The Last Grand Duchess by Bryn Turnbull
The Romanov family has long held fascination for many of us. The last Tsar and his family, disappearing in the middle of the night. Stories of bullets bouncing off clothes lined with jewels, and countless imposters claiming to be one of the daughters. And while we all know the true and heartbreaking ending, we still can’t help but wonder at the events leading up to such tragedy.
The Last Grand Duchess is the latest novel to explore the Romanov family, through the eyes of the daughter Olga. A beautifully written novel, perfect for fans of historical fiction and royalty!
There have been so many books from Anastasia’s perspective, I was delighted to find one from Grand Duchess Olga’s point of view. I haven’t read much about this first-born daughter and I learned much about Olga’s sheltered life. The author’s notes at the back of the novel highlighted where fact and fiction occasionally blended, and the book felt impressively researched.
The Last Grand Duchess is told with dual timelines. While this is normally a style that I enjoy, I must admit that it didn’t work for me in this case. The book is told entirely from Olga’s perspective but it jumps back and forth between her final few months and her life as a younger teen. Unfortunately, I found the technique a little distracting in this novel and it just didn’t feel necessary.
I do, however, think that this was a beautifully written character-based story. (It was fascinating to learn that the author used Olga’s surviving diaries for research. I had no idea those existed!) The author brings a very human feel to the characters, focusing on their dynamic as a family. I truly felt the conflicting emotions as Olga began to discover the humanness of her parents’ decisions as rulers.
Even though you know how Olga’s life ends, this is a beautiful coming-of-age story. Although it’s slow at times, this insightful look into the life of this Grand Duchess was well done.
Fans of historical fiction and royalty, looking for a fictionalized character study of Olga Romanov.
This post contains affiliate links; as an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. eArc provided courtesy of Netgalley and the publisher. All opinions expressed are my own.
About The Last Grand Duchess:
(From the publisher) This sweeping novel takes readers behind palace walls to see the end of Imperial Russia through the eyes of Olga Nikolaevna Romanov, the first daughter of the last tsar
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 her 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 the grand tea parties her aunt hosts amid the shadow court of Saint Petersburg—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 rumors 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 three hundred years of Romanov rule.
At turns glittering and harrowing, The Last Grand Duchess is a story about dynasty, duty, and love, but above all, it’s the story of a family who would choose devotion to each other over everything—including their lives.