Alexander, Robert. The Romanov Bride. New York: Pengun Books, 2008.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Set during the Russian Revolution, The Romanov Bride gives a fictional account of two lives during this time: that of Grand Duchess Elisavyeta Feodorovna (sister to the German Tsaritsa Alexandra and wife of Grand Duke Sergei of Moscow), and a fictional revolutionary named Pavel (set on his violent path after the murder of his wife on Bloody Sunday). While this short novel has no Pagan overtones, it does maintain a very religious feel throughout, creating a fascinating portrait of a devoutly Christian woman in a time of great trouble, and a very non-religious man helping cause the trouble. It clearly demonstrates the similarities between the two sympathetic characters, something the Grand Duchess herself points out at the end of the novel.
Although the story of “Ella” is fascinating and a lesser-known aspect of the Russian Revolution, the writing is, quite frankly, awful. At points seeming very modern, at other times full of awkward metaphors or too-often-repeated phrases (such as “as well”), the writing’s one strength was creating different voices for Ella and Pavel. The overall failure of the writing style contributes strongly to the two-star rating.
It was interesting to read about this time period from two very different points of view. Alexander, the author, is very well-versed in this revolution (he has two other books on the subject) and has obviously put a lot of time and effort into historical accuracy. The easy story to focus on – that of the Tsar and his family – was only briefly touched upon and it was assumed the reader had a basic background of the Revolution; this worked very well and allowed the reader to focus on the new story, that of Ella and Pavel.
A quick read, this novel is worth picking up. The audience gains a deeper understanding of the role religion – or loss of religion – plays in the face of difficult times, and learns the story of a very amazing, caring woman of the royal class. It also demonstrates a basic theory that (as Alexander says in the reader’s guide section) “people are born essentially good and the it’s only events and/or situations that corrupt and darken the soul”. Similar events can have very different effects on people, and this novel explores that successfully in the context of the Russian Revolution.