Tragically orphaned when young, a Seattle teen struggles to fit in then confronts demons in an isolated Russian village.
Living with drunken, blowsy foster mom Bambi (“If I would’ve left she would have lost her monthly check”) and Bambi’s endless parade of boyfriends, young Natasha endures nightly dreams about her mother’s brutal death and daytimes filled with despair. Two bright spots emerge: her remarkable artistic abilities and the enigmatic Chuck, a knight on shining motorcycle who puts up with Bambi for Natasha’s sake. Tutoring her in everything Russian, supporting her art and becoming the father she never knew, Chuck’s parting gift enables Natasha to return to her roots in Russia—where, in standard romance fashion, hunky but off-limits Anatoly meets her at the airport and in short order yells, shouts, snaps and generally glowers his way into her heart. Natasha quickly meets more young Russians with a mission and soon discovers her personal role in saving the world from evil, Chuck’s true identity, and why she and Anatoly can never be together. Townsend’s imaginative combination of traditional and apparently invented folklore elements provide interest and originality, but expository transitions are somewhat awkward. In the end, the intriguing mix of Russian mythology and ancient murals that come to life is underserved by an otherwise unremarkable plot.
This sweet, chaste entry into the world of romantic fantasy could have been so much more. (Paranormal romance. 12-16)