The Imperial Wife follows the lives of two women, one in contemporary New York City and the other in eighteenth-century Russia.
Tanya Kagan, a specialist in Russian art at a top New York auction house, is trying to entice Russia's wealthy oligarchs to bid on the biggest sale of her career, The Order of Saint Catherine, while making sense of the sudden and unexplained departure of her husband.
As questions arise over the provenance of the Order and auction fever kicks in, Reyn takes us into the world of Catherine the Great, the infamous 18th-century woman who may have owned the priceless artifact, and who it turns out faced many of the same issues Tanya wrestles with in her own life.
The Imperial Wife asks what female ambition means, today and in the past, and whether a marriage can withstand an ambitious wife.
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Originally confusing, but overall okay – not great
After the initial confusion, I was able to follow the book, but it wasn't clear until the very end what the reason for the two concurrent stories was. I'm not sure what the best solution is, but the current form is unsettling at best :-(. I don't think that I am in agreement that the story about the Princess/queen is the worse, as I read in another review. I liked that one, and it felt more complete than the other. The other one felt disconnected and inconclusive. Overall, I guess it was an okay book, although the modern-day character didn't interest me at all, and I'm left somewhat off balance with the story.
- Marsha L. Woerner