cover image Anna


Cynthia Harrod-Eagles, Cynthia Harrod Eagles. St. Martin's Press, $25.95 (631pp) ISBN 978-0-312-06290-3

In this vast yet meticulously detailed historical romance, veteran British author Harrod-Eagles sets young English governess Anne Peters at the center of shifting and cataclysmic events occuring in Russia between 1803 and 1812. Dismissed by her stuffy English employers because of a social blunder, the outspoken Anne is hired by Count Nikolai Kirov, an adviser to the czar, to educate his two lively daughters, Yelena, nine, and Natasha, two. Warmly received in the count's diverse Petersburg household--which includes his ineffectual wife, Irina; his vitriolic mother, Vera; and a host of ebullient relatives--Anne, now called Anna Petrovna, predictably, falls in love with the count, whose response is guarded. Against the somber background of the Napoleonic wars and ominous portents that the French emperor has designs on Russia, tensions within the Kirov household increase. Anna leaves and marries unwisely, leading a hollow existence as the wife of a wealthy, dissolute nobleman. Although the plot is fairly formulaic and much of the cast outrageously stereotyped--there are only devoted servants, contented serfs, happy peasants--the entanglements nevertheless intrigue. Readers may look forward to the projected sequel. (Sept.)