Yeahhhh… I was bound and determined to get that full card bingo… but plans went a bit sideways when I was REALLY good at the reading…. and REALLY bad at staying caught up with reviewing. So I’m determined to get my backlog cleared today, because I WILL end this year with a full Cannonball, dammit.
For years I’ve been an tad bit obsessed with anything related to the Romanovs. Their tragic story has captivated the world, and I can’t get enough – historical books, documentaries, conspiracy theories, I will eat it all up. Then this year Netflix released their new docu-drama, The Last Czars, and in posting about my excitement on social media, I found several other friends who share this obsession, including my friend Cheryl. In comparing notes about our favourite re-tellings and conspiracies, she directed me to Gill Paul’s The Secret Wife. Unsurprisingly, I ate it up, and begged her to contribute to this ‘Two Heads Are Better Than One’ review.
In Romanov driven fiction, I’ve found lots of it focused on Anastasia, which is why I loved that this one lets Tatiana be the star.
One half of this story is about Dmitri Malama, one of the Romanov family’s imperial guards, who falls in love with Tatiana. Their story follows the historical events of the time, from the war, leading up to the revolution, and all the way up to the fateful events in 1918 and beyond. Without giving too many spoilers, there is a theory about how Tatiana could have avoided death. One of the most captivating parts of this book is the rich details surrounding the opulence and lifestyle that the Romanov’s enjoyed juxtaposed with what theoretically could have happened if Tatiana had escaped, and the life she would have lived, outside of the royal palaces.
Interspersed with this historical fiction, is the story of Kitty, a British woman who inherits a run-down cabin in the US from her estranged great-grandfather. When her personal life is turned upside down, she flees to the cabin to restore it and hopefully learn more about this part of her family she knew nothing about.
Fairly quickly the stories become intertwined (in ways that aren’t TOO surprising), and it ends up being a slightly far-fetched theory, but one that is still super entertaining to read. I appreciated the authors notes at the end of the book that clarified that Dmitri Malama really WAS someone that Tatiana had some kind of relationship with, and explained what we know of that for sure. Conspiracies that are based in some kind of fact are always more plausible, because of the hope that they offer.
Despite the fact that it is somewhat of a far-fetched theory, I do enjoy a well written, “what if”, and Gill Paul does a great job of weaving together past historical facts, with a conceivable chain of events, with a great parallel story from present day.
Overall, I’d recommend this to any Romanov-enthusiast who is looking to expand their conspiracy collection.