Thursday, October 3, 2013

For Your TBR Pile - Jennifer Laam The Secret Daughter of the Tsar

The Secret Daughter of the Tsar by Jennifer Laam

To be published: October 22nd

Thanks St. Martins, Jennifer Laam, and NetGalley for the eARC. In exchange, I've written this unbiased review.

From GoodReadsA 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.

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.

Overall Review: Admittedly, I went into this read knowing I was out of my comfort zone. It was the first non-YA read of the year for me, as well as the very first historical--much less Russian historical--I've ever read. Jennifer Laam's book did not let me down. She weaved her three main characters' stories together seamlessly and I totally did not see this ending happening at all. The Secret Daughter of the Tsar was an awesome twisty-turny ride through the Romanov family tree.

Rating: 5 stars.

Writing: The prose was beautiful and definitely written from an author who not only knows her Russian history, but loves it as well. The story didn't read like a history book and didn't overwhelm me (coming into the read with little-to-no Russian knowledge). Jennifer made it easy for me as a reader to sink into the story and enjoy the ride through the different time periods with three different characters.

Characters: I went back a few times trying to decide which of the three characters I enjoyed most. While Lena was the oldest character (a servant from the imperial Russian court in 1902), I had a harder time connecting with her in the very beginning but fell in love with her strength and loyalty toward the end. Charlotte, a ballerina and mother trying to escape Paris during WWII, was my favorite character and won me over with her feistiness and bravery. And Veronica, a Russian history professor, rounded out the story with a wonderful and swoony romance with the man she thinks may be the true heir to the Russian throne.

Recommended For: anyone who has a love for historicals or a secret Romanov obsession. Anyone looking to read a modern day What If to a secret left behind in history books.

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