Lost Roses is, at its core, a story of undying friendship between three women. It is set against the backdrop of Imperialist Russia and the turmoil created by the Bolshevik revolution – the Whites against the Reds.
The story opens in 1914 (pre-World War I) at Southampton, Long Island, NY. It is the home of Eliza Mitchell Ferriday where a farewell party is in full swing for her guests from Russia, Sofya Streshnayva and her husband along with Sofya’s younger sister Luba. Sofya and her sister are cousins to the Tsar’s children and after a lengthy visit to America are about to leave for home, accompanied by Eliza Ferriday who is anticipating seeing the sights of Petrograd. But when the very pregnant Sofya goes into labor, the trip is postponed. Young Max is born. He soon becomes the center of attention. In time, and after planning on a visit of several months, Eliza is content to leave her daughter Caroline in the care of her husband and Caroline’s grandmother.
In Russia, Eliza is aware of the unrest of the populace but her friend Sofya and the rest of her family is in denial. Surely the Imperial Troops will quell the unrest and life will go on as before. But when both young women are returning from the theater, their party is accosted by citizen bandits and are on the receiving end of some cruel treatment. Shortly thereafter, Eliza returns home to America but follows the situation in Russia. Sofya and her family at long last retire to their country estate some distance to the south of Petrograd. Behind their fenced and guarded estate, they continue on with their way of life. After all, Sofya’s father is a Finance Minister and they have a good bit of protection. Nearby, a Russian peasant girl named Varinka cares for her mama in what can politely be termed as squalor. When the countess, Sofya’s stepmother, seeks a reading of the cards from Varinka’s mama, a deal is struck where the countess will accept Varinka in a service position for the estate. Unfortunately for all concerned, Varinka has an acquaintance who is a member of the Red party. He is ruthless; he and his friends mean only harm to the Streshnayva family.
With conditions in Russia going from bad to worse, Eliza worries over her friend. Sofya maintains her habit of a daily letter, sent via her father’s ministry pouch; when her letters cease to arrive Eliza goes into overdrive, working through her family’s connections to learn what she can about her friends. In Russia, Sofya and her family are at the mercy of revolutionists who take over the estate and place the imperialist family under arrest in a barn, with nothing more than the clothes on their backs and one meager meal each day. Thankfully, Varinka had been assigned to care for young Max and she smuggles the child out of the estate and passes him off as her own. Throughout the ensuing years of World War I, we follow the stories of these three women who will move heaven and earth to keep their families and friends safe.
I loved the fact that the three main characters come from so very different ways of life. I thoroughly enjoyed this inside look at the lives of Imperial Russians and how they differed from the masses. Author Martha Hall Kelly’s historical research provided intricate details that allowed for total immersion on the part of the reader. This reader will admit to staying up late several nights and to committing to finish the book instead of sleeping. Narrated in part by each of the women, the story moves forward at a brisk pace.
Historical fiction fans will delight in this book, which is the prequel to Ms. Kelly’s Lilac Girls. Lost Roses will have you staying up late and turning off the tv. I happily give this book 5 stars.
Rating: 5 stars