It descends into the infamous tragedy that befell the imperial family. But The Romanov Empress isn’t a sob-fest; rather, it’s a lush character study of Maria Feodorovna and the fatally flawed life she cherishes to her dying breath ... Gortner tightly weaves international contradictions into the foundations of Minnie’s character, making this impetuous royal a realistic character ... Gortner lavishes just as much attention on the emotional highs of his heroine’s life as the eventual agonies ... Gortner has constructed a masterful portrait of imperial Russia ... individual tragedies rock the whole family unit, one that is doomed to fail oh-so-beautifully.
His ability to weave what reads as a simple tale from such complex historical and familial storylines is impressive. With historical fiction, particularly an era so flush with royals and revolutionaries, there is a danger in getting lost in details and shortchanging character development. Happily, Gortner avoids that trap ... Maria’s life as a royal reads like a historical soap opera. The Romanov Empress is blessed with a memorable cast, especially its leading lady.
Maria is fairly good-hearted, but forget about her checking her privilege. According to her, the czar and imperial family were ordained to rule by God. There is no scene in the book more heartbreaking or queasily funny than when Cossacks break into Maria’s bedroom in the middle of the night, and she reminds them that she’s the dowager empress—though by then, it hardly matters. The imperial downfall has already begun ... Gortner is wonderfully subtle, but given the times we live in, the problems are obvious: When a tiny percentage of people hold most of the wealth, it leads to demagoguery. The Romanov Empress relates an important piece of history. It’s also a warning about what comes when a nation is marred by rampant inequality.
Through the voice of Maria, Gortner succeeds in adding a new perspective to the well-known story of Nicholas, Alexandra, and Rasputin. As a sister, wife, mother, and empress, she is a fierce and dynamic narrator ... A solid recommendation for readers of historical fiction, especially those who favor the lives of kings and queens.
I was captivated by the first half of this novel and I loved watching Maria come into her own as Russia’s empress. Her relationship with Sasha is quite lovely to behold, especially once they realize they actually do love one another. Unfortunately, I found myself beginning to lose interest about midway through the story ... There are some fascinating tidbits in the novel’s second half, but most of it was extremely hard to get through ... the Russia he creates feels very real ... nothing feels overly sensationalized ... This is a sizable novel, at just under 450 pages, and there’s a part of me that wonders if it really needed to be that long. I’m all for big books, but they have to hold my interest in a way this one didn’t always manage to do.
Though many are familiar with the story of Nicholas and Alexandra and their doomed children, Gortner...shines a rose-tinted fictional spotlight on Empress Maria Feodorovna ... Gortner, an experienced hand at recreating the unique aura of a particular time and place, will deftly sweep historical-fiction fans into this glamorous, turbulent, and ultimately tragic chapter in history.
Politics and war form the backdrop of a story more closely focused on court gossip, family tensions, and the arrogance and isolation that led the Romanovs to their doom. 'We existed in a dream,' Maria reflects, 'enclosed in our lacquered splendor.' A briskly narrated tale of power and revolution.
...mesmerizing ... 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.