Sophie—now Catherine, Grand Duchess of Russia—had a tough first year at Imperial Court. Married at sixteen to Grand Duke Peter, heir to the throne, and settled in their own palace, things start to look up. As a new day dawns, Catherine thinks only of securing her future, and the future of their country, during one of the greatest political upheavals of her time. Fighting desperately against forces that try to depose the Empress Elizabeth and put the young Prince Ivan on her throne, Catherine soon finds herself in the middle of a war brewing between her beloved Prussia and her new empire. While navigating the fragile political landscape, she quickly realizes that she has only begun to discover the tangled web of deceit and infidelity woven over the lavish court of Oranienbaum Palace.
When a strange and delicate alliance forms between the young couple, Catherine glimpses a future of happiness, only to see it vanish at the hands of those who still seek to end her life—and prevent her reign. Out of favor with the empress and running out of options, Catherine must sacrifice her own innocence on the altar of Russia if she is to save the nation and herself. To survive, she will have to do the unthinkable, betray those closest to her and become something greater and more dangerous than she ever imagined she could be… a queen.
“She is trying to break me,” I say quietly, more to myself than to him. “Her cruelty know no bounds.”
“Yes, I suspect she is trying to break you,” he agrees. “But you will not break. You are stronger than she is.”
I shake my head. “I don't feel strong.”
“I know, but you have one thing she doesn't. You have the capacity to not only love, but to love deeply and with your entire being. It's that love that makes you feel weak, but it is also love that makes you powerful. Think about it, is there anything you would not do, any length you would not go to, to protect the people you love?”
I don't have to think about it, the answer is obvious. “No.”
Then use this pain, turn it to your advantage. Make it your strength.
He's right. As soon as he says it, I feel the pain begin to twist inside me, bending into a new form-a cold, steely resolve.
From there, my course became very clear. I could trace all my suffering back, not to Peter or my mother, but to the empress herself. And it was time she paid for my misery.