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Sunday, November 17, 2013

"The Secret Daughter of the Tsar" by Jennifer Laam~Author Interview~Great Read!


A compelling alternate history of the Romanov family in which a secret fifth daughter—smuggled out of Russia before the revolution—continues the royal lineage to dramatic consequences.

In her riveting debut novel, The Secret Daughter of the Tsar, Jennifer Laam seamlessly braids together the stories of three women: Veronica, Lena, and Charlotte. Veronica is an aspiring historian living in present-day Los Angeles when she meets a mysterious man who may be heir to the Russian throne. As she sets about investigating the legitimacy of his claim through a winding path of romance and deception, the ghosts of her own past begin to haunt her. Lena, a servant in the imperial Russian court of 1902, is approached by the desperate Empress Alexandra.  After conceiving four daughters, the Empress is determined to sire a son and believes Lena can help her. Once elevated to the Romanov’s treacherous inner circle, Lena finds herself under the watchful eye of the meddling Dowager Empress Marie. Charlotte, a former ballerina living in World War II occupied Paris, receives a surprise visit from a German officer. Determined to protect her son from the Nazis, Charlotte escapes the city, but not before learning that the officer’s interest in her stems from his longstanding obsession with the fate of the Russian monarchy. Then as Veronica's passion intensifies, and her search for the true heir to the throne takes a dangerous turn, the reader learns just how these three vastly different women are connected.

The Secret Daughter of the Tsar is thrilling from its first intense moments until its final, unexpected conclusion.


Published by:  St. Martin's Griffin
Pages:  342 with Discussion Questions
Genre:  Historical Fiction/Contemporary Fiction
Author:  Jennifer Laam
Website:  http://www.jenniferlaam.com 
For more info.:  http://readinggroupgold.com

Purchase this book:  Barnes & Noble  and  Amazon


Jennifer Laam 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. The Secret Daughter of the Tsar is her first novel.

Please go to her website  http://www.jenniferlaam.com where you can find and read an excerpt of her novel...


We are so thrilled to be able to bring you this question and answer interview with Jennifer Laam today.  I want to thank her for her willingness to take time out of her very busy schedule to visit with us...  So, let's get right to it!

1)      Tell us something about yourself, please.  How do most people describe you? 


My worldview is subversive, but I don’t think anyone would accuse me of being bitter or mean-spirited. My sense of humor is self-deprecating, perhaps to a fault. I think most people would say I’m quiet and a little shy. But if they know me well, they know I’m only quiet until I’m either comfortable, buzzed, or have something interesting to say. Then I want to talk all day and everyone should drop what they’re doing and listen to me!


2)      Briefly, from where did the idea for your novel germinate?

Shortly after college, I went on a Nicholas and Alexandra bender. I became particularly enamored of stories—no matter how half-baked—of possible survivors of the massacre of the royal family. This was about the same time DNA testing proved there weren’t any survivors. I ran into a story of an interview with a possible “fifth daughter of the tsar” in a book on Anastasia, a story DNA testing hadn’t disproved. It’s been a long road since then, but that got me started.

3)      Who first told you you could write well, and how did it affect you?

I remember writing a story in high school and at a particularly devastating moment (I felt), the teacher wrote in large red letters: “Oh no!” When I saw her comment, a little voice crying “nailed it!” went off in my head. That was a satisfying moment. When a reader reacts that way to something I write…that’s what makes the hours of agony all worthwhile.

4)      Which contemporary authors do you most admire?

I love Jonathan Franzen for selfish reasons. I feel validated when I read his work. Inevitably one or more of his characters will react to something EXACTLY the way I would react or say something that EXACTLY articulates how I feel. I also adore Margaret Atwood, Jeffrey Eugenides, Gary Shteyngart, and John Irving. Phillipa Gregory and Lisa See can do no wrong.

5)      Which are your favorite classical authors?

I could do a laundry list with this question as well, but instead I’ll take the stand that it all begins and ends with Billy Shakespeare.


6)      Jump into any book~which character would you be?

Harriet the Spy. Except without the discipline. Her writing work ethic was fierce!

7)      If you could have 5 historical people to dinner, who would they be?  What would you have to eat?

