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The Romanov Empress: A Novel of Tsarina Maria Feodorovna

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  3,511 ratings  ·  675 reviews
Narrated by the mother of Russia's last tsar, this 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 its final years.
Paperback, 427 pages
Published July 10th 2018 by Ballantine Books
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Erin Jennifer,

Can you name a recently released epic fantasy that isn't perfect for fans of GAME OF THRONES or a time travel romance that isn't…more

Can you name a recently released epic fantasy that isn't perfect for fans of GAME OF THRONES or a time travel romance that isn't the next OUTLANDER?

I don't mean to be rude, but these comparisons are a marketing tactic and whether one appreciates it or not, Gregory has a bankable reputation as a writer of historical fiction inspired by the lives of real-life royals.

Having said this, I feel the comparison ends there in this particular case. I mean no slight to Gregory, but the two authors have very different creative voices. I found no factual issue with Gortner's work and feel the emotional drama he creates unfolds plausibly within the framework of historical fact.

Notes on me: I have reviewed historical fiction for the better part of ten years. I am a freelancer and according to Goodreads, our tastes are 72% similar. (less)
C.W. My bibliography for this novel included over 150 sources, some of which I cite in the book's afterword. The facts are therefore readily verifiable to…moreMy bibliography for this novel included over 150 sources, some of which I cite in the book's afterword. The facts are therefore readily verifiable to anyone interested in doing so. That said, I did not consult Wikipedia, as I never consider it a reliable research source.


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Angela M
Jul 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a journey through Russian history from 1862 - 1918, the court of the Romanovs, who considered themselves ordained by God to rule. It’s compelling and dramatic and a fabulous way to read history through C.W. Gortner’s portrayal. I wish I could think of words better than compelling and dramatic to describe this book, but in truth it is these things. It’s the story of the Romanov dynasty, but in essence it’s Maria Feodorovna’s story. She was spirited , intelligent, beautiful, stubborn, a de ...more
Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
5 huge stars to The Romanov Empress! ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Historical fiction fans will not want to miss C.W. Gortner’s latest novel! I would also offer, if you enjoy perfect storytelling involving an enthralling and strong woman, this book is also for you.

The Romanov Empress is narrated by the mother of Russia’s last tsar. Maria (formerly “Minnie”) Feodorovna is born a Danish princess; however, while her family has rank due to title, it is low on funds. Her story begins when she is a teen, and her sister, Alix, i
Jan 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I admit that I’ve only read two of Gortner’s historical novels and enjoyed them both but this is far, far better than most historical novels I’ve read including his. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that Gortner is approaching Alison Weir territory. The Romanov Empress presents a peek at the era from 1862 through 1918 narrated by Tsarevna and eventual Tsarina, Maria Feodorovna formerly known as Dagmar of Denmark. Keep in mind that this is an imagined account so there are a few (very few) modific ...more
“Don’t you know
They’re talkin’ bout a revolution
It sounds like a whisper”

--“Talkin’ Bout a Revolution,” Tracy Chapman, Songwriters: Tracy Chapman

Danish princesses, the daughters of the man who would come to be Denmark’s King Christian IX, Marie Sophie Frederikke Dagmar, Minnie, or Dagmar to her father, and her older sister, Alexandra, Alix, were both predestined to marry into royalty. Alix, of course, would marry first, and married Edward VII (Albert Edward), known to his family
Holly  B
A compelling fictional story based on the life of Empress Maria Feodorovna and narrated by the mother of Russia's prior tsar.  She was the Princess Dagmar of Denmark before marrying the heir to the Russian throne.  She goes by "Minnie" and at the tender age of nineteen begins a life that will take her down many paths.

I was fascinated with the ambiance of the time period in Russia.  Luxurious living, the royal jewels and all the Russian culture to the heartbreak of disease and war, th
If you like your Russian Revolutions without all that unpleasantness about starving peasants and Bolshevik firing squads, this is the book for you. It follows the life of Empress Maria, wife to Alexander III and mother to the doomed Nicholas II. She was born Dagmar of Denmark-- called Minnie-- a minor princess in a royal line of diminished circumstances. When her father unexpectedly inherits the Danish throne, Minnie is arranged to marry the heir-apparent of Russia, Nicholas, but he dies before ...more
5 tragic stars
You can find my reviews here: https://yayareadslotsofbooks.wordpres...

Over the last week or so, I have been so very fortunate to have read two fantastic historical fiction novels, one about Patsy Jefferson and now this wonderful novel about the Russian Empress, Maria Fedorovna.

