By Kate Furnivall
Published: Berkeley Trade; Aug 2010
Synopsis: Russia, 1910. Valentina Ivanova is the darling of St. Petersburg's elite aristocracy-until her romance with a Danish engineer creates a terrible scandal and her parents push her into a loveless engagement with a Russian count.
Meanwhile, Russia itself is bound for rebellion. With the Tsar and the Duma at each other's throats, and the Bolsheviks drawing their battle lines, the elegance and opulence of Tsarist rule are in their last days. And Valentina will be forced to make a choice that will change not only her own life, but the lives of those around her forever...
My Take: I'll be honest, I don't read a lot of historical fiction set in Russia. I know about Russian history in the broad sense but specific details might be a little lost on me. I love history though, and historical fiction is one of my favorite genres so when I saw this book I was immediately intrigued by it. An historical fiction book set around the time of the Russian Revolution with a bit of a romance thrown in. I was thinking I could probably like this. I was not disappointed!
However, it did take me the first 80 pages or so to really get into the book so please stick with it! I had to really figure out the political scene here. My mind was a little rusty on the details. Our heroine, Valentina and her family were immediately attacked by the Bolsheviks when the story opens. Her father is a minister working for the Tsar. You have to kind of figure out who is working for who and why people are so mad at each other. I started this book when I was sleepy so details were instantly murky and there were a lot of details to work out but then you get into the rhythm of it and it all quickly becomes quite easy to follow so don't let me make you think this book is all just about Russian politics because while it will teach you a lot about the politics and the mood of the time, it has so much more...
And that is the romance! Valentina is a spunky Russian female who has very stuffy parents. Her parents want her to tow the line and marry up, marry for money. You know the drill. Valentina is bored. She wants to do something real, become a nurse, help the people. She also falls in love with someone her parents don't really like at all, the Danish engineer Jens. Jens is in Russia building tunnels to help bring water to the whole of the city. Can they be together though or will their parents and/or the politics of the time tear them apart?
Here's what I kept wondering the whole time I was reading this book. Would I have stayed in Russia if I lived during this time and had enough money to leave like Valentina did? Because these poor people were being bombed at ever darn social event they went to, every time they went out shopping. I mean seriously who wants to live like that? I get annoyed when my public services fail me all week like the subway is constantly delayed but if there were bombs on it everyday? I think I might be like, 'you know, maybe we should move somewhere else?' I don't know, it rarely seems to ever cross people's minds until it's almost too late and I know it's their homeland and now we move around a lot more than people used to but geez. Ok I had my say. This book will have you on the edge of your seat because of this political climate and the romance. I loved it and I hope you do too!
There is a sequel to this book: 'The Russian Concubine' which I will definitely be checking out!
(I got this book from Crazy Book Tours)