The B&N Podcast: Martha Hall Kelly on Roses and Romanovs

Every author has a story beyond the one that they put down on paper. The Barnes & Noble Podcast goes between the lines with today’s most interesting writers, exploring what inspires them, what confounds them, and what they were thinking when they wrote the books we’re talking about.

Martha Hall Kelly’s runaway 2016 bestseller Lilac Girls captivated the world with the braided stories of three women — one American, one German, one Polish — who witness the tumultuous events of the 1940s and 1950s. Readers who dove into that story will be overjoyed to return to Martha Hall Kelly’s fiction with her new book Lost Roses the latest Barnes & Noble Book Club selection.  Lost Roses introduces Eliza Ferriday, mother to Caroline Ferriday from Lilac Girls, and travels back a generation in time to tell the story of Russian emigres and New York Society during the First World War — as only Martha Hall Kelly can. In this episode, Kelly joins Miwa Messer in the studio to talk about the inspiration behind her sweeping new novel.


The million-copy bestseller Lilac Girls introduced the real-life heroine Caroline Ferriday. Now Lost Roses, set a generation earlier and also inspired by true events, features Caroline’s mother, Eliza, and follows three equally indomitable women from St. Petersburg to Paris under the shadow of World War I.

It is 1914, and the world has been on the brink of war so often, many New Yorkers treat the subject with only passing interest. Eliza Ferriday is thrilled to be traveling to St. Petersburg with Sofya Streshnayva, a cousin of the Romanovs. The two met years ago one summer in Paris and became close confidantes. Now Eliza embarks on the trip of a lifetime, home with Sofya to see the splendors of Russia: the church with the interior covered in jeweled mosaics, the Rembrandts at the tsar’s Winter Palace, the famous ballet.

But when Austria declares war on Serbia and Russia’s imperial dynasty begins to fall, Eliza escapes back to America, while Sofya and her family flee to their country estate. In need of domestic help, they hire the local fortune-teller’s daughter, Varinka, unknowingly bringing intense danger into their household.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Eliza is doing her part to help the White Russian families find safety as they escape the revolution. But when Sofya’s letters suddenly stop coming, she fears the worst for her best friend.

From the turbulent streets of St. Petersburg and aristocratic countryside estates to the avenues of Paris where a society of fallen Russian émigrés live to the mansions of Long Island, the lives of Eliza, Sofya, and Varinka will intersect in profound ways. In her newest powerful tale told through female-driven perspectives, Martha Hall Kelly celebrates the unbreakable bonds of women’s friendship, especially during the darkest days of history.

This special Barnes & Noble Exclusive Edition is signed by Martha Hall Kelly and includes a deeply personal essay from her on the many travels and journeys she took researching the history and the characters for Lost Roses and Lilac Girls, as well as a reading group guide.

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Author photo of Martha Hall Kelly (c) Jeff Mosier.