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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

This Jewel is Tarnished

The Jewel of St. Petersburg
Kate Furnivall

Berkley Books, 2010

Valentina Ivanova, the daughter of a Russian aristocrat, was raised to be a member of high society, but after her sister is seriously injured she goes against her parents’ wishes and trains to be a nurse. All of the St. Petersburg elite class is watching Valentina because she is expected to make a fine match, but she doesn’t care what anyone thinks. She falls in love with Jens, a Danish engineer, and they secretly meet after her work each day. Meanwhile, the Bolsheviks are planning their uprising and a series of violent attacks is making everyone nervous and apprehensive. It is clear that the opulence and excess of the Tsarist period is about to end. Unfortunately, Valentina and Jens are careless in their meetings, and their unchaparoned rendezvous have been detected. This causes a scandal of epic proportions, and Valentina is forced into a loveless engagement with a Russian count. Will Jens and Valentina be together again? Will the Bolsheviks violence affect Valentina’s family?

Is this romance worth reading?
Umm, yes and no.

If you’re like me, no. Romantic novels as a genre are not my favorite thing to read. I like romance novels if they have some humor, or some exciting characters, or there is something “different” about them – some kind of hook that makes the reading experience rewarding. This romance novel is not as cheesy as your typical romance, but it’s still predictable and formulaic. Of course Valentina is not your typical society dame: she wants to do something important with her life; she meets a sexy man her parents don’t approve of; she has to marry someone she doesn’t love; blah blah blah. I can predict the end before I’m even finished, and guess what -- everyone lives happily ever after. True love conquers all. The Russian revolution is mildly interesting, but the characters and plot line are so unoriginal and boring that it overshadows any fleeting interest in the historical details.

Now, if you’re not like me and actually LIKE romances, you will love this one. And it has a great cover!

Rating (with apologies to any romance fans):

Other books by this author:
The Russian Concubine (2007)
The Red Scarf (2008)
The Girl From Junchow (2009)

Other books you may enjoy:

Sonja’s Run: Colonel Cut and the Romanov Rubies (2005)
At the 1852 Christmas party hosted by Tsar Nicholas I, the plucky half-Chinese, half-Russian poet Sonja Sankova decks Peter "Colonel Cut" Koslov, who is infamous for his necklace of ears taken from serfs and Jews.

White Blood by James Fleming (2006)
Riding out World War I in his family home near Smolensk, naturalist Charlie Doig finds himself trapped during a snowstorm by a motley group of aristocrats, servants, and soldiers, one of whom may be a Bolshevik out to destroy them all.

Ruslan by Barbara Scrupski (2003)
In glittering St. Petersburg, we meet Countess Alexandra Korvin: beautiful and intelligent, but also unmarried and—thanks to her late spendthrift father—quite penniless. In her polarized society of aristocratic grandeur and crushing poverty, a woman's only option is to marry well. Alexandra makes her way through St. Petersburg society, attending dazzling balls, lavish dinners, and operas in search of a spouse. Finally, craving freedom and rebelling against the confines of her life as a woman, she cuts off her hair and joins the army as a man—only to find the ultimate test of her feminine heart.

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