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May 7, 2019

Superbly Written ~ Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly

by Donna Huber



I loved Lilac Girls so when I heard that Martha Hall Kelly had a new book coming out I was excited. Lost Roses is set during WWI, a period I don't read a lot, so this would be a test. Did I love Lilac Girls because it is in a favorite genre or because Kelly is a talented storyteller?

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.


Lost Roses
April 2019; Ballantine Books; 978-1524796372
audio, ebook, print (448 pages); historical fiction
While it is set during WWI, the story is not about the war in Europe. Instead, it is focused on the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. And even that is in the background. What is front and center in Lost Roses are the characters, namely three young women with their own struggles but affected by the war and revolution.

We met Caroline Ferriday in Lilac Girls, in this novel we meet her mother Eliza Woosely Ferriday. Her best friend from her schools days Sofya Streshnayva is a member of the Russian aristocracy (also known as White Russians) - she's cousins with the Romanovs. While hiding out in their country estate, Sofya employs a local peasant, Varinka Kozlov, as a nanny for her young son.

I knew a little about the Russian revolution from high school history. It is mentioned on Downton Abbey (a show I'm a big fan of) and I watched the Prime Original Romanovs last summer (not a fan of that show). We get glimpses of how bad it is for the peasants of Russia and from comments made by Eliza and Sofya, we know that the Tsar is largely ignoring the problems and the rest of the ruling class have their head in the sand about how dangerous the people leading this latest attempt at revolution.

I found it was interesting to get personal glimpses of this period of history. But what I really loved about Lost Roses is Kelly's ability to create wonderful, sympathetic characters.

 Of course, we are going to love Eliza. She may be a society woman, but she also knows when it is important to roll up your sleeves and do what needs to be done to help out others. That is why she created the American Central Committee for Russian Relief (kind of on the fly) and stood up to the "Pinks and Greens" at their vacation home in Southampton. All the while she mourning the sudden death of her husband and trying to reconnect with her tween-age daughter.

It was touch and go for a bit if Sofya was going to be a character we root for. After all she a member of the Russian elite and complains about how the rioting, looting, and starving of the lower class are an inconvenience. Perhaps she is just naive that villagers around their country estate won't turn on her family. But her love for her family and the willingness to do whatever it takes in the end to rescue her son does endear her to the reader.

Now, Varinka is a complicated character.  She is poorer than most of the villagers as her family is largely shunned by the village (her mother is believed to be a witch). She is tormented and controlled by the young man who had been an apprentice of her father. The reader immediately feels sorry for her. Even if she could get away from Taras, she and her mother would likely starve or freeze to death. Yet, instead of hating her when she steals Sofya's child, you feel even more sympathy for her plight.

Kelly is definitely a talented writer. I stayed up way too late reading as I wanted to see how things worked out for everyone. If I had any complaints, one, I would have liked more resolution in Varinka's story. Did life get better for her or did she suffer just as much under communist rule? And two, did anything come of the financial codes Sofya's father gave her?

Again, Kelly's attention to historical detail makes for a rich story that comes to life before the reader's eyes. If you love memorable characters, then this is a must-read book.

Buy Lost Roses at Amazon

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.

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2 comments:

  1. This sounds wonderful. I love reading anything pretty much about the Romanovs and loved I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon. I haven't read Lilac Girls but after your recommendation and that intro to Lost Roses, I think I'd better. "Mild social cruelty"? Woah!! Thanks for this. Here's my link for today: https://wp.me/p4DMf0-1FT

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