11149173The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak is billed as a novel of Catherine the Great, and in theory it is.  But rather than it being about her life at the helm of one of the world’s superpowers when it was still young, it’s more the story of her life before she became infamous as told through the eyes of one of her maidservants.

Little bit disappointing on several levels.  It wasn’t really about her, more about the maid who served her and managed to rise through the ranks of the Russian aristocracy through her friendship with the princess.  Also, there was next to nothing on Catherine once she became empress.  The main character leaves court shortly after Catherine’s ascension and little is heard of that life again.

But despite the disappointment, it was thoroughly engaging.  I could not put it down once I started reading it and has made me interested in seeking out Eva Stachniak’s other works.  Which is always a good sign.

Next up, the Memoirs of Mary Queen of Scots by Carolly Erickson, book 5 for Ja No Read Mo 2017!

6481484In this dramatic, compelling fictional memoir Carolly Erickson lets the courageous, spirited Mary Queen of Scots tell her own story—and the result is a novel readers will long remember.

Born Queen of Scotland, married as a young girl to the invalid young King of France, Mary took the reins of the unruly kingdom of Scotland as a young widow and fought to keep her throne. A second marriage to her handsome but dissolute cousin Lord Darnley ended in murder and scandal, while a third marriage to the dashing, commanding Lord Bothwell, the love of her life, gave her joy but widened the scandal and surrounded her with enduring ill repute.

Unable to rise above the violence and disorder that swirled around her, Mary plucked up her courage and escaped to England—only to find herself a prisoner of her ruthless, merciless cousin Queen Elizabeth.

Here, in her own riveting account, is the enchanting woman whose name still evokes excitement and compassion—and whose death under the headsman’s axe still draws forth our sorrow.