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Saturday, April 6, 2019

Lost Roses

In high school we were taught the Russian Bolsheviks were the good guys; the Romanovs, bad. Black and White; um, Red and White. Tsarist oppression of the masses; financial hardships incurred during World War I; outlandish royal indulgences and suppression leading up to the 1917 Revolution. But what about the brutal mass assassinations of the Russian Royal family and the tragic cruelties, deprivations, and wonton murders needlessly foisted upon the Russian aristocracy?

In Lost Roses, Martha Hall Kelly’s second historical novel to be released this Tuesday, one group of White Russians, suffering horrors at the hands of the Bolsheviks during the Great War, make it to the United States with the help of Eliza Ferriday. You will recall her daughter is Caroline Ferriday, the historical heroine of Lilac Girls who aided women refugees incarcerated and experimented on in Ravesbrünck during WWII. In the prequel to Lilac Girls, Eliza precedes her daughter’s instinct for humanitarianism with her own intrepidly heroically unselfish acts of mercy. As these traits run in the family, so they sparkle the pages of Kelly’s remarkably stunning second literary offering.

Kelly apparently “fell in love” with Eliza while researching Caroline’s life. According to her Author’s Notes, it was “natural” to want to write a second story about the fascinating Ferriday family. And fascinating this second read is, written with great compassion and wisdom. From descriptions and well-form characters developed through first-hand observation – Kelly travelled extensively throughout Russia and France during the research and writing of Lost Roses – we are swept back to 1914 when war in Europe has been threatened so many times that New Yorkers are quite blasé about it… Eliza, as a matter of fact, dismisses the imminent possibility of global conflict and cavalierly travels to St. Petersburg with Sofya Streshnayva, a Romanov cousin, whom she met in Paris several years before...

The trip is relatively unremarkable until Austria suddenly declares war on Serbia after the assassination of their crown prince. As the Russian Imperial dynasty starts to crumble, Eliza is forced to escape back to America while Sofya and her family flee to their country estate. When the lives of Sofya and her family are imperiled by their treacherous maid, Varinka, Eliza does her best to help them… Until Sofya’s letters stop coming…

Kelly is not only a master of historical factual nuances, she is also a masterful writer. Her words and phrases pop off the pages like brilliant fireflies on a hot summer’s evening. She is crisp and bold in her descriptions and even more definitive and demanding when designing her characters. As the author notes, all three major protagonists – Sofya, Eliza, and Vrinka – as well as the minor players, are based upon real-life people whose lives are augmented by Kelly’s compelling literary fictionalizations.

Lost Roses is a moving, fast-paced, insightful novel, laced with the wisdom of a newly-seasoned author. In an era of proliferated lies and suppressed realities, Kelly’s work powerfully rings true, dispels the myths that all Russian aristocracy were heartless, and bedecks those that underwent untold terrors with the fears and foibles of common (wo)men. And through telling the true story of one woman’s compassion for all (wo)mankind, Kelly reminds us that we are all deserving of love, understanding, compassion, and oftentimes, unselfishly-given assistance… regardless of who we are and whom others perceive us to be.

Enjoy the read!

3:36 pm edt          Comments

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June J. McInerney, the host of this Literary Blog, is an author, poet, and librettist. Her currently published works include a novel, a book of spiritual inspirations, two volumes of poetry, stories for children (of all ages) and a variety of children's musicals. Her titles include:
Miss Elmira's Secret Treasure: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Early 1900s
Colonial Theatre: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Roarin' 20s 
Phoenix Hose, Hook & Ladder: A Novel of Phoenixville during World War I
Columbia Hotel: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Early 1900s
the Schuylkill Monster: A Novel of Phoenixville in 1978
The Prisoner's Portrait: A Novel of Phoenxville during World War II
Rainbow in the Sky
Meditations for New Members

Adventures of Oreigh Ogglefont
The Basset Chronicles.
Cats of Nine Tales
Spinach Water: A Collection of Poems
Exodus Ending: A Collection of More Spiritual Poems

We Three Kings

Beauty and the Beast


Noah's Rainbow

Peter, Wolf, and Red Riding Hood



Originally from the New York metropolitan area, June currently lives near Valley Forge Park in Pennsylvania with her constant and loving companions, FrankieBernard and Sebastian Cat. She is currently working on her sixth novel.

June's novels can be purchased at amazon.com, through Barnes and Noble,
at the Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area,
the Gateway Pharmacy in Phoenixvile, PA

For more information about her musicals, which are also available on amazon.com,