Alexandrovna, Duchess of Oldenburg, is trapped in a world of balls and marriage. Katerina wishes to be a doctor, although Russian women are not allowed in the medical schools. Katerina is also hiding a terrible secret: she can raise the dead. Katerina is careful never to tell anyone about her curse, but her secret gets out and now the rival families of the Dark and Light courts are after her power.
My knowledge of Russian history is minimal. It mostly revolves around Jewish history and not what the aristocracy was up to. But since I do know that the Russian Revolution was in 1917, whenever the tsarevitch (the heir to the throne) was mentioned I would think, "Oh Nicky, if only you knew what was coming." Most of the book was spent with Katerina going to balls. No wonder the regular Russian people revolted. I had a hard time keeping straight all the secondary characters. I did appreciate the explanation of Russian last names at the beginning of the book, which was helpful. Even so, with so many characters having the same name or similar names, and there were just so many of them, I lost track of who was who early on. I would have loved to have a family tree or something. There were just so many damn royals! And they're all related to each other.
When Katerina talked about the books other women liked with scorn, saying, "All romances ended exactly the same way: a girl realized the surly boy she had hated all along was the only person in the universe who could completely her soul. I did not believe for a minute that my soul could be completed by some surly boy," I had such high hopes for her. But nope. The surly boy that had annoyed her all along, who was constantly telling her she was evil was in fact madly in love with her and she with him. Sigh. Oh well.
So. Vampires. The Russian aristocracy is actually made up of those with fairy blood and those who are blood drinkers. At least the vampires were evil in this story. And Katerina did not fall in love with a vampire. Well, she sort of did, but only because she was under a spell, she knew he was evil. The plot was convoluted and it took us a very long time to get to the climax of the story, and many things were left up in the air. For instance, Katerina suddenly realizes that her cousin is slowly being poisoned and she must dash to her with the antidote! But then Katerina is kidnapped and forced to participate in the blood ritual of her fiancee and by the time she's made it back to St. Petersburg the fact her cousin so desperately needed an antidote has been forgotten.
The main action of the book unwound very slowly. Someone is raising the dead and forming an army. The tsar's personal guards are being killed. The vampires are rising. No one seemed to be doing much of anything though. The tsar's second son, George, the one who kept telling Katerina that she was evil and then asked her to marry him on the last couple pages of the book seemed to be in the know, so how did things progress so far into the badness?
It was fine. I thought it was a little slow and confusing, but I think people who like historical romance with a bit of an edge to it will enjoy this. I would put this on par with the Luxe series by Anna Godbersen.
Gathering Storm will be available January 10, 2012.