by Sherry D. Ficklin
Series: Stolen Empire #3
Genres: Historical Fiction
LONG LIVE THE QUEEN If her time at court has taught Catherine anything, it’s that there is no room for weakness in Imperial Russia. With the Empress’ health failing and rumors of a change in the line of succession, her place in the royal line is once more in jeopardy. Tormented by her sadistic husband and his venomous mistress, Catherine must once more walk the fine line between pleasure and politics—between scandal and survival. When her young son becomes the target of those rebelling against Peter’s reign, Catherine will have to rise up to protect herself, her child, and her nation from his unstable and potentially catastrophic rule. This means putting herself at odds with the most dangerous man she’s ever known, trusting those who once proved to be her enemies, and turning a nation against its sovereign. In the ultimate battle for the crown, new alliances will be forged, loyalties will be tested, and blood will be shed.
Queen of Always by Sherry D. Ficklin is the last book in the Stolen Empire series and perhaps the darkest. Catherine needs to be ruthless if she is to survive life in the Imperial Court. Ficklin delivered in sharing the last chapters of Catherine’s story and it held me spellbound.
Our Catherine is a clever, clever girl. She is also ruthless, passionate and at times calculating. Forced into marriage and ripped from the arms of her lover; she has suffered lost, is tormented and yet she is forever a lady. Never showing weakness beyond the walls of her quarters.
“I have done dreadful things, Dash. I have made mistakes that I will never be able to atone for, and I have allowed myself to be selfish in ways you might never understand.” The bitter memory of sprinkling the poison in the Empress’ tea floats into my mind. I think of every lie I’ve told, of every misstep I’ve made. “I’m not proud of my choices, but neither would I retract a single one,” I say finally.”-Catherine, Queen of Always
Catherine quickly finds her position in jeopardy as Peter’s mistress sinks her teeth further into him. His radical ideals threaten the court, the church and Russia. As she builds alliances, she also must face the two men she loves.The romance was rather interesting, and young Catherine is quite bold. Can she choose between them?
Ficklin weaved a suspenseful tale as Catherine makes moves to secure life for her and those of her son. Queen of Always is darker than its predecessors as tension rises and danger lurks. Politics, religion, betrayals, and threats made for a page-turning read. The author managed to have me holding my breath, dropping my chin in shock and even shedding a tear.
A mention of coffee..had me smiling!
“…….There’s a cup of what looks like pitch black tea. I pick it up, examining the contents. It smells burnt somehow. “What on earth is this?”
She nods to it, “That’s a new drink the cook thought you might enjoy. It’s called coffee. It can be bitter so there is cream you can add to it. She says it’s all the rage at French Court.”
“Coffee? Odd.” I take a sip and nearly gag. It’s strong, so much more bitter and heavy than tea, but, still…
I take another sip.
“It’s quite good, I think.” I say, admiring the warmth of the cup in my hand.
Dashka beams. “I thought you’d enjoy it.”
As we begin the tedious process of dressing and grooming, I sip on the beverage, asking for a second cup soon after the first. Soon I feel my heart speed up, my face flushes, and I feel more awake and alive than I’ve felt in weeks.
At times, Catherine is ruthless and her hands have blood on them, yet she is equally compassionate. Even though it causes her to suffer she does not bend in her convictions. Even as she works to secure her place in Russia, she looks to the people and their needs. The balance between her ruthlessness and compassion never ceased to amaze me. Ficklin’s interpretation of Catherine provides a strong heroine that readers will connect with. For all that she endures, she holds her head high and presents a strong reassuring presence. She is someone whom you respect, even as you guard your back.
Queen of Always was a delightful conclusion to the trilogy that I quickly consumed. Fans of historical fiction, suspense and strong characters should consider adding the Stolen Empire trilogy to their bookshelves.
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