LONG LIVE THE QUEEN
If her time at court has taught Catherine anything, it’s that there is no room for weakness in Imperial Russia. With the Empress’ health failing and rumors of a change in the line of succession, her place in the royal line is once more in jeopardy. Tormented by her sadistic husband and his venomous mistress, Catherine must once more walk the fine line between pleasure and politics—between scandal and survival.
When her young son becomes the target of those rebelling against Peter’s reign, Catherine will have to rise up to protect herself, her child, and her nation from his unstable and potentially catastrophic rule. This means putting herself at odds with the most dangerous man she’s ever known, trusting those who once proved to be her enemies, and turning a nation against its sovereign. In the ultimate battle for the crown, new alliances will be forged, loyalties will be tested, and blood will be shed.
Queen of Always is the third and final book of the Stolen Empire series by Sherry Ficklin and while I was super excited to get my hands on this book, I am also sad it is over. I love historical and Ficklin does a great job of mixing some fact in with a story she has built out and added her own twist to.
Book three begins immediately with a storyline that pulled me back in. Catherine has been separated from everyone she loves and just waiting for the Empress to die. Sergei has been gone for over a year at the Empress’s command, her son is still living away from her and Peter, and her best friend, Rina, is now dying. All of this adds up to it being an unsettling time for Catherine and almost immediately the state of things – both personal and political – shift when Rina and the Empress pass away.
When Empress Elizabeth dies, Catherine sees this as an opportunity to solidify her role in supporting Peter as the new Emperor and she tries really hard to forge a connection with him by providing advice and support. Unfortunately for Catherine, Peter is only willing to take the advice when he agrees with it and this puts Catherine in a position where she is continually trying to figure out where she should speak up and where she shouldn’t. Add to this the fact that he continues to throw his relationship with Elizavetta in her face and there is a real threat that things could end up badly for Catherine.
Catherine has definitely grown up in this series and this novel shows it more than anything. I think the most notable thing is that I don’t even really identify her as Sophie any longer – she is Catherine and that in itself shows the true change. Catherine isn’t willing to be a pawn any longer and instead is looking to create her own path, with or without Peter. It is clear she has allies and knows the political landscape which if Peter were smart, he could have used that to his advantage.
This book of the series is definitely for a slightly more mature audience due to the violence and romantic relationships that Catherine has but I have to say they are done in a way that wouldn’t raise any flags for me. Of course, I don’t get offended by much so…there’s that. Speaking of romantic relationships, as I mentioned, Rina dies at the beginning of the book and that means Alexander is no longer married. It doesn’t take long for him and Catherine to find their way back to each other, especially since Sergei is gone. The twist comes when Sergei finally makes it back to Catherine and she has to decide what to do with both of these men who carry a piece of her heart. I’m not giving anything away but I thought the way Ficklin handled it was well done.
One other thing I wanted to note around the characters was that the secondary characters are done well. The friendship and overall closeness/trust that Catherine has with/in Dasha and Grigori is important. It felt like they were the glue that held her together through a lot of the challenges in her life and I loved reading about the relationships Catherine had with these two.
So hopefully I gave you just enough detail to get you interested in this one. If you are looking for something that has some romance, danger and political intrigue, and some interesting characters, definitely consider checking this series out. And if you still aren’t sure about historical, this is a great series to start out with because while it is about a figure in history, it doesn’t feel heavy with dates, times, places, and events. Don’t get me wrong…it’s there but the story helps move things forward it’s hardly even noticeable if that isn’t your thing.
Catherine the Great isn’t someone I know a lot about and outside of the story blurb, I think that is what caught my attention — Ficklin’s storytelling is what kept me reading. I am glad I crossed paths with this series and will definitely be checking out more books by Ficklin in the future.
Thank you to the author for the advance copy in exchange for an honest review!