London, 1851: all the world flock to the Great Exhibition, where beautiful, independent Fleur Hamilton encounters the enigmatic Count Sergei Kirov.
When they meet again in St Petersburg, she knows that her fate is entangled with this vibrant man, whom she cannot understand, and yet who stirs her like no other.
But England and Russia are on the brink of war; Kirov is on the brink of a marriage of convenience; and Fleur finds herself trapped in an agonising triangle of passion and betrayal.
From the magical splendours of St Petersburg to the peril and squalor of besieged Sebastopol, Fleur follows her love; and through danger and suffering seeks to unravel the mystery of Kirov's tragic past, and find her destiny.
This somewhat arch historical romance, the second book (after Anna ) in the author's projected Kirov trilogy, has as its heroine a Victorian innocent named Fleur, an outspoken 24-year-old of proper English birth who, rescued from ruffians by the visiting Russian Count Kirov, falls madly in love with her savior and his solemn, brooding eyes. He spurns her, and she is devastated. Almost two years later, traveling to St. Petersburg with family, she cannot resist seeing her count one more time. A slave to her heart, she agrees to stay with him, chastely, after his marriage of convenience to the woman Fleur's brother loves. The outbreak of the Crimean War pits Russia against Britain and France, and Fleur's brother, a member of the famous Light Brigade, against Fleur's true love. Although the description of British society in the 1850s is solid enough, the Russian settings are vaguely rendered. Smooth prose doesn't compensate for inconsistent characterization, and the resolution of the complex romantic muddle is hasty and artificial. (Jan.)
In this second installment of the saga of Count Sergei Kirov by the author of Anna ( LJ 9/15/91), Fleur Hamilton falls in love with the count when he rescues her from two thugs in the park in Victorian London in 1850. Later meetings so strengthen their attraction that when he leaves London at the end of the year without declaring himself, she is devastated. Two years later, she meets Sergei's brother Peter on the ship taking her, her brother, and her father to Russia. While her father goes on a scientific expedition, Fleur stays with friends, including the Kirovs. The Crimean War begins, disrupting their family ties, and Fleur remains with Sergei and his new wife--held by her love for him and his strange need of her. Multifaceted characters and a strong historical background add flavor to this enjoyable romance. It can stand alone, but reading Anna first will explain why the count acts as he does. See also the review of Harrod-Eagles's Death Watch on p. 169.--Ed.-- Andrea Lee Shuey, Dallas P.L.