Secret Lives of the Tsars: Three Centuries of Autocracy, Debauchery, Betrayal, Murder, and Madness from Romanov Russia

Michael Farquhar. Random, $16 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-0-8129-7905-3
Farquhar (Behind the Palace Doors) brings all the delightful faults and quirks of the famous Russian dynasts to the forefront while providing an excellent condensed version of Russian history. Working chronologically, Farquhar gives an informative snapshot of each generation in royal succession. Perhaps the title is a little misleading—there was nothing secret about much of the royal misbehavior, including Peter the Great’s (1696–1725) drinking and violence, Anna’s (1730–1740) “peculiar pleasures” (requiring noblemen to delight her by using them as her court jesters), and Catherine II’s (1762–1796) love affairs. While it is certainly true that the Romanov tsars are associated with the types of negative and deviant behavior alluded to in the subtitle, they are certainly not the only monarchs to exemplify these qualities. To single them out—and never really acknowledge their accomplishments adequately—seems somewhat disingenuous. Still, Farquhar weaves a fine tale of history and scandal, and it is sure to please general readers and monarchy buffs alike. Agent: Jenny Bent, Trident Media Group. (July)
Reviewed on: 04/21/2014
Release date: 07/08/2014
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 203 pages - 978-0-8129-8578-8
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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