I love this incursion into the lives of Russia's royals in the mid-18th century. Told from the perspective of Varvara, a Polish orphan accepted into the court of Empress Elizabeth (the owner, rumor has it, of 1,000 robes and an equivalent amount of shoes and jewelry). Varvara becomes a spy for Elizabeth's chancellor and eventually companion and friend to Catherine II the Great, then an insecure princess from Germany brought in to marry the far-from-salubrious and wholly disinterested Peter III.
The author sometimes gives Polish when this reader expected Russian, even allowing for Varvara's Polish heritage (she has spent most of her life in St. Petersburg). But otherwise, the research is great and the presentation engaging.