The Last Grand Duchess
A Novel of Olga Romanov, Imperial Russia, and Revolution
“Powerful and haunting . . . an intimate and unforgettable tale that transports the reader to the heart of Imperial Russia.” —Chanel Cleeton, New York Times bestselling author of The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba
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.
Looking for more historical fiction from Bryn Turnbull? Don't miss The Woman Before Wallis. For fans of The Paris Wife and The Crown, this stunning novel tells the true story of the American divorcée who captured Prince Edward’s heart before he abdicated his throne for Wallis Simpson.
Turnbull (The Woman Before Wallis) again successfully humanizes a family of powerful historical figures in this look at the end of the Romanov dynasty from the vantage point of Olga Nikolaevna, oldest daughter of last czar Nicholas. The knowledge that almost every reader will have that Olga, her siblings, and parents will be executed in 1917 after the Russian Revolution gives the novel a tragic patina from the outset (the ending is previewed by a prologue recounting a prophecy, made at Olga's birth in 1896, that she would die before the age of 30). Turnbull begins in 1907 with a health scare that demonstrates the limits of royal lineage and power, as Olga's hemophiliac brother Alexei's severe illness prompts a fear that he will die young, a tragedy their mother believes was averted by the intercession of mystic Grigori Rasputin. Each chapter brings Olga closer to her doom, as the Romanovs are eventually imprisoned in the ironically named Freedom House. 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.