Title: The Last Grand Duchess
Author: Bryn Turnbull
Genre: Historical fiction
Grand Duchess Olga Romanov comes of age amid a shifting tide for the great dynasties of Europe. But even as unrest simmers in the capital, Olga is content to live within the confines of the sheltered life her parents have built for and her three sisters: hiding from the world on account of their mother’s ill health, their brother Alexei’s secret affliction, and rising controversy over Father Grigori Rasputin, the priest on whom the Tsarina has come to rely. Olga’s only escape from the seclusion of Alexander Palace comes from her aunt, who takes pity on her and her sister Tatiana, inviting them to grand tea parties amid the shadow court of Saint Petersburg. Finally, she glimpses a world beyond her mother’s Victorian sensibilities—a world of opulent ballrooms, scandalous flirtation, and whispered conversation.
But as war approaches, the palaces of Russia are transformed. Olga and her sisters trade their gowns for nursing habits, assisting in surgeries and tending to the wounded bodies and minds of Russia’s military officers. As troubling rumours about her parents trickle in from the Front, Olga dares to hope that a budding romance might survive whatever the future may hold. But when tensions run high and supplies run low, the controversy over Rasputin grows into fiery protest, and calls for revolution threaten to end 300 years of Romanov rule.
I tried. I really did. I loved Turnbull’s previous book, The Woman Before Wallis, but this one felt so much slower. I made it about 50% of the way through before giving up because every page felt like it was in slow motion. Historical novels about the Romanov family usually fascinate me, so I kept on reading longer than I probably should, but in the end, this just wasn’t a good fit for me right now. The glimpses of the cluelessness of Olga’s parents drove me crazy, and her own naivete about reality combined with the slow pace were just too much for me.
Bryn Turnbull is a bestselling author. The Last Grand Duchess is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Harlequin in exchange for an honest review.)