Catherine the Great did much in her life to make Russia into a modern power. Educated, one of Russia's most competent rulers, and successful, she has had the bad luck to become a heroine of romantic fiction who is remember more for her sex life than for what she actually did and did not do. This book by Isabel de Madariaga shows us why Catherine was call "the great" and it wasn't because her life and loves. This was the great era of Russian expansion, cultural development (Catherine's offspring would get the benefit of the seeds she planted in the 18th century) and greater westernization. In all areas except one, the persistent problem of serfdom, which dominates the Imperial period of Russian history, Catherine advanced. I doubt very much if this will alter the image of Catherine that has been crafted in 1,000s of works of popular fiction, but readers wanting to know the whole story should take a look at this book.