I’m excited to kick off another Moonlight and Mystery blog series, this one on each author’s favorite hero or heroine! In the past, we’ve done a series of posts on settings for our novels and a book that impacted our childhood. But this is the first time we’ve had to pick favorites! I’m not going to lie, as an avid reader, it’s tough. I did a post on my own blog years ago on my favorite fictional couples, and I forced myself to narrow it down to five (note – I had not read The Bronze Horseman yet!). But one hero OR heroine? Nearly impossible.
But, since I have to, I’m going with the heroine of a book that made a huge impression on me, a historical romance novel that might not be on romance readers’ radar, since it’s not as well-known as Outlander or Whitney, My Love. The novel is called The Bronze Horseman, and it only crossed into my To-Be-Read list because Goodreads has a feature that shows novels you might like based on your ratings of novels you’ve read. The Bronze Horseman popped up as a popular choice for fans of Outlander, Pillars of the Earth, Gone with the Wind, and The Tea Rose…all books I loved.
I’ll admit, I had my doubts when I started the book—WWII-era Leningrad does not have the same romantic flair as, say, the Scottish Highlands of the 18th century, but I am so, so glad I pushed through the opening scene as we meet the family and the Stalin regime announces the Soviet Union is at war. I was literally captivated by this book. Entranced. Every romance author knows that conflict is key, and for a series like this one, multiple, believable conflicts are necessary. Author Paullina Simons delivers this brilliantly, if painfully (for readers who want these characters to have their HEA). My heart ached for what the two main characters (and many of the additional characters) had to go through—and the horrors of war are brought to life by the author’s attention to detail and meticulous research. And yet through it all, a beautiful and poignant love between Tatiana and Alexander grows and endures.
Okay, so that’s a lot about why I loved the book. What is it about the characters that made them favorites? I did love the hero Alexander, don’t get me wrong. Some readers were uncomfortable with some of his behavior early on in the book, when he’s trapped in a love triangle of sorts. While it wasn’t the most admiral spot for him to be in, I tried to view it through a more favorable lens. Tatiana was really too young for him at the time, even though he loved her. He also was trying to do as Tatiana directed, because she wanted Alexander’s current girlfriend to be happy. Finally, he used the relationship to have frequent contact with Tatiana’s family as the war progressed and supplies grew tight, and it allowed him to bring them all food.
This initial conflict, with Tatiana worrying more about someone else’s happiness than her own, shows right off the bat how selfless she is. As the borders are closed in an attempt to starve all the inhabitants of Leningrad, Tatiana, the youngest in the family, becomes the strong one, braving brutal cold and dangerous streets daily to find food for her family. She cares for each of them even while she worries about Alexander fighting at the front. She bears the load as each person gives up or dies from the cold and lack of nourishment, or the constant bombings.
When it becomes clear her brother may have been injured in a battle, she goes looking for him. When the hospital fill with wounded and dying, she’s there, volunteering as a nurse. And lest it sound like she’s too nice, too sweet, we eventually see what she’ll do to save Alexander from behind enemy lines. Nothing stops her, and the determination and cunning she shows to rescue her love make for an edge-of-your-seat plot-line. Beyond that, I don’t want to say too much, because, spoilers! And if I’m making it seem like too depressing a read, well, war is horrific, but remember that it *is* a romance, which means a Happily Ever After (eventually)…and there are some wonderful scenes of joy in simply being alive (and steamy encounters) when Alexander is given leave.
I’d add that the first two books, The Bronze Horseman and Tatiana and Alexander, are worth the read if you like epic Historical Romance. The third and last in the series (The Summer Garden) was extremely disappointing to many fans and didn’t seem to fit, as if it had to be tacked on as the final book in the series per a contract. Although there is an exciting scene at the end, if you’re determined to see the series through!
Have you read these books? What were your takes on the characters?