SPOILERS AHOY!! Well, at least for the first half of the book that is 😉
Quick run down: St. Petersburg 1910 and Russia is on the verge of revolution. Valentina Ivanova is the pampered daughter of one of the Tsar’s ministers. She meets Danish engineer Jens Friis and its true love, but her parents want her to marry a wealthy Russian Count (and one with a jealous temper to boot). Valentina would rather become a nurse than dress up and go to parties, but she needs her father’s signature on the application and strikes a bargain with him – she’ll let Captain Chernov court her and in exchange he’ll sign the papers. Scratching your head at that? See, Chernov’s family is influential so some of that gravy train will pass down to Valentina’s father. In exchange, she gets to be a nurse. Got it now? Hope so, ’cause I don’t.
Anyhoo, Valentina loves Jens (not sure why no one notices the difference between the time the nursing shift ends and when she gets home) and they spend an afternoon together walking in the park, helping a sick peasant woman and more ending with the big love scene,
“Was her skin dead before? It must have been. Pale, lifeless and limp. Because it came alive on the reindeer rug in a way Valentina didn’t know was possible. She no longer recognized this extraordinary covering on her body as hers. Each pore, each fine layer, each smooth unexplored part of it possessed a separate existence of its own that only needed the touch of Jen’s lips to bring it to life.”
And that friends is when the book flew. I really don’t mind a good romance on occasion, nor a bit of sex, but I still want some believability in my story and I just wasn’t getting it here. An explosion in the sewers and fearing for their lives all she’s worried about is getting up close and personal with Jens? No one notices when she disappears from a formal ball and goes off unescorted with a strange man? As for the seething emotions of the dissatisfied masses? It was all rather shallow to me, more like window dressing than experiencing the *real deal*. I’d recommend Cynthia Harrod-Eagle’s Emily for a more emotional look at this period and a stronger, more believable love story along with it.