Before there was Catherine the Great, there was Catherine Alexeyevna: the first woman to rule Russia in her own right. Ellen Alpsten's rich, sweeping first-person narrative is the story of her rise to power.
St. Petersburg, 1725. Peter the Great lies dying in his magnificent Winter Palace. The weakness and treachery of his only son has driven his father to an appalling act of cruelty and left the empire without an heir. Russia risks falling into chaos. Into the void steps the woman who has been by his side for decades: his second wife, Catherine Alexeyevna, as ambitious, ruthless and passionate as Peter himself.
Born into devastating poverty, Catherine used her extraordinary beauty and shrewd intelligence to ingratiate herself with Peter’s powerful generals, finally seducing the Tsar himself. But even amongst the splendor and opulence of her new life—the lavish feasts, glittering jewels, and candle-lit hours in Peter’s bedchamber—she knows the peril of her position. Peter’s attentions are fickle and his rages powerful; his first wife is condemned to a prison cell, her lover impaled alive in Red Square. And now Catherine faces the ultimate test: can she keep the Tsar’s death a secret as she plays a lethal game to destroy her enemies and take the Crown for herself?
From the sensuous pleasures of a decadent aristocracy, to the incense-filled rites of the Orthodox Church and the terror of Peter’s torture chambers, the intoxicating and dangerous world of Imperial Russia is brought to vivid life. Tsarina is the story of one remarkable woman whose bid for power would transform the Russian Empire.
About the Author
ELLEN ALPSTEN was born and raised in the Kenyan highlands, before attending L'Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris. While studying for her masters in politics, philosophy, and economics, she won the Grande École short story competition with her novella Meeting Mr. Gandhi and was encouraged to continue writing. Upon graduating, she worked as a producer and presenter for Bloomberg TV in London: knowing no-one and working gruesome night shifts on breakfast TV, she started to write in earnest, every day, after work and a nap. Tsarina, the first and only account of the incredible rise of Catherine I of Russia from serf to Empress, is her debut novel.
Today, Ellen works as an author and as a journalist for international publications such as Vogue, Standpoint and CN Traveller. She lives in London with her husband, three children and a chubby, moody fox red Labrador.
Praise for Tsarina:
“Astonishing...the ultimate Cinderella story.” —Daisy Goodwin, bestselling author of The Fortune Hunter
"As detailed as the jewels and enamel inlay on the creations of Faberge...[a] crisp, elegant fictional account of history, woven with emotion and brio." —Adriana Trigiani, bestselling author of The Shoemaker's Wife
“Gripping...Love, sex, and loyalty vie with war, intrigue, and treason to create an epic canvas as exotic and powerful as eighteenth-century Russia itself. Masterfully researched and beautifully written, this is historical fiction at its best.” —Nancy Goldstone, author of Daughters of the Winter Queen and Rival Queens
“Intrigue, rivalry, and sumptuous decadence leap to vivid life in this fascinating story of Peter the Great’s second wife...conjuring the gorgeous marble of the Winter Palace and deprivation of Russia in the 18th century, the perilous ascent to power of the first woman to rule as empress is a gripping and unforgettable journey.” —C.W. Gortner, author of The Romanov Empress
“[Alpsten] recounts this remarkable woman’s colourful life and times." —Count Nikolai Tolstoy, historian and author
“Luscious…Alpsten has clearly done some brilliant research. It reads like Game of Thrones without the dragons.” —Natasha Pulley, author of the international bestseller The Watchmaker of Filigree Street
“Tsarina should come with a health warning—once you start reading, it’s impossible to stop.” —Hannah Rothschild, bestselling author of House of Trelawney