Trigger Warning: This novel and review discuss the following: violence, abuse, PTSD, sex, adultery, war, death.
Goodreads Rating: 5 Stars
After reading The Bronze Horseman and it’s sequel Tatiana and Alexander, I fell for the romance between the two main characters and the historical aspect of Russia during World Word II. I liked learning about the Soviet point of view during the war, and how different life is for those under Communist regime- and how our characters fought for their freedom together. So when I learned this was a trilogy, I had to get my hands on the last novel. It took me FOREVER to get to it, but finally I have learned what becomes of Alexander and Tatiana.
In The Summer Garden, Tatiana and Alexander are finally safe in the United States post-war. They have escaped war torn Europe and the couple just needs to learn to live with their memories of the past.For Alexander, the difficulty lies with hiding his status as a captain in the Red Army during a time when a modern day witch hunt was happening for Communist sympathizers in the US. Being a soldier is all he knows, so searching for a new job that fulfills him is also bruising to his recovery. Tatiana also struggles with accepting the changes in her husband, with his torture scars, forced prison tattoos, and urgency for privacy with her despite needing to care for their son. Doing the best they can, the fight to reinforce their love and family bond.
While traveling the states looking for a place to ‘return to normal’, Tatiana conceals her real agenda of hiding Alexander from the US government. The man who helped secure their refugee status needs Alexander to meet with a panel that will secure Alexander’s citizenship, but Tatiana is afraid that they will take him from her and their son, and she cannot bear to lose him again. Unknowingly, this digs them deeper into trouble and makes them look extremely guilty of conspiracy with Russia. When Alexander finds out the truth, he immediately turns himself in against Tatiana’s wishes. It’s a nail-biting hearing, and I found the recap of Alexander’s time as a soldier and POW absolutely harrowing.
From there, Alexander and Tatiana must decide- where are they going to call home? Where are they going to raise their son? Will they ever be able to let go of their life in Russia?
At over 700 pages, there is a lot to cover in this novel that would give away the ending, but I will say that there is plenty of steamy love scenes, fast paced action, reminiscing of years before the war, and so much emotional heartache as we follow the love and life of Alexander and Tatiana. After reading the trilogy, I don’t think anyone could not love their larger than life story. I cried SO MANY TIMES… total emotional wreckage… but when an author gives you a couple as strong as these two, you can’t help but become emotionally involved too.
Simons yet again blows me away with her writing, and so I wanted to share a few lines that I adored:
“Deda nodded again. “And what did I tell you to do to unmuddle? Whenever you’re unsure of yourself, whenever you’re in doubt, ask yourself three questions. What do you believe in? What do you hope for? But most important, ask yourself, what do you love?” His arm was around her. “And when you answer, Tania, you will know who you are. And more important– if you ask this question of the people around you, you will know who they are too.”
I love a novel that gives you great life advice from the family patriarch, and I love the relationship Tatiana had with her grandfather. He certainly reminds me of my grandpa.
“Harold Barrington saying to a young Alexander, “We’re going to the Soviet Union because I want it to make you into the man you are meant to be.” And it did.
And Alexander Barrington saying to a young Anthony, “You decided what kind of man you want to grow up to be.” And he did.”
This reminiscent thought from Alexander, just prior to his son leaving for Vietnam, absolutely broke my heart. Their father/son relationship is so beautifully portrayed.
““Babe, how can I die,” he whispered, “when you have poured your immortal blood into me?”“
My heart damn near exploded at this point. Tatiana saved Alexander by giving him a blood transfusion straight from her own veins while he was on the verge of death at a point in the war. Years later, when he finds himself in the hospital and his wife distraught by his beside, this is what he says to comfort her. Cue melting swoon and waves of relief.
Obviously, I cannot recommend this novel, this trilogy, enough- especially for historical fiction and romance buffs. It has easily knocked a clear path to a spot on my all-time favorites list, and I can’t thank Simons enough for giving this love story to her readers.
TL/DR: The Summer Garden is the third novel in a WWII historical fiction trilogy that follows the love and war story of Tatiana and Alexander.
Read it? ABSOLUTELY. If you’ve been following the trilogy, it’s a MUST to find out what happens with the couple. It’s another long one, so make sure to plan for that too.
Recommend it? Yes, most so to those who have read the two prior novels. However, this book could stand alone- though, you’ll lose the references to the other novels. Also, I’d only recommend to mature audiences due to some graphic scenes.
Buy it? YES, especially if you own or read the other two.
If you liked this novel or review, check out these similar reads: