BOOK SPOTLIGHT! The Secret Daughter of the Tsar by JENNIFER LAAM

BOOK SPOTLIGHT! The Secret Daughter of the Tsar by JENNIFER LAAM

BOOK SPOTLIGHT! The Secret Daughter of the Tsar by JENNIFER LAAMThe Tsarina's Legacy by Jennifer Laam
Published by St. Martin's Press Buy the BookGoodreads

Then...Grigory "Grisha" Potemkin has had a successful long association with the powerful Empress Catherine of Russia. But Catherine and Grisha are older now and face new threats, both from powers outside of Russia and from those close to them. Haunted by the horrors of his campaign against the Muslim Turks, Grisha hopes to construct a mosque in the heart of the empire. Unfortunately, Catherine's much younger new lover, the ambitious Platon Zubov, stands in his way. Grisha determines that to preserve Catherine's legacy he must save her from Zubov's dangerous influence and win back her heart.

Now...When she learns she is the lost heiress to the Romanov throne, Veronica Herrera's life turns upside down. Dmitry Potemkin, one of Grisha's descendants, invites Veronica to Russia to accept a ceremonial position as Russia's new tsarina. Seeking purpose, Veronica agrees to act as an advocate to free a Russian artist sentenced to prison for displaying paintings critical of the church and government. Veronica is both celebrated and chastised. As her political role comes under fire, Veronica is forced to decide between the glamorous perks of European royalty and staying true to herself.

In Jennifer Laam's The Tsarina's Legacy, unexpected connections between Grisha and Veronica are revealed as they struggle to make peace with the ghosts of their past and help secure a better future for themselves and the country they both love.

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From THE TSARINA’S LEGACY by Jennifer Laam. Copyright © 2016 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Press, LLC.

