“Grand Duchesses are not destined to share their lives with untitled Englishmen. Glorious summer days do not last forever. The memories, however, do linger.”
At the core this is a very simple story, that of John Kirby who has spent the last few years exploring Russia and its culture (he’s really a spy for the British government). John’s travels bring him to the Crimea as a guest of Princess Aleka Petrovna. The Imperial family is in residence at Livadia Palace and give a ball in honor of Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna’s birthday and John gets an invite. John makes a big splash with the royal family and he’s soon like one of the family, playing tennis with the Tsar and romping in the gardens with the children. Olga and John share an instant chemistry, and those feelings continue to grow, although they know it is a love that cannot be.
They had inherited autocracy, they were imprisoned by their heritage and governed by the edicts of their ancestors. On this summer day it did not seem important.
Russia is soon caught up in a war they are ill prepared for, and the country is ripe for revolution and John finds himself in the thick of it and no matter what path life sends him on, he always seems to land right in the lap of the royal family and Olga. I won’t say more, but I assume most of you know the fate of the Romanovs and that is where the book ends, although it does finish on a somewhat positive note with one of my favorite characters in the book (no, I’m not telling). I found this a good solid read, and I thought the method of using a character like John to give us an inside look at the Romanovs a good one, just be warned that that inside look was seen through a very rose-colored set of glasses. The Tsar and his family were such good, kind, loving, wonderful, beautiful people who hadn’t a clue that people could actually disagree with them, let alone kick them out for another form of government…Recommended for those who must read all things Romanov. Out of print, but I was able to obtain a copy via Inter-library Loan.