The Romanov Brides: A Novel of the Last Tsarina and Her Sisters – Clare McHugh | Book Review | #TheRomanovBrides | @Claremch @Harper360UK @RandomTTours

From the author of A Most English Princess comes a rich novel about young Princess Alix of Hesse—the future Alexandra, last Empress of Imperial Russia—and her sister, Princess Ella. Their decision to marry into the Romanov royal family changed history.

They were granddaughters of Queen Victoria and two of the most beautiful princesses in Europe. Princesses Alix and Ella were destined to wed well and wisely. But while their grandmother wants to join them to the English and German royal families, the sisters fall in love with Russia—and the Romanovs.

Defying the Queen’s dire warnings, Ella weds the tsar’s brother, Grand Duke Serge. Cultivated, aloof, and proud, Serge places his young wife on a pedestal for all to admire. Behind palace gates, Ella struggles to secure private happiness.

Alix, whisked away to Russia for Ella’s wedding, meets and captivates Nicky—heir apparent to the Russian throne. While loving him deeply, Alix hears a call of conscience, urging her to walk away.

Their fateful decisions to marry will lead to tragic consequences for not only themselves and their families, but for millions in Russia and around the globe.

The Romanov Brides is a moving and fascinating portrait of two bold and spirited royal sisters, and brings to vivid life imperial Russia—a dazzling, decadent world on the brink of disappearing forever.

Publisher : Harper360 in UK | William Morrow in US
Available in ebook and paperback (28 March 2024)


My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the invite and to the publisher for the copy to review. I’ve always been fascinated by the Romanov dynasty and was delighted to have the opportunity to review The Romanov Brides. A few years ago I was able to spend a couple of days in St Petersburg and a highlight of the trip was a visit to The Grand Palace, Peterhof, one of the settings in the book. The opulence, both inside and out, takes your breath away and although it was busy I took plenty of photos, just a small selection here.

The bloodshed that brutally claimed the lives of Russian Tsar Nicholas and his family during the Russian Revolution is well known but here with the Romanov Brides Clare McHugh has written a richly detailed journey of the life and (mis)fortunes of the two German Grand Duchy of Hesse Princesses, Ella and her younger sister Alix in the years before the tragic events at Yekaterinburg. Queen Victoria was their grandmother and was not above manipulating events in an attempt to get her own way for arranging marriages that she felt would better serve her and the country. For both political and religious reasons the Russian Romanovs were definitely not considered suitable however regardless of Royal interference and the conflict caused between families, the heart loves who it loves and despite much tragedy and heartache the sisters ultimately followed their hearts regardless of the consequences.

I do love a blend of historical fiction and fact. Spanning the years 1878 until 1894. this complex web of inter-Royal relations highlights their lives and loves and the decadence and indulgence that they took for granted. Not only is there a character list for the various locations but two family trees – one for Queen Victoria and the other for the family of Tsar Alexander II. I have to say these were particularly welcome as there were so many characters, some with the same name or a very slight variation and it did help to keep track as initially I was hopelessly lost although the further that I went into the book, the more I got to grips with the characters and their place in the novel.

Tying the end of the story up succinctly is an Afterword which confirms what happens when the book ends. I knew there was to be no happy ending for some of our main characters but that part of history isn’t included in this story. With characters that are both spirited and uncompromising and in particular the two Princesses who both charmed and frustrated me, this is very much a character driven novel with a sedate pace which takes the reader from Balmoral to St Petersburg and beyond.

I can appreciate the amount of research required to produce the Romanov Brides and this was a captivating read. There was the odd occasion when I felt a little overwhelmed by all the detail but overall I found it such an fascinating read that both entertained and educated, I knew that our modern Royal family here in the UK had links to other European royals but to follow all the marital connections was fascinating. Victoria, the elder sister of Ella and Alix lived until 1950 and was a godparent to the now King Charles III. Her eldest daughter Alice was the mother of Prince Philip, the late Duke of Edinburgh. For any readers that have a similar interest then I would definitely recommend The Romanov Brides, I very much enjoyed it.

Clare McHugh is the author of A Most English Princess, a historical novel about the family of Queen Victoria, and The Romanov Brides. A former newspaper reporter and magazine editor, McHugh graduated from Harvard College with a degree in European history. She currently lives in London and in Amagansett, NY.

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