Robert Massie is one of my favorite popular historians. My European history teacher assigned us passages from Dreadnought in high school; I enjoyed it so much that I went on to read the rest of the book. In college, when I was assigned Nicholas and Alexandra, I read the whole thing in two or three pleasant afternoons. On the other hand, I’ve been reading Peter the Great off and on for over a year and I still haven’t finished it.* So I wasn’t sure what to expect when a family member bought me Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman at Christmas.