Reviews of The Last Grand Duchess by Bryn Turnbull

The Last Grand Duchess

A Novel of Olga Romanov, Imperial Russia, and Revolution

by Bryn Turnbull

The Last Grand Duchess by Bryn Turnbull X
The Last Grand Duchess by Bryn Turnbull
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    Feb 2022, 384 pages

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About this Book

Book Summary

This sweeping novel takes readers behind palace walls to see the end of Imperial Russia through the eyes of Olga Nikolaevna Romanov, the first daughter of the last tsar.

Grand Duchess Olga Romanov comes of age amid a shifting tide for the great dynasties of Europe. But even as unrest simmers in the capital, Olga is content to live within the confines of the sheltered life her parents have built for her and her three sisters: hiding from the world on account of their mother's ill health, their brother Alexei's secret affliction, and rising controversy over Father Grigori Rasputin, the priest on whom the tsarina has come to rely. Olga's only escape from the seclusion of Alexander Palace comes from the grand tea parties her aunt hosts amid the shadow court of Saint Petersburg—a world of opulent ballrooms, scandalous flirtation, and whispered conversation.

But as war approaches, the palaces of Russia are transformed. Olga and her sisters trade their gowns for nursing habits, assisting in surgeries and tending to the wounded bodies and minds of Russia's military officers. As troubling rumors about her parents trickle in from the front, Olga dares to hope that a budding romance might survive whatever the future may hold. But when tensions run high and supplies run low, the controversy over Rasputin grows into fiery protest, and calls for revolution threaten to end three hundred years of Romanov rule.

At turns glittering and harrowing, The Last Grand Duchess is a story about dynasty, duty, and love, but above all, it's the story of a family who would choose devotion to each other over everything—including their lives.

Simultaneous release in hardcover and paperback.

PART ONE

1
March 1917
Tsarskoe Selo


Across the room, shrouded in the darkness that had cloaked the palace since the electricity lines were cut days before, Olga's mother pulled a shawl across her shoulders. Candlelight sent dark flames up the cavernous bookshelves that lined the walls, illuminating her weary face.

"Abdicated?" she whispered.

Panic gripped her by the throat, and Olga turned to face the window once more. In the deepening gloom, she fancied she could see the orange glow of bonfires. "I don't understand. In favor of Alexei?" She glanced at Mamma: Alexei's chronic poor health had always made him seem older than his age, but at twelve, he was still very much a child, and far too young to take on the heavy burden of ruling.

Standing in front of the tsarina, Major General Resin, the commander who'd taken charge of the garrison of troops that protected Olga's family, cleared his throat. "No, Your Majesty. It's more complicated than that. We're still receiving information ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Why do the Last Romanovs hold such a fascination for modern audiences?
  2. Despite sharing a sheltered upbringing, Olga believes her sister Tatiana to be more "worldly" than her. Why do you think she feels her younger sister is more equipped to handle the nuances of high society?
  3. Dmitri Pavlovich describes himself as a "lonely fool," who hopes that someone might "take him seriously one day." How does Dmitri change over the course of the book, and how do those changes result in his participation in Father Grigori's assassination?
  4. In the prologue, Grandmamma Maria Feodorovna tells Olga that courage means "meeting whatever the future may hold with grace." How does Olga exercise courage (or a lack thereof) throughout the book?
  5. How do Olga's ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Books on the Romanovs, much like World War II, are everywhere. And while we all know the last chapter of this well-chronicled story, this particular book focuses specifically on the eldest Romanov daughter, Olga, and her coming of age. Clearly well-researched, this book is what all historical fiction strives to be: detailed, informative, entertaining and compelling. One hundred years after the fact, this story still has a haunting impact (Diana C). Even though I knew the end of the story of the Romanov family, the excellent writing kept me reading for hours at a time, just to find out what would happen next. Turnbull weaves a good story while, on the whole, remaining true to the historical record (Emily C)...continued

Full Review Members Only (874 words).

(Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).

Media Reviews

Historical Novels Society (Editor's Pick)
Even the most flawed characters have their redeeming points: there's not a cardboard villain to be found. Superbly written and researched, this is a novel that I will be reading again.

Booklist (starred review)
Complete with an author's note and a bibliography that would charm any librarian, this historical fiction depicts the final years of the Romanovs in a way that feels both inspired and truthful.

Library Journal
Compared to the huge trove of books about the Romanovs and their pretenders, Turnbull's novel is an entrancing tribute to a Victorian lass of tragic grace.

Publishers Weekly
Though the tragic story has been fictionalized effectively in novels such as Carolyn Meyer's Anastasia and Her Sisters, Turnbull adds to the lore by focusing on a more obscure Romanov, with a gift at making Olga's situation painfully tangible. This amply justifies taking another look at the lives of the condemned royals.

