Saturday, December 19, 2009

Imperial Nights

Imperial Nights by Olivia O'Neill

Genre; Fiction/Historical Romance
Publisher; Futura Publications Limited/Great Britain/1980
Pages; 473

Plot; Set in the late 1800's/early 1900's during a time of war for Imperial Russia, Alexia is the love-child of a Polish Princess and her Russian Guardsman. When Alexia's Mother dies she is forced to seek out her Father who is now a highly regarded Russian Diplomat back in his homeland. At first Alexia fears her father will not accept her as his child but instead she finds a home where she becomes one of four children, with an accepting Step-Mother who raises Alexia as one of her own. This is also the home in which she meets her eldest step-brother Valerian, whom she instantly falls in love with, although this love is not returned as he sees her as no more than his younger sister. When war falls on Russia Valerian leaves to fight for the Tsar while Alexia is forced to follow her Father and Step-Mother to Siberian outposts where she meets an Englishman named Anthony who becomes a very close confidante. After a brief encounter with Rasputin, an adventure in Egypt and a marriage, Alexia is once again brought together with Valerian, but is he the man she really wants?

My Thoughts; I thoroughly enjoyed this story, but what girl doesn't enjoy a wartime romance? Amidst the images of war torn Imperial Russia O'Neill depicts characters that you can really sink your teeth into; the annoyingly arrogant little brother, the self-obsessed and decadent Father, the highly-strung and overly strict Step-Mother, the enigmatic Rasputin and the dependable Anthony, to name a few.

I found Alexia to be an enjoyable character to travel through this tale with. What she lacks through naivety she makes up for with will and guts. While Alexia did not always make the decisions I would have in her situation she rethinks her choices, recalculates and makes good.

What I really appreciated about this novel was the snippets of war. I have read wartime romances before that have focused purely on the relationships leaving out the reality of the characters and the torn world around them, but O'Neill has beautifully amalgamated the grandeur of the aristocratic life with the cold and unforgiving battle fields.

The character who I really feel for in this story is Olga, the step-mother. Alexia does not depict her in the brightest of lights and yet I could feel nothing but compassion for a woman who is so severely neglected by her husband and yet stands by his side unwaveringly.

Overall, as I have said, I found this to be an enjoyable read. I liked meeting all the characters and after I had finished the final page I couldn't help but wonder how their story went on. I am a fan of romantic literature but it was nice to also have the added thrill of watching Russia in the throws of conflict with a the little quirky religious offshoots, thanks to Rasputin.
I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a bit of romance, but wants something a little more substancial than the "quivering limbs" of Mills & Boon.

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