It’s a creative idea — writing a five part autobiography of the last Tsarina of Russia. The first book, The Funeral Bride, details the early life of the Empress Alexandra, who ultimately was murdered with her husband and five children.
The book moves along at a nice pace, and provides some interesting insights to a woman who ended up crippled at a relatively young age. She is not a truly likeable character. Author Kathleen McKenna Hewtson has managed to create a character complete with flaws who does not truly alienate readers, and that is an achievement.
Yes, Alexandra is spoiled and very beautiful, but once she meets the future tsar Nicky when she’s just twelve, it’s just about over. She wants him as a husband, and, though it takes many years, she overcomes all the hurdles and ultimately decides her future will be as Tsarina.
The book takes us through her childhood and teenage years up to her marriage to Nicholas, which occurs just after his father dies, thus the funeral bride. Alexandra is the granddaughter of Britain’s Queen Victoria, who had many children and even more grandchildren, and the web of family members sometimes becomes complicated and confusing in the book, especially since different people in different generations had the same first names.
Alexandra’s fascination with the occult and mysticism doesn’t come up until the second book in the series, and Rasputin is not mentioned in this first book either. But we do get stirrings about Alexandra’s certainty that she “knows things” before other people do. We also get the sense that she sees herself as a victim, something that might be understandable as she lost her mother at an early age. But we also see that she senses the Russian people don’t like her even before she gets to know them, a precursor to her lack of popularity with her later subjects.
The fifth book in this series,(and probably the most dramatic), hasn’t been published yet, but is expected sometime this summer. In the mean time, I will read as much of the series as possible.