#TheTsarinasDaughter by #EllenAlpsten #NetGalley #ARCReview

What happens when you request a title from NetGalley without looking at the author’s name, only to find out it was the same author whose previous book you LOATHED? You’re about to find out. I requested and received a copy of The Tsarina’s Daughter by Ellen Alpsten (Amazon) from NetGalley and St. Martin’s Griffin in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

“Born into the House of Romanov to the all-powerful Peter the Great and his wife, Catherine, a former serf, beautiful Tsarevna Elizabeth is the envy of the Russian empire. She is insulated by luxury and spoiled by her father, who dreams for her to marry King Louis XV of France and rule in Versailles. But when a woodland creature gives her a Delphic prophecy, her life is turned upside down. Her volatile father suddenly dies, her only brother has been executed and her mother takes the throne of Russia.

As friends turn to foes in the dangerous atmosphere of the Court, the princess must fear for her freedom and her life. Fate deals her blow after blow, and even loving her becomes a crime that warrants cruel torture and capital punishment: Elizabeth matures from suffering victim to strong and savvy survivor. But only her true love and their burning passion finally help her become who she is. When the Imperial Crown is left to an infant Tsarevich, Elizabeth finds herself in mortal danger and must confront a terrible dilemma–seize the reins of power and harm an innocent child, or find herself following in the footsteps of her murdered brother.

Hidden behind a gorgeous, wildly decadent façade, the Russian Imperial Court is a viper’s den of intrigue and ambition. Only a woman possessed of boundless courage and cunning can prove herself worthy to sit on the throne of Peter the Great.”

One of my first reviews for this blog was Tsarina by Ellen Alpsten. I loathed the book. You can click on the link and read my review, I’m not going to rehash it, but suffice it to say that it was not my cup of tea. I had no recollection when I saw a book on the Russian royal family on NetGalley that it was the same author of the book that I almost DNF about 5 times but persevered. I hoped for a better outcome. I was pleasantly surprised.

Years ago, when I first started reading about the Romanov family, I picked up a book called Elizabeth & Catherine: Empress of all the Russias (Amazon) (Abebooks) from a library book sale. I got a general sense of Elizabeth but the book left me wanting me to know more about her, but most Russian Romanov history is about Peter, Catherine or the last Romanov, Nicholas. I never followed up, however.

The book traces Elizabeth’s life from the time she’s about ten, up until she ascends to the throne. But getting there wasn’t easy. Simply living to adulthood was a struggle, even for nobility. Smallpox, Diphtheria, and a host of other diseases could wipe out a city. It was no different for Peter the Great and his wife, Catherine. They had something like 15 children, but only three survived to adulthood. Not to mention Peter the Great’s insistence on having a male heir. His son with his first wife didn’t please him, so he had him killed, leaving his grandson, Peter, just a boy, as his heir. Elizabeth and her sister, Anna were born out of wedlock, so even though Peter married their mother, Catherine, people in the royal court still called them illegitimate. Besides, they are girls. Boo!

There’s all sorts of court intrigue and double-dealing and back stabbing and all the things that make for a good soap opera. Elizabeth, while strong and feisty, for the most part knows how to keep her head down low and curry favor of the power brokers behind the throne. After Peter the Great dies, his wife and Elizabeth’s mother, Catherine, becomes Empress. But she falls under the spell of Peter’s right hand man, and it’s really he who rules. And he does not like Elizabeth at all.

As we travel through the years and several different rulers in a short time frame (three in five years, I believe), I thought Alpsten did a good job of showing the maturity and growth of Elizabeth. She’s smart to curry favor with the various rulers, but gets a little P-O-ed about other people being chosen as ruler when she, as a daughter of Peter the Great, should also stand in the line of succession. Time and time again Elizabeth is screwed over by the succession of rulers. Then she would fall back into favor. So she goes through periods of great wealth and abundance, and then she’s nearly destitute for a time. Wash, rinse, repeat several times.

But, as would prove to many a person, she’s also a fool for love. I do have to say that there are no gratuitous sex scenes like there were in the author’s previous work. That’s not saying the book is completely devoid of it, but when it’s there, it’s appropriate, and not beleaguered like the last book. She takes a handful of lovers throughout her young life, but there’s no wild sex parties going on.

One thing I do wish, because the book spans many years, is that there were dates at the beginning of each chapter. I found myself wondering how old Elizabeth was at any given place. Sometimes it is mentioned, but not enough to keep track when the book jumps ahead several years, then several years again. I’ll have to Google to find out just how old she was when she came to the throne.

After reading The Tsarina’s Daughter, I feel I got to know Elizabeth better, as it covers her life from childhood to ascension to the throne, but now I hope I can find a non-fiction book about her to see how much of Alpsten’s prose was fiction and how much was real life. Despite my misgivings going in, this was a very good read. The Tsarina’s Daughter goes on sale to the general public March 15, 2022.

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