Petrograd, 1914. It is a period of great upheaval for Russia – the Great World War has broken, and, ill-prepared, Russia is suffering the consequences, stricken by poverty and rife with both political and social tension. War creates unrest, and resources are limited – people are starving and fighting for their lives.
Valentina Yershova is one of the lucky ones. A dancer for the Imperial Russian Ballet, she has managed to escape poverty, but her coveted position is not without its sacrifices. As a woman in war-time, Valentina is vulnerable, and must do whatever it takes to climb the ranks and prove her worth. She is remarkably talented, but this isn’t enough, and her protector Maxim offers her financial security and support in exchange for her body (but never her heart).
For another talented dancer, Luka Zhirkov, being accepted into the company fulfills a lifelong dream. His proletariat father, however, regards him as a traitor, and it isn’t long before Luka begins to feel guilty about his new, lavish life – a life that is inaccessible to so many. Whilst employed by the Imperial Russian Ballet, Luka is safe from conscription (unlike his brother Pytor, who has gone to war). Nothing, however, is secure, and he could lose his position without notice.
Although presently secure and safe, both Valentina and Luka feel trapped, knowing that at any moment the foundations that they have built could collapse. They find safety in each other, in the connection they form and the inexplicable attraction that lures them ever-closer. Love in the time of war, however, is never easy, and Valentina and Luka must choose what they wish to keep – their country, their art, or each other….
A stunning debut from a talented new Australian voice, The Last Days of the Romanov Dancers is a powerful novel of revolution, passion, and just how much people are willing to sacrifice for love.
Kerri Turner brings this chaotic period of Russian history to life with her evocative and detailed writing creating an intricate web of stories about poverty, wealth, art, war, and the human condition. It grips you from start to finish. Fans of historical fiction will relish the rich detail of the book, and the way it captures both the facts and essence of the period. Romantics are in for a treat, too, with Valentina and Luka’s heated relationship made all the more intense by the gradual decline of their country and the uncertainty of their livelihoods.
For those of you looking to read more debut fiction this year, The Last Days of the Romanov Dancers is a must-read. Terri’s voice rings loud and clear and is a testament to the ever-growing range of quality Australian debut fiction that was such a highlight of publishing last year.
About the author:
The Last Days of the Romanov Dancers, my debut novel, is being released by HQ Fiction in January 2019. A second historical fiction novel, The Daughter of Victory Lights, is scheduled for release in early 2020. In 2017 I signed with literary agent Haylee Nash of The Nash Agency. In prior years, my short stories have been published by Reflex Fiction, Boolarong Press, Catchfire Press, Stringybark, Underground Writers, and as part of the Dangerous Women Project. My author influences include (but are not limited to) Kate Forsyth, Sara Gruen, Belinda Alexandra, Hazel Gaynor, Ken Follett, Eli Brown, and Kate Morton. I also have a special fondness for Lorna Hill, particularly her ‘Sadler’s Wells’ series, which I have collected since childhood. When not writing or reading, I can usually be found teaching ballet and tap dancing, baking sweet treats, or spending time with my husband and my miniature schnauzer Nelson.
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