The sharp smell assaulted his senses immediately. Fortunately, Grisha Potemkin had been warned in advance. He tucked his scroll tighter underneath his arm and withdrew a lavender-scented handkerchief from his pocket. The tight breeches and heavy fabric of his European waistcoat felt thick and burdensome against his bloated stomach. Serving in the south, in his own military encampments, he had grown accustomed to silk robes and loose trousers.
He settled next to a stout cadet in an ill-fitting uniform. The young man gave him a sideways glance and edged slowly away, mopping his broad forehead with a mottled handkerchief. No matter. The opinions of Catherine’s courtiers scarcely fazed him anymore. Seventeen years had passed since he left the monastery and returned to this world. He’d long since ceased to care what anyone thought.
Except Catherine. Always Catherine.
Grisha surveyed the crowded salon with his one good eye. Many of the men fidgeted and inched closer to the walls. A few appeared near to forty, while most looked straight out of the Cadet Corps. Catherine had always surrounded herself with youth. Even the chefs in the kitchen were rosy and slim, their youthful metabolisms impervious to decadent preparations. Amid the fresh faces, Grisha spotted a few men even older than him, bodies stiff in formal uniforms, rusting medals and frayed sashes adorning their fragile chests.
An elderly brigadier, face sun lined and flecked with brown spots, hobbled to a silver samovar and struggled to fill a delicate china cup with hot water.
“Not too strong this time.” Catherine’s newest favorite, Platon Alexandrovich Zubov, called. He reclined lazily on a richly upholstered chaise longue, long limbs sprawled, nibbling on a wedge of brie. “And don’t forget my pot of raspberry jam. Mishka adores it. Let’s try to keep him happy. We don’t want another accident.”
Zubov waved at his pet monkey, its clever face surrounded by a cream-colored ruff of fur. The creature’s urine clouded the plush rug, one of many gifts Grisha had presented to Catherine at the close of the first war with the Turks. The rug was woodland green and woven with interlacing curlicues and darkly blossoming roses, a pattern modeled after a concubine’s boudoir in Topkapi Palace. He remembered Catherine’s breath, warm and gentle in his ear, when she thanked him. It is as I said. You were meant to be a man of this world.
The brigadier passed, attempting to balance Zubov’s tea and jam in each hand. Tucking his scroll in place under his arm, Grisha extended his hand to take the pot of jam. The old man signaled his gratitude with a weary smile.
Zubov’s monkey assessed the room, smacking his lips, small eyes glittering. Grisha flexed his hand and tried not to shudder. He had seen that look before, in the eyes of one of his officers while choosing a man to execute, to break the will of the other prisoners.
At last, the monkey chirped and bounded over to a courtier cringing near the back exit. The creature plucked the freshly powdered silver wig from the man’s head and twirled it in his hand, as though preparing for some exotic ball game. He hoisted the wig up in the air, where it caught on the chain of a crystal chandelier.
Sputters of nervous laughter erupted from the corners of the room. Zubov choked on his cheese and coughed, handsome features distorted as he worked the food down his throat and laughed. He took a long swallow of wine. “Priceless! Priceless!”
The men in the room managed a few more chortles. Even the courtier who’d lost his wig tried to smile at his ruined hairpiece. Silver powder scattered on the dark green carpet below.
The monkey scampered up Zubov’s arm and hopped onto his shoulder. Zubov ran his hand through the creature’s luxuriant fur. Grisha escorted the old man to Zubov’s side table, where he placed the pot of jam next to the tea.
“Prince Potemkin!” Zubov cried, catching Grisha’s eye. “When did you sneak in?”
The cadet who had been standing next to Grisha suddenly straightened his back. Grisha realized the young man hadn’t recognized him at first.
“Your Most Serene Highness,” Zubov intoned. “Field Marshal! Grand Admiral of the Black Sea! Have I learned your titles correctly? It seems the empress enjoys frequently adding to their number.” He fluttered his large hands at Grisha’s medallions and ribbons. “My brain simply cannot keep pace.”
“Prince of Tauride,” the cadet told Zubov helpfully, using the ancient name for the Crimea.
Zubov glared at the cadet but kept his voice merry, still reclining as though he hadn’t a care in this world. “We’ve been expecting you, Prince. What kept you?” He cocked an eyebrow imperiously. “Fucking one of your officers’ wives again?”
Low laughter filled the room, this time genuine.
Grisha needed to appear as though he didn’t care—only the laughter had grown so loud he feared Catherine might hear. He felt sure she’d taken to her neighboring study, quill in hand, scribbling her correspondence, one ear inclined to the door for signs of unrest.
But he had no intention of being driven away by Zubov’s hollow attempts at wit. The stench of urine cut through the lavender oil in his handkerchief and Grisha stuffed the linen in his pocket.
“And here I thought I was early for our appointment. We were meant to discuss plans for the construction of a mosque in Moscow. I didn’t realize you’d planned court entertainment first.”
“Yes, yes.” Zubov drew to full attention, straightening the ruffles above his ridiculous velvet frock coat. The monkey dug his fingers deep into Zubov’s shoulders so as not to fall when his master moved. “But a mosque in the very heart of our land? Wouldn’t a church make more sense? We’re still a Christian people, are we not?”
Grisha needed to tread carefully. Rumors had reached his ear, even in the faraway southern lands where he had spent the last several months, tales of Zubov’s youthful beauty and hold on the empress’s affections. He saw it for himself now: Zubov’s fine features, broad shoulders, and brilliant eyes, so different from the lumpiness that had spoiled Grisha’s own looks as the years passed.
“The empress has taken care to preserve cordial relations with her subjects of the Islamic faith,” he said. “I am particularly pleased with this design. It is modeled after a mosque in the old fortress of Ochakov.”
“And yet you ran the heathen into the ground in that godforsaken place.”
Grisha’s hands, slick with perspiration, worked in and out of fists. He had assumed his audience with Zubov merely a formality to make Catherine feel she had taken care with her favorite’s pride. He had expected this boy to fuss a bit but ultimately put his stamp of approval on the project, as all of Catherine’s other favorites would have done, to curry favor. “The empress’s Muslim subjects worship one God, as do we.”
“But we have more pressing problems now, what with England rattling a sword in our direction and trying to drive us out of the Black Sea. Your prize, Prince. Should we not ready our forces to teach the dolts a lesson?”
Catherine isn’t foolish enough to make needless war, you pretentious twit. “A gesture of goodwill seems all the more appropriate, then,” Grisha said. “Surely we don’t want the English seducing our old Muslim adversaries with pretty words and promises of petty glory.”
Zubov unleashed a dramatic sigh. “Fine. Catherine said I should listen to your plea, so I suppose I don’t have a choice in the matter. She has a soft spot for oldfriends. It’s one of her many charms.” He flapped his hands again, ruffles flopping at his wrists, displacing the monkey. The creature landed awkwardly on the floor but scrambled to his feet quickly. “All the rest of you, go!” Zubov barked. “The prince and I require privacy.”

Copyright © 2016 by Jennifer Laam

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JENNIFER LAAM is the author of The Secret Daughter of the Tsar and The Tsarina’s Legacy. She earned her master’s degree in History from Oakland University in Michigan and her bachelor’s degree from the University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA. She has lived in Los Angeles and the suburbs of Detroit, traveled in Russia and Europe, and worked in education and non-profit development. She currently resides in Northern California.

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