This one was clearly a win for me as a biography of Catherine the Great. Massie's writing is clear, brisk and kept the story moving throughout. What I really enjoyed was how he took the time and trouble to show how Catherine carried forward the reforms begun by Peter the Great, and was a monarch who overcame a great deal of adversity to overcome the obstacles of not being Russian, being a woman, and a usurper to boot -- most biographies focus on her time before becoming empress and/or her lovers -- while Massie does look closely at several of them, he also wisely discards the more wild rumours and looks at what Catherine actually did.
While I did receive an ARC of this, I still intend to buy a copy of the finished edition. This one gets five stars from me, and a hearty recommendation for anyone interested in Tsarist history.
For the longer review, please go here: