James Conroyd Martin, Author . St. Martin's $24.95 (432p) ISBN 978-0-312-31150-6

Tumultuous times in late 18th-century Poland are the backdrop for this stiffly written historical romance based on the unpublished diary of Countess Anna Maria Berezowska. In 1791, 17-year-old Anna, orphaned by the near-simultaneous deaths of her parents, has come to live with her aunt and uncle on their country estate. Guileless and innocent, Anna falls in love with handsome neighbor Jan Stelnicki, awakening the wrath of her conniving cousin Zofia, who wants him for herself. After Zofia orchestrates a disastrous picnic, Anna is left alone in the woods, and is brutally raped by a stranger. Married off against her will immediately after the attack, she soon discovers that she is pregnant. In the same year, the Third of May Constitution is signed by King Stanislaw, giving peasants human rights. Many Polish nobles are enraged by the new laws, and call for Catherine of Russia to deliver them. The conflict divides Poland, swallowing up Anna, Zofia and Jan, as well as Zofia's brutal brother, Walter, who signs on with Catherine. Martin devotes more space to romantic drama than to historical detail, but her characters are nonetheless caricaturish: even the conflicted, flamboyant Zofia fails to spring fully to life. Martin's tendency to tell rather than show slows the narrative, and few readers will make it to the overheated finale, in which Anna flees the victorious Russian army as it advances on Warsaw. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 08/04/2003
Release date: 09/01/2003
Genre: Fiction
Ebook - 432 pages - 978-1-4299-7953-5
Paperback - 608 pages - 978-0-7388-3141-1
Hardcover - 612 pages - 978-0-7388-3140-4
Paperback - 496 pages - 978-0-312-31153-7
MP3 CD - 978-1-5113-3765-6
MP3 CD - 978-1-5366-6612-0
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