The Blurb (from Goodreads):
Valentina Yershova's position in the Romanov's Imperial Russian Ballet is the only thing that keeps her from the clutches of poverty. With implacable determination, she has clawed her way through the ranks to soloist, utilising not only her talent, but her alliances with influential rich men that grants them her body, but never her heart. When Luka Zhirkov – the gifted son of a factory worker – joins the company, her passion for ballet and love is rekindled, putting at risk everything that she has built.
For Luka, being accepted into the company fulfills a lifelong dream. But in the eyes of his proletariat father, it makes him a traitor. As war tightens its grip and the country starves, Luka is increasingly burdened with guilt about their lavish lifestyles.
While Luka and Valentina's secret connection grows, the country rockets toward a revolution that will decide the fate of every dancer.
For the Imperial Russian Ballet has become the ultimate symbol of Romanov indulgence, and soon the lovers are forced to choose: their country, their art or each other...
I’ve always been fascinated by the Russian Revolution, and I’m a true balletomane, which means I love ballet. So this debut novel by Australian author Kerri Turner caught my attention from the outset, and was one of the first books I picked up when I was free to read solely for pleasure once more.
It’s set in Petrograd in 1914. Valentina has risen from grinding poverty to being one of the top dancers in the Imperial Russian Ballet, but the cost is very high – she is supported by rich patrons who can tire of her at any time and sell her on to some other man. Love, freedom, security – these are all impossible dreams. But Valentina lives to dance. Without the ballet, she has nothing. So she endures the degradation and humiliation of her life so that she can continue to dance, even while the opulent world of the Tsar and his family come under increasing pressure from revolutionary ideas.
Then a young man name Luka joins the company, and Valentina finds herself tempted not only by desire and the yearning for love, but the possibility of other ways to live, other ways to dance.
Yet to fall in love is to risk everything …
The Last Days of the Romanov Dancers is a compelling and beautifully written read, and I’m really looking forward to reading more by Kerri Turner. Her voice is deft and assured, her research impeccable.
You might also like to read my review of The Lace Weaver by Lauren Chater: