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Ratings and Book Reviews (3 7 star ratings
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  • 1 person found this review helpful

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    A regal Romanov read

    The story Princess Dagmar of Denmark who went on to become the infamous Tsarina Maria Fedorovna. The story covers The life, love and history of “Minnie’s life. While I was familiar with the Romanov Dynasty I have never enjoyed hard core historical novels. However the author has taken a far different approach and takes the liberty of telling the story from Minnie’s perspective. While some of the writing may not be true, the historical events are. This made reading the book far more enjoyable for me and I could relate to her story, heartbreaks, and love of all things family. While a longer book, and knowing full well how the story ultimately ends, you will find that you can’t put it down and don’t want the book to end. A brilliant approach to telling the story. If you like historical fiction, this is your Summer read!
  • 1 person found this review helpful

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    Beautifully written and well researched

    I received an ARC of this novel from NetGalley. The Romanov Empress is the fictionalized story of Tsarina Maria Feodorovna, wife of Alexander III and mother of Nicholas II, the last Romanov Tsar. The story is told from her point of view, and starts with her childhood as Princess Dagmar of Denmark. Born in the mid 1800's, her family, like most in Europe at the time, intermarried, making their family reunions interesting. Her older sister married The Prince of Wales, Queen Victoria's heir, and became Queen consort, her older brother the King of Denmark, and her younger brother became King of Greece. Related by marriage to the German Kaiser, this also made WWI, and the eventual downfall of the Romanov's very interesting. Maria was a very strong woman. Although she was a Princess, the Kingdom of Denmark was not wealthy like the Romanov's, and she was raised in what we would say was a "normal" manner. She and her siblings had chores, their Mother made their clothes, and they did not have palaces full of servants. Maria had originally been engaged to Alexander's older brother, Nicholas (aka Nixa). Nixa died of meningitis, and his dying wish was that his brother, Alexander, marry Dagmar. Although neither was interested in the other, they both loved Nixa so much that they did indeed marry and Maria (the name she adopted after converting to Orthodoxy) and Alexander feel deeply in love with each other. Maria was a most beloved Empress of Russia. Despite her Danish background, she truly loved the Russian people, and endeared herself to them. She became the head of the Russian Red Cross and started the Russian version of the Humane Society for the fair treatment of animals. This was a volatile time in Russia. Alexander's father had freed the serfs, but this was not a well thought out plan, and the uneducated, unskilled serfs flocked to the cities to find better paying jobs. This was happening all over the world, but the staggering size of the Russian Empire amplified the situation, and groups fought and protested for more self-rule and the establishment of a Duma. Even before the Communist Revolution, the Nihilists became known for their bombs and attempts at killing the Emperor and his family. They succeeded in killing Maria's FIL, Alexander II. This event, and the overall fear of assassination and bombing would be present for the rest of the Romanov reign. The one part of her life that Maria had trouble with was her children. Although their house was filled with love and respect, her children did what they wanted when it came to marriage. Most famously, her son, the Tsaravich, Nicholas who would become the last Romanov Emperor. He married Alexandra of Hesse, a German principality. Maria was famously anti-German, as were the Russian people, and from the beginning, she and Alexandra did not get along. This animosity increased as Alexandra gave birth to 4 girls before giving birth to the Tsaravich Alexei who suffered from hemophilia and was sickly from birth. Maria's husband, the Tsar, died young-ish, and Maria didn't think that Nicholas was ready to be the Emperor. She tried to guide him, as she had been a confidant of her husband, but her son had fallen under the spell of his wife, who was herself under the spell of Rasputin. This book doesn't go too far into the Rasputin legend, as it is Maria's story, but you get the sense how distraught Maria was at watching that family disintegrate from the outside. The story then moves through the outbreak of WWI and the Russian Revolution of 1918. What is apparent is that Nicholas III was ill prepared to lead Russia into the modern world. He inability to adapt to changing world attitudes and political waves guaranteed the end of the Romanov's. Maria tried desperately to save her family, her Empire, and the Russian people, but to no avail. This book was very well written and researched. As a huge fan of historical fiction, I always do my own research to see how true to life these fictionalized accounts are. Mr. Gortner is himself a self-professed Romanov fan, remembering a book about them from his childhood. It is easy to understand how these families must have felt during this time period--what in America was known as the Gilded Age, where excess was celebrated and the rich industrialists became richer and were America's version of royalty, but in Europe, this same excess was the ultimate downfall of many of these Royal families. Finally, look up photos of Maria--she was undoubtedly one of the most beautiful women in the world. I highly recommend this book if you love historical fiction, especially the Romanov's. I'm in love with this book, and I can't wait to read more by Mr. Gortner.
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    Highly enjoyable

    Love the story line in this historical fiction. I even learned a bit and was very interested to explore Russian history further. The narrator was excellent a perfect voice.

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