genre: young adult historical fiction
Catherine did it: she married Peter and is settling in as the wife of the future emperor. While navigating the tense political landscape, treaties are made and broken with kingdoms to the west and war breaks out, Catherine's main goal is to remain useful and thus in power. Her strained relationship with the ever-more-volitile Peter means that she must look elsewhere for happiness and soon even that is called into question when the need for an heir appears to trump anything that Catherine wishes for herself.
There is domestic abuse, here. Strategizing and the use of the bedchambers as a political weapon call Catherine's own morals and heart into question. She does what she pleases when it seems like that will help her get what she wants - but she also can deal with a LOT and she puts up with a LOT if it seems like that is the best way to her desired result. She's an intriguing character who makes hard choices (some of them unwise in my opinion) and who suffers a lot of heartache. Again, this installment is very readable and the plot moves fast - nothing life changing here but good entertainment. It, again, has a lot of "romantic" scenes and while not graphic at all, sex is at the heart of this book in many ways as Catherine negotiates her husband and her lover. I have no idea how much of it is factual (I'm thinking maybe not a huge amount) but it has made me interested in the real Catherine and I care enough about the story that I'll read the final book.