Paullina Simons has easily joined the ranks as one of my favorite authors with her ability to write novels that transport the reader in to the historical time period of her stories. She was born in Russia and her bestselling series, The Bronze Horseman trilogy, reflects the love she has from her motherland, and allows her readers to see the beauty of a country that war and politics have scarred. If you chose to read her series, be forewarned- your heart will break in many places, and you’ll always be looking for your own Alexander!
About the Series:
I’d owned a copy of The Bronze Horseman for years, but only cracked the book for the first time in 2017. It became one of my most favorite love stories and, eventually, series of all time. Author Paullina Simons takes the readers from war torn Leningrad, Russia (now Saint Petersburg) in the beginning of World War II, to the final chapters of Tatiana and Alexander’s lives in Arizona.
Published: July 2000, 2003, November 2005.
Publisher: Harper Collins
Trigger Warnings: This series contains the following potential triggers: war crimes, starvation, death, grief, sex, abuse.
TL/DR: The Bronze Horseman series is a WWII historical fiction trilogy that follows the love and war story of Tatiana and Alexander.
Read it? ABSOLUTELY. It’s long, so plan for that, every book is so beautiful and worth the the time investment.
Recommend it? Yes! To those looking for WWII historical fiction or a great love story, this is PERFECT. Best for mature audiences, due to some graphic scenes.
Buy it? YES- because not only will you love the series, but it’ll take a while to read it, and you don’t want to have a time limit!
Book 1: The Bronze Horseman
The Bronze Horseman is a heart wrenching love story that follows the lives of Tatiana and Alexander, who are drawn together on the day that the Soviet Union entered World War II. Young Tatiana, age seventeen, can’t help but fall for the man whom her sister, Dasha, has already laid claim to- Alexander, a Red Army soldier. But they can’t help but want to be together, so Alexander takes on a protective roll for Tatiana and Dasha’s family as they prepare and brace themselves for the war in Leningrad. As Tatiana and Alexander get closer, secrets are revealed, lies are formed, and their romantic interest in each other is put aside despite their desire.
As the war goes on and the Germans get closer, Tatiana’s innocent optimism is replaced by the need to remain hopeful for survival. She supports her family, but her family treats her more as a servant than a daughter. When her own mother, in hushed tones, said that she wanted her son, Pasha, home safe instead of Tatiana, Tatiana runs off to the war front to try and find her missing brother and bring him home. When Alexander finds out, he gathers a troop of soldiers and leads them to the front to bring Tatiana back. After searching for her, he finds her buried under a pile of bodies, barely conscious but alive.
After digging her out, he does what he can to help her, but she has a broken leg and is weak. The railroad systems back to Leningrad at the war front were bombed, so he carried her for kilometers on his back, overnight, to the nearest station and held her up until she was delivered safely to a hospital bed in Leningrad. Through all this, their bond strengthened.
Even as Tatiana healed, she still doted on her family’s needs. Through the winter of 1941-1942 during the Siege of Leningrad, she bared starvation, cold, bombings, and thieves to gather the small rations available for her family. Alexander helped when he could, supplying the family with extra food that he could get with his soldier rations. Things got bleaker and bleaker, with millions dying around them from starvation, cold, and disease. Though terribly weak herself, when Dasha couldn’t physically stand Tatiana went out and sought help from Alexander. He managed to get them evacuated across the Road of Life on Lake Ladoga despite the dangers, but his love-triangle relationship with Dasha and Tatiana did more personal damage. He sent them off with Tatiana’s heart breaking, and Alexander didn’t know if he’d ever see them alive again.
“How can I die,” he whispered, “when you have poured your immortal blood into me?”
As a hopeless closet romantic, this novel (all 900 plus pages) had me hooked.
Book 2: Tatiana and Alexander
Tatiana and Alexander is the sequel to The Bronze Horseman. It’s over 500 pages, and I couldn’t put it down for about three days.
The sequel follows Tatiana as she figures out how to live without Alexander in America. She and her little boy, Anthony, take up residence on Ellis Island, where Tatiana becomes a nurse, aiding the sick who enter as refugees and captives of the war. All the while, she holds on to the nagging feeling that Alexander hasn’t left her, that he must be alive…. and though she doesn’t quite know it, he is. He’s narrowly escaped death not once, but a handful of times, and he won’t stop holding on to the hope that he will see Tatiana and their baby again.
I had to know what would happen to Tatiana and Alexander. Would they survive the war? Would they be together? What happens if one of them dies? And there is plenty I’ve left out in this summary- sparing you all the great plot twists and turns.
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 had to learn what would become of Alexander and Tatiana.
Book 3: 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 need 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?
“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.”
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.
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.