The Jewel of St Petersburg

Written by Kate Furnivall

A dramatic and exciting opening in the forest sets the political scene for a pre-revolutionary Russia in upheaval as the main character, Valentina, escapes from mysterious armed men only to witness the blowing up of her family home. Her sister Katja is crippled in the explosion. Valentina is a talented pianist, and during her performance for the Tsar, she sees and is attracted to Danish engineer Jens Friis, who later on becomes the love of her life. Bored with the life of a well-bred daughter paraded on the marriage market, Valentina pleads instead to be allowed to study nursing.

This novel is the prequel to the very successful The Russian Concubine and is destined to be just as popular. Readers who enjoyed that will certainly enjoy this, and fans will be blissfully content with this latest prequel installment The love scenes are somewhat overdone – how often can a man stare at his lover’s ‘delicate bones’ and the ‘curve of her spine’ etc., but the historical element, particularly the plight of the peasants and factory workers, is well done. The reader gets a powerful and atmospheric insight into the lives of the rich and the poor, and the two are contrasted vividly to demonstrate the reasons for the growing demand for change in Russia. The plot is at times unbelievable, but it is difficult to care as the reader is swept along with the feisty Valentina and her handsome Viking. Literary merit: well, not the best. Page-turningly compelling: oh yes, most definitely. Very enjoyable.