Maria Feodorovna (Dagmar of Denmark) was a Danish princess. Her parents were of royal blood yet somewhat impoverished. Through the lines of succession, Dagmar's father became the king of Denmark and his children went on to be mar
Jul 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Overall: This book is amazing!!! A story of love, power, history, passion, and war centered on the Romanovs. An incredible account of the life of Maria Feodorovna but also a detailed account of Russian history from 1862-1918. This is one of the best historical fiction novels I have read in a long time. Epic in scope with exquisite writing and depth of characters, I highly recommend to lovers of historical fiction, the Romanovs, Russian history, and anyone looking for an enthralling story of a st ...more
Jul 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Fantastic! Nicholas II and his family will always be one of history’s greatest tragedies. Revolutions don’t come about from one event, they come from many, many years of strife. It was interesting seeing these events unfold through Minnie’s eyes. She was a formidable woman that was as devoted to Russia as she was to her family. Gortner is a fantastic writer that puts life into his characters and enables history to come alive through his writing. Highly recommend.
May 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I received this via Goodreads Giveaways in exchange for an honest review. All my opinions are my own:).
My thoughts are scattered on this a bit so bear with me.

Initial reaction: SO GOOD. Wow.

Sometimes I just wanted to shake these people for the decisions they made. From a certain point, you can see why they did what they did and the circumstances that brought everything about but still...
Makes you wonder if Sasha had met with his father b
Sonja Arlow
2.5 stars

Maybe I should just admit to myself once and for all that I am just not that interested in the Romanovs.

I also don’t think the first person narrative worked very well. Empress Maria spent a lot more time discussing the royal jewels than contemplating the suffering of the Russian people that lead to the revolution. You don’t get to understand how and why the Russian people suffered more and more with each new tsar.

I mean who wants to read about starvin
Jan 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Interview with C. W. Gortner & Giveaway! Stop by and read interview with acclaimed best selling author C. W. Gortner and enter to win! One winner will receive a physical copy of any one of C. W. Gortner's books-- winner's choice! Giveaway starts midnight (tonight) 1/6/2019! Open to US residents only (sorry international readers!) Good luck!
Susan Johnson
Apr 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I will admit right up front that I am not a Russian history expert, in fact far from it. I have always shied away from it maybe because of the names, maybe because I am lazy. This is the most readable book about Russia I have ever read and I loved it. I had no idea of the main character, Tsarina Maria Feodorovna formerly known as Dagmar of Denmark, and the mother of the last Tsar, Nicholas, even existed. Sure I knew Nicholas had a mother but that's how far my knowledge went.

Maria wa
Kristy K
Oct 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love learning about history. Especially that of times and people that aren’t as well known as say, WWII or King Henry VIII. Yet as much as I love learning about it, reading about it can at times be a bore. Enter historical fiction. While, obviously, fictionalized these accounts are brought to life and give us a glimpse into what events may have been like (and hopefully educate us a little along the way).

Most of us know about the Romanov dynasty because of Catherine the Great, Peter the Great,
Frank Phillips
Jul 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic. Once again, Gortner proves he is a force to be reckoned with in this genre with this impeccably researched and detailed novel! This story gave me a perspective into the Romanov dynasty I'd never even considered as I am a bit embarrassed to admit, I knew little to nothing about Minnie, or Maria Feodorovna, prior to reading this book. What a treat it was to read Minnie's story, as she takes us back to when the Romanov imperial family were regaled and respected, leading us through three ...more
Rating: 4.5 stars rounded down to 4 stars

This book was riveting! I knew a proverbial car crash was eminent, but I couldn’t look away. Much has been written about the ill-fated Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Tsarina Alexandra; and the mystery surrounding their deaths and the deaths of their five children in 1918 during the Bolshevik years in Russia. I suspect that many readers are probably at least slightly familiar with this generation of the Imperial Russian Romanov dynasty. In The Roma
BAM The Bibliomaniac
Netgalley # 13

3.5 stars not quite a 4 for me

Many thanks go to C W Gortner, Ballantine Books, and Netgalley for the free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review.

This is the fictional retelling of Princess Dagmar of Denmark, Her Majesty Alix's older sister, who is affianced to Tsarevich Nixa but married his brother, Sasha. They became the parents of Tsar Nicolas of the Russian Revolution, which does take up the end of the book, but it is not the sol
Aug 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: release-2018
I was mesmerized by Empress Maria, a Danish girl from Denmark who was the mother of Russia’s last tsar, Nicholas. Beautifully written this novel transports you back in time with her marriage to Russia’s tsar through the extermination of her son and his family, along with another son marking the end of the Romanov Family Dynasty in power for 300 years. Eloquently spoken by the woman who fought to save it, her story was amazing to read. A dramatic page turner for me. I absolutely loved it! A must ...more
Gill Paul
Sep 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Some books I race through, eager to find out what happened next, but with The Romanov Empress, I knew what was going to happen and I read slowly, savouring every nuance. The Romanovs are one of my specialist subjects yet I learned a lot from this masterful fictional biography of Maria Feodorovna, known as Minnie, who goes from being a Danish princess to Tsaritsa of Russia and then to dowager empress after her husband’s death. She is the mother of the hapless last tsar Nicholas II, and watches wi ...more
Aug 06, 2018 rated it did not like it
I hate to whine (which will be news to my wife and several of my closest friends), but I read this book because my friend Maggie guilted me into it. Although to be fair, it didn't take much. I am a sucker for novels about my historical obsessions --- my dream novel would probably have Wallis Simpson, Richard III and Marie Antoinette all traveling together on the Titanic, only to wind up adrift in a lifeboat with Grand Duchess Anastasia and the Kaiser. Some enterprising fanfic writer should get on it. ...more
Joanna Smith
Wow, I loved this book so much! The characters were so engaging and the history jumped vividly off the pages. The passion, love and disputes between family and extended family members was so well written that it would relate to anyone in this century. I certainly could understand the complexities of the family dynamics the Romanovs went through. ‘The Romanov Empress’ explores family bonds, love, and loyalties and has a sad ending but is a wonderful retelling of Russian history and politics.
Nov 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I knew very little about the Romanov Family when I started this book. Literally, I knew the name, where they came from and not much more.