As a history geek, I’m almost offended by the question. How can anyone possibly narrow this field down to five? I would not invite Nicholas or Alexandra or their children because they’ve been through enough already and should rest in peace.  To get my Russian fix, I would invite Catherine the Great and her hot advisor/lover Prince Potemkin. I’m fascinated by their relationship. Even when they started sleeping with other people, they were loyal to one another. So sweet! I would also invite Anne Boleyn. She could carry her head around and I’d ask how you get a man to change an entire country’s religious inclination for you.

That leaves two slots.  They go to Toussaint L’ouverture and Eliza Jumel (who?). Toussaint, of course, initiated the revolt of enslaved individuals in the 18th century in what is now Haiti. That’s ballsy. I’d like to hear more about it. Eliza was an American woman who lived in the same time period and was married to a “refugee” of that revolution.  Later in life, she briefly married notorious Alexander Hamilton-killer Aaron Burr. Toussaint and Eliza never met in life, but I have a feeling they’d hit it off. 

I don’t eat meat. I don’t really cook much. I’m certainly not going to try to cook for five historical figures…too much pressure. So the meal would be vegan take-out from the Loving Hut. Enjoy the faux Mongolian beef, everyone!

8)      Read any good books in the past 6 months?

I’m a bandwagon fan, but I’ve raced through George R.R. Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice series. I like recognizing the historical influences…the Dothraki remind me of the Mongols, for example…in a fantasy world. What a great way to circumvent the history police. And Tyrion Lannister…I love that guy!

9)      Favorite two tv shows:


I’m one of those who believe the Golden Age of Television Drama is happening right now. This list could go on forever. Since you’re asking for two, I’ll go with Breaking Bad and The Wire.  But it kills me not to at least say the words Downton Abbey.


10)   Favorite movie of all time:

L.A. Confidential for many reasons. The one-two awesomeness of romanticism and noir. The one-two awesomeness of Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce in their primes. The book is so wonderfully dense and they did a fantastic job of staying true to the intensity and complexity of the source material while still making appropriate edits for length. There has got to be a lesson in that for writers going through the revision process.

11)   Are you working on a new book?

Yes and thank you for asking. I am writing a sequel to THE SECRET DAUGHTER OF THE TSAR. As with that novel, there are three time frames, one of which involves the aforementioned Catherine the Great and the glorious Prince Potemkin. 


12)   Anything else I forgot to ask you?


Nothing I can think of, but may I take this opportunity to ask your readers to please, please, please pick up a copy of THE SECRET DAUGHTER OF THE TSAR? I’ll also do an obligatory plug for my website: jenniferlaam.com. Stop on by and say hello!

Oooo, what a fascinating person you are, Jennifer.  I wish we lived closer and had time for a real talk in real time.  I've always been enamored of the Romanov family, also.  Just horrific what happened to them and I always hoped Anastasia was the real thing.  Thanks again for your gracious visit with us.
I'm encouraging people to stop by your website, as well.


What fun I had reading this book.  The tragic story of the Tsarist Romanov family of Russia is one that fascinates me.  Jennifer Laam has taken that historical background and made the Romanov's alive and vibrant through their fictitious servants and supposed heirs.  I was completely taken in by the novel from the Prologue onward.  This work of historical fiction is such a good read!

The story line is fluent and gripping. I couldn't stand to be torn away and was really aggravated when anything or anyone interrupted my reading time.  Skipping through time and through the viewpoints of different women, it held my interest completely.  I had no trouble following the action and found my heart racing at some of the intimate and dangerous moments involved in the story.

Hard to say which was my favorite character in this one because there were several and so many out- standing moments in the book.  I think I was most captivated by the Charlotte of the Paris/Nazi era.  She was vulnerable in a beautiful way.  While finding herself in dangerous situations, open to violence from several aspects, she maintained her courage and a sense of herself.  She was a regal woman despite the facts surrounding her...decisive and intuitive.  I liked her gentle heart.

The suspense and mystery of this historical fiction was unexpected.  It carried me swiftly through the book as I couldn't predict the conclusion until the very end.  It's a very clever "mouse trap" of a novel!  Made me wish there were a secret daughter of the tsar....or is there?

I highly recommend this one.  Beautifully researched.  Fun to read.  A great suspense/thriller/mystery that is compelling and insightful.  Likable characters in realistic situations.  I loved it!

5 stars                           Deborah/TheBookishDame


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