170 of 177 people found the following review helpful
on April 22, 2001
This is generally considered to be the definitive biography of Tsar Nicholas II and his wife, Alexandra. Massie's expert storytelling is well-suited to the compelling story of the last Russian tsar and his consort. The history of Russia was no doubt changed by the deliberate myopia and general inadquacies of these two people. Nevertheless, Massie manages to uncover a more sympathetic side to the ill-fated duo. Massie's writing is as good as that of any acclaimed novelist - there's a fascinating and fastpaced plot, finely nuanced lead characters, an intriguing supporting cast, all against a beautiful background of a majestic bygone era.
This book was researched and written before the fall of the Soviet empire when the state archives were opened and new information about the Romanovs was revealed. Consequently, this book is necessarily incomplete, especially as concerns the execution of the royal family. Massie has since written another text called "The Romanovs: The Last Chapter" which devels deeply into the newly available data and the forensic studies that followed. Consider it an essential volume II to "Nicholas and Alexandra".
119 of 125 people found the following review helpful
I started a love affair with European royalty while in junior high, and as luck or fate would have it, Robert Massie's Nicholas and Alexandra was published during this time. I was bitten by the Romanov bug and have suffered from this malady ever since.
Nicholas and Alexandra, the last Tsar and Tsarina of Imperial Russia, came from a distinguished royal pedigree. Nicholas was the son of Tsar Alexander III, and his aunt was Princess Alexandra of Wales. Alexandra was a Hessian princess and granddaughter of Queen Victoria. As youngsters, they fell in love and "Nicky" knew that "Alix" was fated to be his bride. Theirs was a true love match at a time when royal marriages were arranged for any reason but love.
Two events conspired to cause the Romanov tragedy. First, Nicholas was not a very strong-willed man. He let others dominate him (including his wife). When his father died suddenly at the age of 49, the young Nicholas was totally unprepared and untrained to be Ruler of all the Russia's. Second, Nicholas and Alexandra were very family oriented, and it was a crushing blow when their 5th child and only son was born with hemophilia. In desperation, they alienated much of Russia (to protect this secret) and fell under the harmful influence of Rasputin. Russia was ripe for revolution, and Nicholas and Alexandra were too blind to see what was happening in their own country until it was too late.
Massie does a stellar job of bringing Russian history to life in a way that reads like a novel. He also writes with a passion born of experience. When his son was born with hemophilia, Massie started researching how hemophilia affected the royal houses of Europe-especially the Romanov's. He details not just Russian history, but the history of this dreaded disease including various types of hemophilia, treatments, new advances, etc. The only negative about this book is in the timing. Massie wrote what was known in the late 1960's. But since the fall of communism and perestroika, we now know so much more about what happened to the Imperial family. Massie took this new information and finished the story in The Romanov's: The Final Chapter. One book should not be read without the other.
Nicholas and Alexandra is one of my favorite nonfiction books, and I find myself rereading it every five to six years or so. I enjoy it just as much with each subsequent reading. My original paperback was in such tatters that I finally treated myself to a new hardback copy. Even after all these years, the tragic fate of the Romanov's continues to haunt us.
55 of 57 people found the following review helpful
on January 23, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Massie's work is very readable; more like a novel than a biography. There were times I couldn't believe some of the intimate details could be real, for how would Massie know? But at the back of the book he has extensive notes indicating the sources for all the details including diaries and memoirs. I thought Massie did an excellent job illustrating the roots of World War I, especially the relationship between Nicholas and Kaiser William II. Also excellent was the way he makes the enigma of Rasputin understandable and how he reconciles the public disfavor and lack of understanding of the tsar and his wife with their noble intentions with the good of Russia in mind. In reading history it is easy to imagine that the participants were ignorant or oblivious to larger trends that would envelop them, especially in light of subsequent historical events. Massie's story brilliantly sheds light on the story of the last tsar such that the reader can genuinely understand the motivations of most of the participants. Very enlightening reading. I strongly recommend the book for anyone interested in Russian history or just looking for a readable story.
