A remarkable woman. A woman you can't forget. An interesting woman. There's
more to her than meets the eye.
Chances are, a woman you've heard described by any of those terms was also the
object of criticism. A woman who won't stay in her place subjects herself to
Catherine The Great, Empress of Russia is no exception. She's the subject of my
historical novel, SIN OF
THE EMPRESS.The first time I heard of her, I was in my early twenties
and read a scholarly history book that I was called upon to review for a
newspaper. Later, I heard all those salacious stories about her sexual appetite
and the (false) story about her having sex with a horse. None of that was
mentioned in the somewhat dry tome I'd read, I might add.
Over time, I forgot about the book and dismissed the sensational gossip until
years later when I was inspired by authors Phillipa Gregory and Allison Weir to
try my hand at historical fiction. Catherine was there, lurking in the shadows
of my mind. I found that old book I'd reviewed and reread it. I also found a
copy of her memoir, written by her own hand and, although unfinished, it made me
cry. I found more books that had been written by others about her over the
years. I read Russian history, I read books about her lovers and associates,
and I even read the books she read and that she claimed shaped her life and her
Out of all of that a remarkable, interesting woman began to show herself, a
woman I couldn't forget. She was a woman who seemed to be crying out to have her
story written, not as straight history, but as a flesh and blood woman with
faults and virtues who could laugh and cry and bleed and love and hate and shape
She was in some ways a tragic figure, unloved by her mother, forced to leave
home and live in a foreign country where she didn't understand the language,
forced to marry someone who didn't love her, had her children taken from her.
At the same time she was a heroic woman who overcame adversity and used her
considerable intelligence to change the world. Still, she wasn't a typical
romantic heroine of today's historical fiction. She was too flawed, too much a
woman of her time for that.
In spite of that, I still felt she was crying out to have her story written in a
format that would allow her to speak and feel. It had to be written as
historical fiction. But her life was so full, so complicated, so filled with so
much drama, I wasn't sure how to write it. Finally, I decided that the only way
to get a handle on this very complex woman was to allow her to speak to me. The
first thing she seemed to want to say became the first paragraph of my novel.
All that I have ever done, I have done for love. I have sought love,
hungered for it, and schemed and manipulated for it all my life. Some say that
I even murdered my husband for love—love of power, they say.
Catherine's life took many unusual turns. Her husband, Peter III, was the
catalyst for many of those odd events because of his bizarre personality. Soon
after she was ordered by the reigning Empress Elizabeth to become his wife she
was called to his presence.
The future emperor was on the floor propped up on his left elbow when I
arrived. My first thought was that he had fallen and was trying to get up, but
all the servants who were preparing the table for our meal were ignoring him. I
soon saw he was preoccupied with a collection of toy soldiers.
She was eager for the love that her husband was incapable of showing her. It
wasn't that she sought out lovers, it was only that she was too hungry to
resist. Her first offer came from a handsome soldier.
" There's nothing more dangerous than a beautiful and charming woman like
you," Sergei said. He had his arm around my waist, guiding me across the uneven
ground toward a grassy area surrounded by small trees.
I was taken aback by his remark. No one had ever told me I was beautiful. My
reaction was to glance up at him. I'm not certain why. Perhaps it was to assure
myself that he was serious. When I did, he gave me a quick kiss on the lips then
squeezed my waist just as he said, "Here. On the grass."
Curls of his thick, dark hair dropped along his forehead, and his eyes, the
color of dark earth, shown with passion. He was the most handsome man I'd ever
Her life was never easy. Forbidden by Elizabeth to see her children, she spent
hours weeping and longing for them until she found a way to climb out of the
dark cavern of her grief by trying to rescue her new homeland from her inept
husband's grasp. In the process, she built a nation and earned the sobriquet
Catherine was a woman who changed the world. I was intrigued by her unusual
circumstances at first, but later, as she continued to speak to me through my
research and my writing, I came to admire her. It is my hope that she speaks to
you through the pages of SINS OF THE EMPRESS.
I can't predict your reaction to her, but I'm certain that you will never forget
About the Author:
Paula Paul is the
award-winning author of 25 novels for both children and adults. She also had a
career as a newspaper journalist and has won several state and national awards
in that field. A native Texan, she grew up on a cotton farm/ranch in Bailey
County, a county named for her ancestor who died at the Alamo. She loves playing
the piano and learning how to or about just about anything. Oh, and big family
get-togethers with her two children and their families. She lives in
Albuquerque, New Mexico, with her husband.
5 comments posted.
I love history and admire so many of the flesh and blood men and women who walked the earth so long ago. It sounds like this is a book beautifully told.
(Heidi Durham 5:50pm May 13, 2012)
I like historical fiction and uncovering characters which stay mostly true to voice. The tangents they go off on and the secrets revealed through close friends, allies and diaries makes for lively entertainment and opens topics for discussion.
(Alyson Widen 5:41pm May 15, 2012)
After reading your posting, I know this is a book that I was meant to read. I have read books about powerful women before - in fact I just got done reading the biography of Queen Elizabeth II, which I enjoyed very much. The very first book I've read of this genre was the Autobiography of Helen Keller, and she has been a big impact on my life. Catherine sounds like a remarkable woman, and I would be honored to read your book!!
(Peggy Roberson 9:20pm May 15, 2012)
Thanks to Heidi, Felicia, Alyson and Peggy for your comments. I hope you WILL read the book. I'd also appreciate a review on Amazon or anywhere, favorable and not. I can't continue learning as a writer unless you're honest.
(Paula Paul 9:11pm May 19, 2012)