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Blog Tour: The Romanov Empress by C. W. Gortner: A Book Review

The Romanov Empress by C.W. Gortner

Publication Date: July 10, 2018
Ballantine Books
Hardcover; 448 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: This book was given to me by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.
 Synopsis: 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 her husband’s 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 II 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.

    My Review: Minnie has always believed in marrying for love and not for a political alliance. The day comes when Minnie meets Nicholas, the tsarevich of Russia. She immediately falls in love with him. However, her romance is short-lived when Nicholas dies. On his deathbed, Nicholas wishes for Minnie to marry his brutish brother, Alexander. Because Minnie’s fiance dies, she is seen as a widow and no longer a suitable candidate for eligible princes. Minnie is forced to confront the choice of no longer marrying for love but for comfort and stability. With the urging of her mother and Nicholas’s wish, she accepts Alexander’s proposal.

     Minnie and Alexander do not love each other at first. Gradually, they begin to find endearing qualities in each other and form a loving relationship. They have many children. However, Minnie’s role as a wife, mother, and empress is not completely happy. Outside the palace walls, there are rebels who are determined to bring the Romanov family down. She survives a few assassination attempts. 

     When her husband dies at the age of forty-nine, the Russian throne is in the hands of Minnie’s eldest son Nicholas II. Nicholas II is unprepared to rule. Nicholas relies on Minnie to help him run the state. However, he is eventually influenced by his wife Alexandra. Minnie and Alexandra do not get along and have different beliefs. Minnie is forced to sit on the sidelines and watch the gradual fall of the Romanov dynasty.

     I thought that Maria Feodorovna was a fleshed-out character. She goes through many transformations. When we first meet her, she is a naive, idealistic, and romantic princess of Denmark. When her first love dies, she is a woman who marries for security and a political alliance. When she marries Alexander and becomes his empress, all she wants to do is have fun. She loves to gossip with her best friend, Miechen, and dance all night. When her son takes the throne, she witnesses many court traditions that she has always upheld being broken. Minnie sees the decline of the dynasty and does everything she can to save it.

     Minnie does have her flaws. She is very judgemental, especially when it comes to Alexandra. She can be cruel to her daughter-in-law. She has no sympathy for her. She refuses to give Alexandra the crown jewels that befits her right as empress. She always has a bad word to say about her so that it strains Minnie’s relationship with her children who sympathize with Alexandra. 

     I thought that the author did a great job in portraying Minnie’s and Alexandra’s relationship. They are very different. They have different personalities, beliefs, and goals. Alexandra is timid and shy. She wants to have a quiet life outside the Romanov court. Minnie is confident and thrives within the imperial court. Alexandra thinks that Minnie is an overbearing mother-in-law. However, Minnie abounds to the rules of the Russian court. She believes that she earns the position as the First Premier Lady in Russia because she is the senior female and is the woman with the most experience. Alexandra is deeply religious and believes that Rasputin is a powerful magical healer. Minnie does not have that kind of faith and thinks Rasputin is a conman. They also have different political beliefs. Minnie disapproves when Alexandra interferes in politics and believes that these decisions may bring about the dynasty’s fall.

     The Romanov Empress is about a woman who attempts to maintain tradition within the Russian imperial court. She must learn to cope as her children break away from these traditions that she grew up on in order to form their own happiness. Minnie must also bear the tragic fate of witnessing the end of the Romanovs. Minnie is a survivor. At the end of the novel, it is clear that Minnie loves her country. Everything she does is for Russia, and she was unwilling to leave it behind. 

     Overall, The Romanov Empress does a superb job in making Maria Feodorovna come alive. The writing is very eloquent and elegant. Mr. Gortner also breathes new life into the Russian imperial court with all their customs and traditions. I also thought that he did a great job in portraying the mindset of the Romanovs. There were times in The Romanov Empress where I thought some parts were rushed. Because it was a big book and Minnie had a long life, I could understand why Mr. Gortner rushed these parts in order to speed the plot along. Still, after reading The Romanov Empress Mr. Gortner proves that he is the king of historical fiction! This novel is a sumptuous feast for historical fiction lovers that you do not want to miss and easily one of the top novels of 2018! The Romanov Empress is perfect for those who love books about one woman who stood solid in the midst of chaos and tragedy.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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Praise for The Romanov Empress

     “Gortner’s mesmerizing historical novel (following The Vatican Princess) depicts the remarkable life of the mother of the last Russian tsar. This insightful first-person account of the downfall of the Romanov rule will appeal to history buffs; at its core, it’s the powerful story of a mother trying to save her family and an aristocrat fighting to maintain rule in a country of rebellion, giving it an even broader appeal.” —Publishers Weekly

     “A sweeping saga that takes us from the opulence and glamor of Tsarist Russia to the violent, tragic last days of the Romanovs. C. W. Gortner breaks new ground here, skillfully painting an intimate, compelling portrait of this fascinating empress and her family.” —Stephanie Dray, New York Times bestselling author of America’s First Daughter

     “The Romanov Empress has all the glitter and mystery of a Faberge egg, the outer decadence and beauty of Imperial Russia unfolding to reveal the mysteries and horrors within. The waning days of a doomed dynasty are recounted by the vivacious but tough Danish princess who would become one of Russia’s most revered tsarinas, only to see her line end in war and revolution. Gortner pens a beautiful tribute to a lost world, weaving a tale sumptuous as a Russian sable.” —Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Alice Network

    “A vivid, engaging tale of Tsarina Maria Feodorovna, the mother of Russia’s last Tsar, her loves and her heartbreaks, bringing the troubled final decades of the Russian Empire to life.” —Eva Stachniak, author of The Winter Palace

About the Author

    C. W. Gortner holds an MFA in writing, with an emphasis on historical studies, from the New College of California. He is the internationally acclaimed and bestselling author of Mademoiselle Chanel, The Queen’s Vow, The Confessions of Catherine de Medici, The Last Queen, The Vatican Princess, and Marlene, among other books. He divides his time between Northern California and Antigua, Guatemala.

   To learn more about his work and to schedule a book group chat with him, please visit his website. You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

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


    During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a copy of The Romanov Empress to one lucky reader! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on August 10th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

  Romanov Empress


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