“It’s important to believe in something bigger than yourself.”
Title: The Secret Daughter of the Tsar
Author: Jennifer Laam
Series: First of a standalone set
Publication: October 22nd 2013 by St. Martin’s Griffin
Source: Publisher in exchange for a honest review
Summary from Goodreads:
A compelling alternate history of the Romanov family in which a secret fifth daughter—smuggled out of Russia before the revolution—continues the royal lineage to dramatic consequences
In her riveting debut novel, The Secret Daughter of the Tsar, Jennifer Laam seamlessly braids together the stories of three women: Veronica, Lena, and Charlotte. Veronica is an aspiring historian living in present-day Los Angeles when she meets a mysterious man who may be heir to the Russian throne. As she sets about investigating the legitimacy of his claim through a winding path of romance and deception, the ghosts of her own past begin to haunt her. Lena, a servant in the imperial Russian court of 1902, is approached by the desperate Empress Alexandra. After conceiving four daughters, the Empress is determined to sire a son and believes Lena can help her. Once elevated to the Romanov’s treacherous inner circle, Lena finds herself under the watchful eye of the meddling Dowager Empress Marie. Charlotte, a former ballerina living in World War II occupied Paris, receives a surprise visit from a German officer. Determined to protect her son from the Nazis, Charlotte escapes the city, but not before learning that the officer’s interest in her stems from his longstanding obsession with the fate of the Russian monarchy. Then as Veronica’s passion intensifies, and her search for the true heir to the throne takes a dangerous turn, the reader learns just how these three vastly different women are connected. The Secret Daughter of the Tsar is thrilling from its first intense moments until its final, unexpected conclusion.
AHHHHHH!!! Romanov alternate history? Where has this been all my life? Just… just… YAY! The Secret Daughter of the Tsar is exactly what it sounds like: A Romanov heir that no one knew existed – and yes, that means no Anastasia or Alexi (even though Anastasia is my favorite movie ever… shhh…) I was really drawn to this novel for two reasons besides the obvious one I’ve screamed about above. One, it is a smooth flow of three different women – all of whom have a key part to play. It was wonderful. Two, history and mystery! Some of my favorite rhyming words.
Veronica is a down on her luck professor who is attempting to piece together the history of Alexandra, the Empress of Russia. Veronica has always felt like an outsider, like she didn’t belong. She is an orphan, raised by her grandmother. Let’s just say, she learns of the possibility of a secret Romanov heir and jumps on the chance… chaos is eminent. Along with Veronica, we are introduced to Charlotte and Lena – women from Imperial Russia, whom, while in a different time period, set a path that brings this mystery to its head.
I love history, and, in all honesty, that was my favorite part of this book – and the sequel. It is a wild tapestry of threads spreading through time and across Europe, and there was nothing more satisfying than seeing it all come together in the end. Despite the fact that it was fairly easy to predict, because history – duh – there was still an element of surprise to certain events that made me catch my breath.
This story does require a faint suspension of disbelief, but if you can manage that, I think you’ll find yourself thoroughly enjoying a sprawling historical fiction novel. It is different, it is ambitious, and it is beautifully researched. This book is a matter of taste, if you like long winded books like Outlander, you’ll love this.
“A cluttered mind seeks solace in ritual and routine.”
Title: The Tsarina’s Legacy
Author: Jennifer Laam
Series: Second in a set of standalones
Publication: April 5th 2016 by St. Martin’s Griffin
Source: Publisher in Exchange for a honest review
Summary from Goodreads:
Then…Grigory “Grisha” Potemkin has had a successful long association with the powerful Empress Catherine of Russia. But Catherine and Grisha are older now and face new threats, both from powers outside of Russia and from those close to them. Haunted by the horrors of his campaign against the Muslim Turks, Grisha hopes to construct a mosque in the heart of the empire. Unfortunately, Catherine’s much younger new lover, the ambitious Platon Zubov, stands in his way. Grisha determines that to preserve Catherine’s legacy he must save her from Zubov’s dangerous influence and win back her heart.
Now…When she learns she is the lost heiress to the Romanov throne, Veronica Herrera’s life turns upside down. Dmitry Potemkin, one of Grisha’s descendants, invites Veronica to Russia to accept a ceremonial position as Russia’s new tsarina. Seeking purpose, Veronica agrees to act as an advocate to free a Russian artist sentenced to prison for displaying paintings critical of the church and government. Veronica is both celebrated and chastised. As her political role comes under fire, Veronica is forced to decide between the glamorous perks of European royalty and staying true to herself.
In Jennifer Laam’s The Tsarina’s Legacy, unexpected connections between Grisha and Veronica are revealed as they struggle to make peace with the ghosts of their past and help secure a better future for themselves and the country they both love.
As I’m sure all of you know by now, I love historical fiction. I love, love, love, love, love it – especially when it is done with accuracy and a certain bit of flair. The Tsarina’s Legacy does just that. This book is a follow up to her debut, The Secret Daughter of the Tsar, which St. Martin’s was also kind enough to send me so that I would not be lost out of my wits. Which, if you haven’t noticed, I’ve reviewed above. Muahahaha!
Much like the first book, I loved the detail and the attention to the smallest historical nonsense. Because of the slight flowery, hum-drummy language, it actually feels like you’re there, you know? There is a certain grace to historical fiction, especially ones such as these where the whole thing is trying to change the course of history. I found myself, once again, thoroughly impressed by the amount of accuracy, research, and the detail of the scenery and depth of the characters. The cool thing about this books is that it isn’t an all or nothing sort of deal. There is a delicate balance of actual history and then a faint smattering of “but what if”s thrown in for good measure. It makes for something exciting, even if you think you know what is going on.
One of the biggest differences in this book, if you can’t tell from the synopsis, is that we have the heir to the Romanov throne. Cue the bagpipes! I’m not saying a word, though the synopsis is a bit spoliery – so, oops. I really did like it though, it provided an extra layer of feels after reading the first book, if you get what I’m saying.
Once again, though, I think the strongest parts of this book were the historical elements – the facts and the way it was all weaved into the setting was impeccable. My love for history sort of saved this book for me. While I liked the characters and the plot line and whatnot, on its own it just wasn’t enough to make my heart race or make me care. But, throw in some high historical stakes with complete accuracy? That is one sail boat I would love to be on.
This book is a book worth reading. The Tsarina’s Legacy is a legacy worth picking up and devouring, even if you are unsure about the outcome. The power shifts, the power struggles in the politics, the romance, all of it was handled with a finely toothed comb, and I loved it.