Trigger Warning: This novel and review discuss the following: war, war crimes, robbery, assault, abuse, sexual abuse, kidnapping, death and murder.
Goodreads Rating: 4 Stars
I started Lilac Girls thinking that I had a week before I would get my audiobook copy of Lost Roses, only for it to come a week early! So, I read these in tandem, always making sure I was ahead in Lilac Girls just in case there were any spoilers in Lost Roses, the prequel.
The novel follows three main characters, just as it’s sequel.
Just before WWI in 1914, Eliza and her friend Sofya are off to St. Petersburg, Russia. Sofya just had her baby boy Max, and the two were eagein the Russian high society. Sofya, cousin of the royal Romanov family, is eager to introduce Eliza Ferriday, a young Civil War Woollsey descendant of New York’s high society. After six weeks, word gets around that there’s a lot of unrest in the working classes, and a lot of disdain for the Czar and his family- which only adds to the disputes between communist Russia and Germany. Eliza decides to head back to the US before things get even more difficult, shortly thereafter finds that Germany is declaring war. She immediately regrets not bringing Sofya and her godson Max back with her, and finds herself in a state of worry over what will happen to them… until she finds that she has more to worry about in her own home.
Meanwhile, Sofya’s Romanov relatives hire local fortuneteller’s daughter, Varinka, after Varinka’s mother predicts disaster for Sofya’s son, Max. Varinka is a young woman with a complicated home situation- her mother is weak from illness, and so she has struck a deal with a devilish man named Tarus. Using this deal as blackmail for getting what he wants, he controls everything that happens to Varinka and her mother. However, when rebel bandits burglarize and hold the royal family hostage, Varinka sneaks out unnoticed with little Max, promising to shelter and keep him from harm. This only causes more issues with Tarus.
Yet again, Hall Kelly doesn’t disappoint with her ability to weave together a story that spans a chaotic period of time in history. Not only does she talk about WWI, but she also goes into the Romanov family murder and war refugee crises. Yet again, we also find a hero in another Ferriday woman, Caroline’s mother Eliza, as she provides for refugee Russian women.
In comparison to Lilac Girls, I have to say that Lost Roses was a little more predictable, and in listening to the audiobook, the narration was rather distracting from the story. Most of the time, I was curious about how the plot would play out- knowing that somehow, Varinka would meet Sofya and Eliza while returning Max- but there were moments where I found the narration a little dramatic for the moment. However, I still felt that Hall Kelly’s writing was consistent with her debut novel; very informative and well researched in the historical contexts, but maintaining the focus on the character’s personal stories and how the period’s events influenced them.
If you enjoyed Lilac Girls, I think you will enjoy Lost Roses. If you enjoy any historical fiction, this is a great choice. However, I would certainly borrow or buy a physical copy of this novel and skip the audiobook.
TL/DR: Lost Roses is a WWI historical fiction prequel to Lilac Girls. The novel follows three main characters, and it’s definitely worth reading.
Read it? Yes!
Recommend it? Yes, but to mature audiences who can handle the grim details of the novel.
Buy it? I would say borrow it first, and if you like it or think a copy for your Martha Hall Kelly collection is necessary, then buy it! Besides, the cover is gorgeous.
If you liked this novel or review, check out these similar reads:
- Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
- The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer
- The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
- The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
- The Light Over London by Julia Kelly