, exquisite descriptions of the social protocol of the time, the fashion, much from Charles Frederick Worth, the art, the jewelry, oh the jewelry, and, of course, the palaces.  And mostly the pride in upholding the centuries of Romanov rule and then seeing this regime destroy itself....so very sad!  Do I recommend the book, yes, yes and yes.

I will definitely read more of Gortner’s novels, I’m considering his Mademoiselle Chanel as an upcoming nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club selection
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