THE WHITE NIGHT OF ST. PETERSBURG

Prince Michael of Greece, Author, Prince Michael, Author, Michel, Author , trans. from the French by Franklin Philip. Atlantic Monthly $25 (320p) ISBN 978-0-87113-922-1

The publishing world—and possibly readers as well—never tire of the Romanovs. This reimagination of the life story of one of the last of the czarist family's peripheral members has a heady provenance; the author is Prince Michael of Greece, a descendent of the Romanovs and a relative of most of Europe's remaining royalty. Grand Duke Nicholas Kostantinovich grew up in 19th-century Russia, his fractious childhood marked by rivalries with his relatives, notably the future emperor Alexander. As an adult, the dashing Nicholas romances an American courtesan and is suspected of having "socialist ideals"; to spare the royal family embarrassment, he's banished from Moscow under heavy guard, though house arrest doesn't prevent him from scandalously seducing a series of women. The author has written several books about the lives of royalty (The Empress of Farewells ; etc.) and his knowledge of names and places of the period is considerable. But despite the sophisticated trappings, the language is downright ordinary: nearly every woman is described as "exceptionally beautiful," "a devastating beauty" or "strikingly beautiful," and the accounts of the grand duke's innumerable sexual conquests are standard romance at best. Agent, XO Editions (France). (Oct.)

Forecast: Prince Michael's pedigree gives this novel-as-history an intriguing backstory, but the dense plot and unremarkable prose will probably limit its appeal to aficionados.

Reviewed on: 09/06/2004
Release date: 08/01/2004
Genre: Fiction
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