3.5 out of 5 stars A woman with the strength and a dream to bring the "greatest happiness to the greatest numbers.",
Any historical fiction novel relies heavily on extensive research into the subject and it's evident that much effort has been made to recreate the details that make a reader see the sights, hear the sounds of Russian life, smell the odors (pleasant and unpleasant), taste the food, and almost feel the textures of the cloth and furs. I could close my eyes sometimes and imagine I was actually there next to Catherine as she interacted with her family, lovers, favorites, courtiers and enemies. Her life story is full of triumphs and defeats, both on a personal level and a national one. She was an amazing woman, a strong leader, and an incredible visionary at a time when men thought themselves superior and more fit to rule great countries.
I was most grateful for the list of the cast of characters provided by the author as there are many similar names and sometimes it was hard to keep everyone straight. The shifts from present tense to Catherine's reminiscing about her life were often confusing.
I did enjoy both novels and suggest that they be read in order.
Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group - Bantam Dell for the e-book ARC to review.