28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on December 22, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
When this book first appeared in 1967, nothing anything like it had ever existed before. There were the original emigré accounts, most of them written in the 1920's and 1930's, which contained personal memories of the last tsar and his family from many points of view. There were the other historical sources which gave, for example, descriptions of Russian and European society in the time of Nicholas II, along with depictions of the cataclysmic events of war, revolution and regicide. The real brilliance of Robert Massie's "Nicholas and Alexandra" lies in the fact that he was able to weave these far-flung historical narratives into an intensely readable and informative whole, in the process resurrecting the last tsar and his family from the murky mists of time which had made them all but vanish from the attention of the world. A whole Romanov industry exists today, producing several new books on this tragic family every year. The public's fascination with this field, however, must surely be traced back to Massie's astonishing "Nicholas and Alexandra." It is a work of nearly faultless scholarship, fidelity to historical sources, and deeply moving human interest. It is unthinkable that one should let one's life pass by and leave this book unread. Get yourself a copy, loan it if you must, but don't ever let it stray forever from your shelves. It's that good.
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on October 6, 2000
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Booklist is quoted as saying Jude's latest "Temptation" is "typically formulaic but nonetheless satisfying story..." When I read "typically formulaic," I worried it really meant, "boring." After reading Temptation, I think a more apt description would have been --classic Jude Devereaux! Her latest novel is a wonderful, rich historical romance that is sure to please. Her characters walk out of the book and in to your head. I wanted to kick Agnus, shake hands with Temperance, and jump James (what woman wouldn't want to?).
Like many others, I'm enjoying the latest outpouring of romantic suspense novels. However, it seems like that's all the popular authors are writing these days. I enjoy reading them, but I also like having a romance to turn to that's not filled with twisted minds, blood, horror, and hate. Personally, I'm glad there are still talented and popular authors willing to write the classic romance. Thank you Jude for your latest "temptation!"
44 of 50 people found the following review helpful
on October 7, 2000
...we are very happy to have Jude Devearux back with another great wonderful book. Ms. Deveraux cut back on her writing schedule in order to spend more time with her new son. I wish her every happiness, even though I have missed seeing as much of her wonderful books of late.
Apparently, Ms. Deveraux has decided to not include the wonderful Montgomery/Taggert family in her sagas. They were the people who she built all her novels around until a couple of years ago. I kept waiting and hoping she would spring them out at the last minute or we would at least see a Montgomery across a crowded room. Who knows, maybe Agnes was a Taggert... anyway, on to the story.
Temperance was a woman with a cause and purpose. To help women in need get away from their worthless husbands and build new lives for themselves. She was a woman in 1909 who had built her own independant life after her father died. Imagine Temperance's surprise when her mother comes back from holiday with a real Scotsman in tow, Angus, who says she is to become a dutiful daughter and go live in the highlands. Temperance is a bit long in the tooth, but perhaps he can pursuade some man to marry her so she can take her proper place in society and do the only thing a well-brought up woman is supposed to do-marry and have children and be happy with her lot in life.
Temperance is understandably very annoyed with the high-handed attitudes of her new papa and sets out to get her own way in the end. Go she must to Scotland, after all, she doesn't have her own money. But Temperance manages to make Angus eat his words about what a dutiful daughter should be. After several months of her dutiful daughter routine drives him close to the brink of sanity, Angus decides to pack her off to his nephew's house to become his housekeeper and find him a bride. And here is where the fun begins.
Temperance must learn some lessons of living she did not get in New York salvaging women's lives. Temperance thinks she knows everything about what happens between men and women. A woman must stand firm and resist a man's foolish ways. But Temperance has never met a man like James.
Read this book if you are a fan of Jude Deveraux's works over the years. Read this book if you are a lover of romances and have yet to discover Jude Deveraux's wonderful sense of humor and of the absurd. Then go back and read all of Ms. Deveraux's other wonderful books-for the first or fiftieth time.
56 of 67 people found the following review helpful
on November 14, 2000
It goes against all of my instincts to give any Jude Devereaux book a less-than-stellar review, but I just can't recommend this book for the purpose it pretends to have.
This is not a romantic book, at least not in the traditional man-woman way. The storyline is enjoyable enough - an intelligent, attractive woman who is clearly ahead of her time meets a cranky, handsome man, who is clearly behind the times. As a story of personal growth, the book works. Temperence learns that in order to give, you have to take a little; James learns...well, I'm really not sure what James learned. He seems strangely dishonorable, disdainful and a whole lot of other "dis"-es I can't come up with right now. This is a book about Temperance and her journey, and James is almost an afterthought, more of a plot device to move Temperance along than anything else. I've rarely read a book where I wasn't remotely interested in the main male character, but this has the dubious distinction of being the most memorable example of that so far.
