The Last Days of the Romanov Dancers by Kerri Turner. (2019).
**4 out of 5 stars**
Valentina has escaped poverty by being a dancer in the Romanovs’ Imperial Russian Ballet. She has clawed her way through the ranks with not just her talent, but her alliances with influential men that grant them her body but not her heart. Then Luka, a factory worker’s son, joins the company and everything she has built is put at risk.
In the eyes of his father, Luka is a traitor for joining the company instead of going to war. As civil war tightens its grip and people are starving, Luka is torn between his growing connection to Valentina and his guilt for their lavish lifestyle. The ballet has become the ultimate symbol of Romanov indulgence and the lovers will need to choose between their country, their art and each other.
I’ve always been quite interested in the era of the Romanov downfall so when I saw this book involved that plus the exquisite art of ballet I was very intrigued. It didn’t disappoint and I quite enjoyed this book. Luka’s character development was done really well I thought; at the beginning he was a likeable but slightly naive young man and by the end he had grown through his experiences. I liked Valentina and respected the choices she made given her circumstances. I appreciated the small tidbits and tastes of what life was like in this time period (the brief description of contraceptives used by women was certainly eye-opening!). I do think perhaps a glossary of some terms used in the book would have been helpful for me (the dance terms, and French/Russian terms etc) but a quick Google helped me out a few times haha.
Overall: a very enjoyable, well-researched tale of the growing love between two dancers in a time where ballet was to the working class like a red flag to a bull. A fantastic debut for this author, I look forward to her next literary offering.