At fifteen, Emily Paget doesn’t have many options to look forward to in life. Her father is the disgraced and disinherited second son of an earl and lives off his sister’s charity. Emily is too well-born to take a career, yet too poor to attract a husband, although things start looking up when her Russian grandmother Natasha comes to England with the Russian Imperial court and takes a shine to Emily.
Shortly after Natasha’s departure, Emily receives a visit from the elderly Lady Hamilton (an old friend of the Kirovs) who swoops in like a fairy godmother and whisks her away to London and turns her into a proper young lady. While there, she and her friends become a wee bit too involved in the suffragette movement, but Emily eventually goes off to join her grandmother in St. Petersburg and just like Cinderella she marries her prince – but is he truly prince charming or was she deceived by Basil’s drop dead good looks? And what about Basil’s unhappily married brother-in-law Alexei Kirov? Are he and Emily destined to be soul mates? They sure do smoke off the pages at the first meeting……
First Basil then Alexei are off to serve in the Russian army and as the death toll at the Russian front rises to horrendous proportions, Emily is left in St. Petersburg desperately trying to hold what is left of the Alexei’s family together and alive. But the real terror begins when the Bolsheviks gain control of the government upon Lenin’s return to Russia. Is her English passport enough to get her safely out of Russia? What of Alexei’s wife and children – children she loves as if they were her own?
While a bit slow at the start with Emily’s life in the English countryside and her social whirl whilst first in Russia, once the war broke out and the revolutionary fervor ran amok I had a hard time putting this one down. Lenin’s Bolsheviks with their strong-arm tactics were terrifying, as well as a nail-biting escape from St. Petersburg that made the last 200 pages darn near unputdownable.
I’ve never read much on Russia’s Revolution and the rise of communism, and it was fascinating *seeing* how it came about and I really enjoyed the drawing-room politics and debates between Alexei and his brother;
“And if one of your fanatical chums ever does succeed to the purple, whatever his title may be – tsar or president or chief co-ordinator of the people’s revolution-you can bet your last rouble that he will out-ceasar Caesar in the most spectacular way.”
“They only use the poor as their excuse for taking what someone else has. They say, ‘If only we were the ones with the power, we could make everything all right’, but you try asking them how they plan to do it! They haven’t an idea, any of them. They’re so interested in the process of taking power, they haven’t begun to think what they’d do with it.”
Although Anna, Fleur and Emily are billed as a trilogy, there is sufficient passage of time between books that they can be read independently of each other. You might be slightly spoiled as to who ended up with whom (Fleur sure surprised me!), but other than that read them as your mood/interests lead you. This trilogy has been a grand ride and I’m sorry it’s over and I have to move on and leave the Kirovs behind. Darn it. One minor nit to all three and a request to any publisher considering re-issuing these – please get an editor in there and fix the typos – while minor there are way too many of them. 4/5 stars.
****Minor spoiler ahead****
I know there are some readers who have issues with adultery in their books. To each his own, but if you are one of them this might not be the book for you.
FTC – yes I’m sure you are dying to know – interlibrary loan.