The Secret Daughter of the Tsar

Written by Jennifer Laam
Review by Caroline Wilson

Laam’s book is a compelling speculative novel revolving around the doomed Romanov family. One of the more popular “wishful thinking” subjects of historical fiction is that one of the Tsar’s children escaped the awful fate encountered in the basement of Ipatiev House in Siberia. But Laam introduces a completely different concept: what if Tsarina Alexandra had a fifth daughter? It seems a rather unlikely concept, but the author uses well-documented facts to make this premise work. The novel is told through the eyes of three different women, living years apart: Lena, a maid turned friend to the empress; Charlotte, a former ballet dancer trying to survive Nazi occupied France with her young son; and Veronica, a down-on-her-luck Russian history professor who stumbles upon the whole shocking truth.

While some authors are unable to carry off three different perspectives, Laam excels at this by differentiating each of the women’s narratives. All the women are quietly fierce and tenacious, but in different ways that lend a special quality to each character. Each of their voices is distinct, which is a hard feat to accomplish. The reader will become enthralled by each story, eagerly turning the page to find out the fate of each woman.

By the last half of the novel, the seeds of the resolution have been sewn, so the rather drawn-out conclusion could have been reached much more quickly. Nonetheless, this novel shines overall and will appeal to everyone from general fiction readers to lovers of Russian history and the Romanov dynasty. Highly recommended.