Published by Thomas Dunne Books on July 19th 2016
Genres: Contemporary Women, Fiction, Historical
Two women's lives collide when a priceless Russian artifact comes to light. Tanya Kagan, a rising specialist in Russian art at a top New York auction house, is trying to entice Russia's wealthy oligarchs to bid on the biggest sale of her career, The Order of Saint Catherine, while making sense of the sudden and unexplained departure of her husband. As questions arise over the provenance of the Order and auction fever kicks in, Reyn takes us into the world of Catherine the Great, the infamous 18th-century empress who may have owned the priceless artifact, and who it turns out faced many of the same issues Tanya wrestles with in her own life. Suspenseful and beautifully written, The Imperial Wife asks whether we view female ambition any differently today than we did in the past. Can a contemporary marriage withstand an “Imperial Wife”?
The Imperial Wife follows the perspective of two women, a modern woman named Tanya and the Empress of Russia, famously called Catherine the Great, in their struggles with both marriage and becoming something more than an outsider in the world they inhabit. Catherine wore her Order long ago, but now it rests in Tanya’s hands to sell to the highest bidder. Tanya must make decisions for what she thinks is best for the Order and for herself.
I found The Imperial Wife to be a little underwhelming. There were certain things I found annoying, such as Carl. Actually, he was the biggest issue for me. I don’t understand what Tanya saw in him or why she continued to want him to return home. He seemed like he only married her because he’s a huge Russophile. His behavior was inexcusable and at a certain reveal, it’s even worse. Tanya deserves a lot better. The ending is frustrating and offers her no guarantees.
Catherine’s perspective was much more enjoyable, even though her outlook isn’t much better than Tanya’s. But I still felt like it was missing something. Her last chapter didn’t really satisfy me, similarly again with Tanya.
Despite its shortcomings, it was quick and at times interesting to read.