Review: The Romanov Empress: A Novel of Tsarina Maria Feodorovna by C.W. Gortner

I have been a fan of C.W. Gortner for quite a few years. He always writes about interesting women in history. Though he writes historical fiction, his novels have just the right amount of fiction and history to make them both readable and realistic.

Not to mention every single one of his book covers are to DIE for. Whoever his cover artist is, has a fantastic eye for color, detail, and mood. When THE ROMANOV EMPRESS came up for review, this was a no brainer—100% yes.

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 (summary from Goodreads). 

WWI is one of my favorite periods in history, thought my interest is mostly rooted in how it transformed the English social structure, the rising tension brewing in Russia and what happened to the Romanov princess, holds equal interest for me. I was thrilled with how much history was in this book, but yet they story wasn’t completely overrun with historical facts.

For me, my interest has always been with the little Princess Anastasia and her parents, but this book focuses on an Romanov that I knew next to nothing about which is what kept me reading. I was totally invested in her character arch as well as her history. I loved reading about a person I knew next to nothing about, even it some of it was fiction.

Gortner has such a great was a weaving history with fiction—he is such an excellent writer and his ability to write about women with a ‘woman’s voice’ is flawless. Sometimes when men write about women or from a woman’s perspective, it rings false or theorized rather than real and relatable—-but this is not the case with Gortner. This story is told in the first person, so it made it all the more intimate for me as a reader.

Even if you don’t know anything about Russian history, or WWI, it’s pretty clear how this story is going to unfold. It’s tragic and sad but yet so well written that you can’t help but keep reading. Once I started reading this one, I couldn’t put it down. It was completely wrapped up in the history as well as the story of Minnie. Anytime a Gortner book comes up, I am always on board to read it and this book is a testimony of his writing skills—I am never let down or disappointed with his novels.

Be sure to check out the other stops on the book tour for guest posts and interviews with the author!

Challenge/Book Summary:

Book: The Romanov Empress by C.W. Gortner 

Recommendation: 5 out of 5

Genre: Historic fiction, Russian history

Memorable lines/quotes: 

Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, July 10
Review & Interview at Clarissa Reads it All
Feature at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, July 11
Review at Just One More Chapter

Thursday, July 12
Review at A Bookish Affair

Friday, July 13
Feature at Bookfever

Monday, July 16
Review at 100 Pages a Day

Tuesday, July 17
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Wednesday, July 18
Review at Creating Herstory
Feature at So Many Books, So Little Time

Thursday, July 19
Review at The Lit Bitch

Friday, July 20
Review at Bri’s Book Nook

Monday, July 23
Review at Books and Glamour

Tuesday, July 24
Review at Dressed to Read

Wednesday, July 25
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective

Thursday, July 26
Review at Donna’s Book Blog

Friday, July 27
Review at Historical Fiction with Spirit

Monday, July 30
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews

Tuesday, July 31
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Wednesday, August 1
Feature at Let Them Read Books

Thursday, August 2
Review at Curling Up By the Fire

Friday, August 3
Review at Broken Teepee

Monday, August 6
Review at A Book Geek

Tuesday, August 7
Review at What Cathy Read Next

Thursday, August 9
Review at Caryn, the Book Whisperer

Friday, August 10
Review at Two Gals and a Book

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