Author Blurb Chanel Cleeton, New York Times &USA Today bestselling author of The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba
The Last Grand Duchess is a powerful and haunting ode to the tragic life of Olga Romanov. Turnbull's sweeping novel illuminates the fall of the Romanovs in an intimate and unforgettable tale that transports the reader to the heart of Imperial Russia. A poignant, engrossing story that historical fiction readers will love!" -

Author Blurb Christine Wells, author of Sisters of the Resistance
The Last Grand Duchess is the enthralling, beautifully written account of the fall of one of the world's most powerful dynasties. As Grand Duchess Olga Romanov is torn from the glittering excess of St. Petersburg ballrooms and thrust into the tragedy and hardship of war, she finds a strength and courage that few possess. A complex, heartbreaking and ultimately uplifting story that will stay with the reader long after the last page is turned.

Author Blurb Erika Robuck, National bestselling author of The Invisible Woman
From glittering palaces to field hospitals, privilege to prison life, Bryn Turnbull portrays the downfall of a royal family with clarity, empathy, and intimacy. The Last Grand Duchess reads like a symphony, the last notes of the Romanovs vanishing with a staggering and tragic beauty.

Author Blurb Kaia Alderson, author of Sisters in Arms
Haunting and beautiful. Turnbull's take on the Olga Romanov story will leave you hopeful that love does triumph over all.

Author Blurb Kerri Maher, author of The Paris Bookseller
Ambitious and intimate, violent and tender, Bryn Turnbull's The Last Grand Duchess pulls aside some heavy curtains on Russia's history, spotlighting the tragically human characters in this royal drama. Olga Romanov is seared into my heart as the best kind of tragic heroine, one who fights and loves with every fiber of her being, even in the face of mortal danger. A deeply absorbing read." -

Author Blurb Kristin Beck, author of Courage, My Love
Bryn Turnbull brings the Romanov family to vivid life, weaving a captivating, tragic tale that is at once sweeping and intimate. Deeply researched and beautifully written, this story humanizes Olga Romanov as she navigates the mounting tensions wrought between family and country, faith and politics, fate and free will. I found myself reading this novel long into the night, spellbound, the pages all but turning themselves. A must read!

Author Blurb Natasha Lester, New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Secret
Olga proves time and again that she was a woman ahead of her time, a woman who, heartbreakingly, could have given so much to Russia, her family and the man she loved if only she was given the chance. A gorgeously told tale.

Author Blurb Renée Rosen, USA TODAY bestselling author of Park Avenue Summer
From Saint Petersburg to Siberia, sweeping back and forth in time, Bryn expertly weaves together an all-consuming story of The Russian Revolution and the fall of the House of Romanovs. The Last Grand Duchess features a true heroine who displays courage and grace in the face of war, making sacrifices of the heart in the name of family and country loyalty. Historical fiction fans will devour this one!

Reader Reviews

Maxine D. (Chicago, IL)

The heartbreaking, short life of a cloistered princess.
"The Last Grand Duchess" by Bryn Turnbull is a historical novel that concentrates on Olga, the eldest daughter of Nicholas and Alexandra. Unable to avoid their fate the author provides a realistic view into a close knit family that was often stifling...   Read More
Barbara Brown

The Last Grand Duchess
Excellent book, I always love stories about the Romanov Family and found this to be one of the best I have read. I liked how it went back and forth in the times of their lives. Excellent book
Mary Lou F. (Naples, FL)

Russian History
Great historical novel. Anyone wanting to learn about the Romanov Dynasty, this is the book to read.
Lin Z. (Downers Grove, IL)

A Russian story
I was hooked on this story from the first page! It is an engrossing historical novel that tells the story of the eldest daughter of Tsar Nicholas in Russia. Olga's life is intertwined with the historical occurrences of the early 20th century in ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Olga Romanov

Black and white photograph of Olga Romanov as a young woman in 1913 Bryn Turnbull's historical novel The Last Grand Duchess narrates the story of Olga Romanov, the eldest child of Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra and granddaughter of England's Queen Victoria. Olga was born in November 1895, and grew up a coddled royal child beloved by her parents and surrounded by servants, nannies and governesses. As the Romanov children grew up, visitors and the palace staff were surprised to discover that the strange mystic Grigori Rasputin, a favorite of the tsar and tsarina, was allowed to visit with them in the nursery. When one of the nannies complained, remarking of Rasputin, "He's always there, goes into the nursery, visits Olga and Tatiana while they are getting ready for bed, sits there talking to them ...

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