This is a beautiful book about Catherine the Great, told in the point of view of Barbara, the daughter of a Polish bookbinder who came to Russia for work. Her father wins the favor of Princess Elizabeth, who is entrusted with the life of Barbara. She's accepted into the palace as a seamstress, which she's not much good at, then recruited by the palace's spymaster as a tongue for the Empress.It's a unique novel for me, reading about royalty from the point of view of their nobility while the book is still primarily about the royalty. It really offered a wider view into the secret lives of the nobility of Russia, the secrets and intrigue which shaped history.Stachniak wrote her characters beautifully. When Barbara felt betrayed, I did too. She has an uncanny ability to capture emotion and portray it into words.