It took me a little bit to get into it but the last half of the book I was enthralled and didn't want to stop reading. The story of Tsarina Maria Feodorovna, I have to say, was an amazing one! I had no idea her sister was Queen of England and that she had quite the network of family not only in Russia but in other countries too. I was constantly goo
If you love historical fiction and royalty, this is a MUST read!! I have always been fascinated my the Romanovs and the mystery surrounding their deaths. The Romanov Empress tells the story of the mother of Russia's last tsar, Maria Feodorovna. I was instantly transported to the past by C.W. Gortner's amazingly descriptive writing of breathtaking palaces, royal intrigue and glamour along with some very sad and heartbreaking times. The amount of research he must have done for this book is stagger ...more
Pam Jenoff
Nov 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I highly recommend this story of the Danish princess who marries the Romanov heir and becomes the mother of the last Russian tsar. Gortner is a master of historical detail and arresting plot, and the birds-eye perspective of Maria Feodorovna as one of the greatest dynasties in history falls in truly gripping.
Jun 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: anyone interested in the Romanovs.
Shelves: russia
Fascinating fictional biography of Maria Feodorovna, tsarina of Russia. We see her grow from an awkward teenager, born Princess Dagmar of Denmark, to Dowager Empress of Russia, during the reign of her son, Nicholas II. We follow her story through the reigns of three emperors: her father-in-law, Alexander II, her husband, Alexander III, then her son, Nicholas, whose reign and subsequent abdication mark the end of the Romanov dynasty. Strangely enough, the fall of the Romanovs was prophesied by Ra ...more
James Martin
Dec 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I just finished “The Romanov Empress” by C.W. Gortner. Having read most of his books, I have to say that this is his best. A writer of this kind of subject faces several hurdles. One is world building. The historical setting involving all of Europe and its royalty is daunting, but it was created so effectively as to draw in the reader to time and place. A second challenge is to render the main character in all her strengths and weaknesses in a way that is fair to her and to history. The main cha ...more
My fifth novel takes place partially in late imperial Russia and when I saw CW Gortner had written a book about Empress Maria Feodorovna, I knew I had to pick it up as I've enjoyed many of his prior novels. Well, this book hit all the right notes and exceeded all of my expectations. Maria Feodorovna was the mother of the last tsar of Russia, Nicholas II, and her life was both fascinating and tragic, and Gortner details it all in memorable, moving detail. Because my novel takes place in the early ...more
This is a story of a young woman who came from impoverished royal family, became Russian tsarina and one of the wealthiest women in the world. In the end, she was forced to flee the country during the Russian Revolution, leaving her penniless and dependent on the charity of the British royal family.

This is a story of Princess Dagmar of Denmark, whose eldest son was the last Russian monarch. She marked the history as a resilient woman, who early on learned the Russian language, embrac
Carole P. Roman
Jul 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
CW Gortner writes enjoyable history. Princess Dagmar-Minnie- Maria Feodorovona comes alive in this book that takes her from an unknown Danish princess to the Empress of Russia and the mother of the ill-fated Nicholas II.
I enjoyed the way Gortner depicted how she embraced her new life, learned to love her husband, and raised her growing brood of Grand Dukes and Duchess as the night dimmed on the days of Emperors and Empresses and the blaze of revolution laid waste to their privileged world.
Jul 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone who likes historical fiction
Recommended to Carlissa by: Netgalley
I enjoyed this book, but I did have a hard time keeping track of all the Romanov relatives! Everyone seemed to have a nickname and it was hard to keep track of who was who. I liked the first half of the book better than the last half; Minnie, as Tsarina Maria Feodorovna was called, was more likable when she was young and first married to Sasha, who became the tsar. When Sasha died and their son, Nicky became Tsar, Minnie became very domineering and just plain unlikable. It was an interesting loo ...more
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Bestselling author C.W. Gortner holds an MFA in Writing, with an emphasis in Renaissance Studies. Raised in Spain and half Spanish by birth, he currently lives in Northern California. His books have been translated in over 20 languages to date.

He welcomes readers and is always available for reader group chats. Please visit him at for more information.
“After the night ended, she spun to me and yanked off her diadem. “There. I had my debut. I still hate parties.” 1 likes
“between us, she reclined with hers between her fingers. “I do love a cigarette with tea. It’s the style in Paris and Berlin. All the princesses smoke these days.” 0 likes
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