The Empress' Gift
THE VOLGA FRONTIER
In 1763, Empress Catherine the Great issued a compelling manifesto recruiting European emigrants to tame the wilderness along Russia’s mighty Volga River.
Powerful motives drive Lady Amila and two serfs—siblings Rein and Eva—to forge an unlikely alliance and join the first German emigrants. Following a perilous escape and year-long journey, they learn the true intent of the Empress’ Gift. To survive, the naïve trio and fellow colonists must utilize keen instincts and rapidly develop new skills to fight powerful enemies determined to see them fail.
"The Empress’ Gift is a stylish and gripping read. Ellen Laubhan bewitches us with bold characters who are strong of heart and mind. Her tale of the Volga wilderness, the trials and dangers faced by the intrepid German settlers who sought freedom there, fills a crucial gap
in European history. I couldn’t put it down."
Author of eight books, including Scribe
“My wife and I both read your book and loved. I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to have a peek at what life for these amazing pioneers was like.
It gave substance to the experiences our family had.”
Wisconsin Chapter, AHSGR
"This epic saga follows Lady Amila and two sibling serfs from their German home 2,000 miles to their new ‘home’ in an untamed wild frontier in Russia. This story has it all—envy, pride, greed, evil, danger, loss and love! This book kept my interest from the beginning to the exciting end. The author is immensely talented, and I hope that she will continue to write. I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily."
—Anonymous Reviewer, BookSirens
Praise & Reviews
"An amalgam of historical facts, riveting fiction, adventure and strength of spirit. Laubhan’s flair for tension and in-depth research coalesce in a way you don’t want to miss."
"Riveting! From start to finish, the author magically weaves the history of the German migration to the
Volga River into an exciting, dramatic adventure that you won't want to put down! Lady Amila's journey to start a new life in the untamed, wild frontier brings
to life the dangers settlers faced as they sought
a new beginning for themselves. A must read!"
—Anonymous Reviewer, Amazon
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Appearances & Events
Jan. 22, 2023: "The Journey" Presentation to American Historical Society of Germans from Russia (AHSGR) North Texas Chapter, Dallas (via Zoom)
Spring 2023 (date TBD): Book Talk and Signing, Wolf Creek Museum, Lipscomb, Texas
Book Signings, September 2022
"It was incredible to go 'home' for book signing and the grape stomp that cousin Tracy Ehrlich and the Laubhan-Ehrlich Vineyard folks held in September in Follett," says Ellen. "I reconnected with family and friends, signing books for locals who share the same ancestry, and for those who have their own unique family immigration stories. And we stomped grapes 'I Love Lucy style' on main street. I have the t-shirt with gooey footprints to prove it!"
Learning wine-making step by step concluded the event. "I want to thank Tracy Ehrlich and Sarah Laubhan for all this work to make the events happen," says Ellen.
A second sellout book signing was held Sept. 4, at the Windmill Museum and Park, in Shattuck, OK. Ellen says "I had never been to the museum that my grandfather, Jona Laubhan, helped plan, and where some of his designs are on display and sold. My grandfather respected the role of windmills in our history and built many, full-sized and miniatures, well into his 70s."
See Photo Gallery below:
Speaker: American Historical Society of Germans from Russia (AHSGR)
July 2022 International Convention
See Photo Gallery Below
"The First Pioneers," AHSGR Presentation
Ehrlich cousins following presentation
Presenting book to AHSGR Executive Director Deborah Arenz
"The First Pioneers," AHSGR Presentation
Author to Celebrate Hometown Roots at Book Signings Sept. 3-4
FOLLETT, TEXAS – Author Ellen Laubhan will celebrate her hometown roots and the release of her novel The Empress’ Gift: The Volga Frontier, with book-signings scheduled here Sept. 3-4.
Growing up in Follett, a community with a large Volga German population, Ms. Laubhan learned to appreciate her heritage as a German from Russia. She has spent the past ten years researching and writing The Empress’ Gift: The Volga Frontier, an historical fiction novel about the earliest Volga German pioneers in Russia. She drew from her ancestral roots to tell the story, which she hopes will be of interest to local families as well as the many Volga German descendants living in the United States.
Reading historical fiction throughout her life, Ms. Laubhan believed an important story was missing: the exciting, tumultuous story of the first Volga German pioneers in Russia, focusing on their unflinching resolve to make a better life for themselves and future generations. The book’s story was developed from many original family documents and other historic sources.
“Through family histories, I learned about the earliest years in Russia, including encounters with the wolves on the frozen Volga River—the book’s opening scene,” said Ms. Laubhan. “It was that story and others that made me want to write about it. The book’s characters are fictitious, but I found inspiration in many historic individuals, including relatives who arrived in Russia several years after the first pioneers.”
The book-signing event is being hosted by Tracy Ehrlich, Ms. Laubhan’s cousin, in conjunction with the Laubhan-Ehrlich Vineyard grape harvest. “I really appreciate the invitation to come and see Follett friends and relatives again after many years out of state,” she said.
The Empress’ Gift is available through Rowe Publishing, which released the book August 15, 2022. It is also available through Amazon books, in print and e-book formats.
Ms. Laubhan earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and communications from Texas A&M University, Canyon, and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Wyoming. Her career was in journalism, marketing, and communications related positions. She is a member of the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia (AHSGR) and Wyoming Writers, Inc. She and her husband have four children and five grandchildren. They divide their time between Laramie, Wyoming, and Phoenix, Arizona.