REVIEW: Tatya’s Story by Dinah Dean
He brings her gifts and kisses her, but it’s just pretend…
A carriage accident and a terrible marriage has left previously vivacious Tatya housebound, widowed, and heart weary. When she’s stranded on the floor after a fall, being saved by a strong red haired man—her brother’s friend Vassily Karachev—is the last thing she expects.
Even more shocking is his attention. Vassily offers to carry her to their friend’s wedding, and then—scandalously—to be her lover. He says she needs a suitor to reignite her spark with a few stolen kisses and with his help she’ll soon find a husband.
But when Vassily disappears and his life is in danger, Tatya finds that their innocent game might just break her heart. Because she’s falling in love with her pretend lover and he’s sworn not to marry…
The story of a downcast lady finding hope in the beautiful high-society world of aristocratic Russia. This book will delight those looking for historical detail and a period authentic fake relationship theme.
CW – Tatya refers to herself and is referred to by others using the then standard term “crippled”; Tatya was sexually abused by her deceased, sadistic husband; one other female character was briefly abducted and threatened; Vassily was abducted and graphically, verbally threatened.
On to book six of Dinah Dean’s Russian Series set among the aristocracy of early 19th Russia. The Napoleonic Wars are over and the series is finishing up by concentrating on the lives of a group of friends, all of whom we’ve met in the previous books. By this point, anyone who wants to avoid spoilers will be out of luck trying to read them out of order.
Countess Tatya Petrovna Kalinskaya was once the center of a group of flirtatious beaux. Dinners, picnics, and balls saw her surrounded by handsome men wishing to play at the flirting game. It is vaguely known that her arranged marriage had been unhappy and that the widow doesn’t seem to wish for a second husband. Vassily Sergeivich Karachev was engaged once but had his trust in love shattered. Since then he has embarked upon many mysterious journeys across Europe during the war and travels afterwards. Though charming and attentive in society, he has made it clear that he too doesn’t want to marry.
Now both find themselves in St. Petersburg and among the same circle of people. Tatya has joined her brother Lev and his wife Irina in order to attend the marriage ceremony of Nikolai and his Rose (as he calls her as there are too many Tatyas and Tanyas and people get confused). Also there are Boris and his (all but in name) betrothed as well as Vassily’s brother stoic Vladimir Sergeivich and the young woman he desperately wants to marry.
Five years ago Tatya was involved in a horrific carriage accident that left one of her legs badly damaged to the point she must be carried or use a wheelchair. Before she has time to blink, Vassily appoints himself to the job of carrying her about and the two begin to spend time together. Vassily sees how fond Tatya is of a young child and, realizing that she wants a child, tries to earn her confidence and help her past her horrible memories. He’ll tell her about his past romance failure and trust that she will slowly become confident enough to reveal hers. Then he’ll try and help her overcome what is holding her back from finding a kind man to love her and whom she can trust not to abuse her again. Oh, and they’ll go to dinners and balls and sightseeing, and deal with two abductions along the way.
Vassily has a very blunt way of speaking and in a way, it’s helpful to two women. Tatya is a bit taken aback when he offers a flirtatious relationship with her – something she discovers she’s missed in the five years since her accident – and to become her lover if she wishes. He pledges to take care of her, treat her right, and let her wants guide their actions. Later in the book when another young woman is rescued from the clutches of a dirtbag, Vassily also calmly but directly inquires about what happened and sets to reassuring her that she is safe.
Tatya and Vassily find themselves discussing the issue of serfs – or souls as they are sometimes referred to. Vassily hasn’t freed his serfs yet and initially believes that since he’s treated them well and provided schools and medical clinics that they’re happy. Over the course of the story, he learns that freedom is independent from having material needs taken care of. Part of that he learns first hand and part of it comes from Tatya’s views and from what she gives him as a name day present – “A Short Guide to the Systematic Understanding of the Civil Law of Private Property in Russia.” Tatya is intelligent and knows how to make her point.
There is another subplot that involves the rising number of political groups in Russia who are determined to overthrow the monarchy. We’re not quite to the Decembrist Revolt but it’s on the horizon. Many of the male characters talk about the aims of these various groups, how Alexander Pavlovitch – as the Emperor is referred to – views them, and what Russia might be like should the monarchy be overthrown. Queue modern day thoughts of what was to happen less than 100 years later.
In “Tatya’s Story,” Dinah Dean takes us on a tour of Peterhof, Oranienbaum, and especially something that sounded like a lot of fun – the Sliding Hill Pavilion. Sadly that building no longer has any traces of the “coasting” slides that our characters enjoy.
One thing that I didn’t care for is when Vassily tells Tatya about an event that occurred in “The Green Gallant.” Kudos that he tells her but the way he describes the other person involved is beyond the slightly patronizing way it unfolded in that book and veers into insulting.
As they spend time together, Tatya and Vassily both think about what happened to them in the past and how they reacted. I found myself more in sympathy with Tatya who was forced into an arranged marriage and had to bear the physical abuse. Going into another relationship would have left her more vulnerable than Vassily who – though emotionally wounded – wouldn’t have had as much to fear. Their relationship slowly unfolds as they see past their light flirtation and beneath the masks they wear to hide their loneliness and longing for what they see their friends and family have. I didn’t feel this was rushed. By the end, they are confident and sure. B-