I could count on one hand the romantic or intimate scenes between the two characters, and even those felt stilted and awkward. Temperence and James would make good friends (or heaven forbid, brother and sister), but lovers? Not that I could see. After reading the book twice, I still don't have a clue why either of them are supposedly attracted to the other. There was no build-up, no feeling that these two had any passion for each other. When they do get together, it's forgettable (apparently for them too), uncomfortable and unsettling and James is insulting. It just felt wrong, for reasons I can't articulate.
I agree wholeheartedly with the reviewer who felt the ending was jarring and unsatisfying - none of the characters act remotely like they did throughout the rest of the book. I won't spoil it, but when I saw the date written on the last chapter, I actually said, "HUH?" out loud. I still don't get it, and plan on dumping this book off at the nearest reseller to make sure I don't read it again by mistake.
Buy this book if you are interested in one woman's experience in the early days of the women's equality movement, but save your money if you are looking for a passionate or tender romance with characters you know are destined to be together. You won't find it here.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on July 12, 2003
"Nicholas and Alexandra" was truly captivating. The vivid imagery sweeps one back to the final days of Imperial Russia; of balls, galas, war, revolution, an finally murder. Massie takes the stand, and with his words we relive one of the most mysterious, yet emotional struggles of early 20th century Russian history.
The way the book is written gives both the perspectives of a government in decay, complete with the political circumstances and key political figures of the time. However, the book often drifts off through the snow covered capital of St. Petersburg, to the ice cold walls of the Alexander Palace, where Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra became simply Nicky and Alix. In their private world at Tsarskoe Selo, the titles of "Their Imperial Majesties the Grand Duchess" and the Tsaravich simply became those names of children, from Olga to Alexis.
From these days at the Alexander Palace, Massie brought us up close to not only the Tsaravich's struggle with hemophilia, but also the struggle of a mother, Alexandra, whom had to bare it all, side by her son. In this came in the, in my opinion, intolerable abomination of a man the world knows as Rasputin.
The way Massie wrote of the influence of Rasputin on her Majesty the Empress Alexandra, and hence the influence on government, which led to the collapse of Imperial Russia, one clearly sees the faults that are shown within the Empress and her ineptitude to run an empire. However, at the same time, one feels for her and pays special attention to her religious beliefs, which influence much of the final outcome of her greatest mistake.
Finally, Massie depicts the final collapse of Imperial Russia on a swift day. This eventually leads to the imprisonment and final execution of the last Tsar, Autocrat of All the Russians, and his family. The breathtaking detail and account of their murder is extremely unsettling. One may think that reading of simply a murder, one of many, is not so great a shock, yet, as one has read this book from the very beginning, one has gotten to know, personally, the Imperial family, and cannot help but pity them.
This book is a great resource for one that has just become interested in this tragic episode of European History, or simply for one who wishes to learn more of this "Love that Ended an Empire".
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on August 2, 2000
This is a sensitive narration of the life and death of Russia's last Tsar and his tragic familly. Massie writes clearly and eloquently and succeeds in bringing his characters to life and developing a genuine empathy with them.
Massie's Nicholas and Alexandra emerge as rather sad and pathetic characters, out of touch with reality and hopelessly unqualified for the role thrust upon them. Massie's fascinating thesis is that the Russian revolution may have been brought about by a haemophilia gene passed along from queen Victoria. That is probably an extremely romanticised view of history. A more likely truth is that the tragic end of Tsarist Holy Russia was an accident waiting to happen. A fragile system built on fragile people. That fragility more than anything else is what comes across from reading these pages.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on April 8, 1998
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Most book lovers have a little list of super-favorites that they turn to year after year, and this classic by Robert Massie has been on my list for more than two decades. Massie brings the last years of the Russian Imperial court to astounding life, turning meticulously researched detail into a tapestry more compelling than fiction. You feel you've been there and met the Romanovs and the people around them, walked their halls, ridden in their trains, even faced their final terrors. Its as good as stepping into a time machine. How many times have I looked up from this paperback (I've gone through several copies over the years) and found that I've lost track of time. Recently, several lavishly illustrated books have come out with long-hidden photos of what NICHOLAS & ALEXANDRA describes -- gorgeous though those photo books are, they do not give you as powerful a sense of time and place as Massie's exceptionally readable prose. Details of Russian history, which could be ponderous for most readers, become lively and engrossing here. I love history, and no book in the genre pulls me back as often (or with as much satisfaction) as Massie's NICHOLAS & ALEXANDRA.