I think this is terrible! It may be ""The Fabulous Life of Russia's First Empress"" but her story remains to be told by someone whose flair for this sort of fictionized biography is greater than Phil Stong's straight corn. Catherine I, mistress of three libertines -- daughter of a Latvian peasant -- brought up in a Protestant rectory -- ultimately became the wife of Peter the Great, and perhaps the most influential woman of the early 18th century Europe. There is a great story to be told here -- but Stong has muddled the stream with superficial scholarship, a confusion of focus (now centering on Peter -- now on Marta, later christened Catherine and made an Empress -- now attempting to etch the background of moving forces in the world). Now and again, his real feel for story value almost runs away with him, and then his serious intent halts him -- and spoils his story...The result is neither good biography nor good story telling. And his lame attempts to strike a modern note by allusions, comparisons, and so on hinders rather than helps. It is hard to realize that the biographer is an experienced writer. The book cries out for a relentless pruning, editing, blue-pencilling job to make it even passably readable...And this in spite of superb potential material. Go slow -- though Stong's name will count for substantial advance interest.