Lost Roses Book Cover Lost Roses
Martha Hall Kelly
Historical Fiction
Ballantine Books (April 9, 2019)

It is 1914, and the world has been on the brink of war so often, many New Yorkers treat the subject with only passing interest. Eliza Ferriday is thrilled to be traveling to St. Petersburg with Sofya Streshnayva, a cousin of the Romanovs. The two met years ago one summer in Paris and became close confidantes. Now Eliza embarks on the trip of a lifetime, home with Sofya to see the splendors of Russia: the church with the interior covered in jeweled mosaics, the Rembrandts at the tsar’s Winter Palace, the famous ballet.

But when Austria declares war on Serbia and Russia’s imperial dynasty begins to fall, Eliza escapes back to America, while Sofya and her family flee to their country estate. In need of domestic help, they hire the local fortune-teller’s daughter, Varinka, unknowingly bringing intense danger into their household.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Eliza is doing her part to help the White Russian families find safety as they escape the revolution. But when Sofya’s letters suddenly stop coming, she fears the worst for her best friend.

From the turbulent streets of St. Petersburg and aristocratic countryside estates to the avenues of Paris where a society of fallen Russian émigrés live to the mansions of Long Island, the lives of Eliza, Sofya, and Varinka will intersect in profound ways. In her newest powerful tale told through female-driven perspectives, Martha Hall Kelly celebrates the unbreakable bonds of women’s friendship, especially during the darkest days of history.

Lost Roses is the type of book I tend to avoid. It’s a period piece based on true tragedy, which means I’ll cry ugly tears. After I found the courage to start Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly, I found that I couldn’t stop reading. Each chapter I said it will be enough to have a tiny snippet of closure so I could sleep. You can see where this is going. I ended up getting to sleep sometime after 3:30 am and thus have a serious book hangover today. 

Why did such tragedy have to occur?

The harsh treatment of people throughout the war is truly devastating. Lost Roses doesn’t go too heavily into these scenes; however, I’m way too empathetic. A small fiction scene told from one of the Russian immigrants told to Eliza Ferriday (one of our main characters) had me literally crying for five minutes.

Lost Roses is a story of perseverance. It is a telling of what lengths women will go for their own survival. Even when it seemed impossible for Sofya to survive the fall of Russia’s imperial dynasty, let alone have the will to try, she just kept moving forward. Her story of challenges may have been fictional, but there’s no doubt it is quite true to what real women of the period endured.

There was already a lot of buzz around this book before I had a chance to read it for myself. I can attest to the hype. Martha Hall Kelly wonderfully combined fictional characters alongside true historical figures of the Imperial Dynasty. The plight of Russian immigrants seeking a semblance of a good life in America shouts at our current state of affairs.

Grab the tissues, sit in your favorite reading place, and brace yourself for a brilliant story.