The ""black summer"" for southern Russia is the summer of '42--when the Germans are invading, the Red Army is retreating, the partisans are hiding out in the Caucasus mountainside. And when the German tanks reach Pyatigorsk, beautiful Nadia Surkova--who has stayed by her dying father's hospital bedside, refusing to flee to safety--is nearly raped by the ""Fritzes."" She is rescued, however, by decent Colonel Siegfried Brandt, who allows her to leave for her hometown, still-unoccupied Nalchik. . . but not before Brandt and Nadia fall in near-instantaneous love. This will soon cause complications and heartbreak, of course: when the Germans reach Nalchik, Nadia joins the partisan underground; she truly loves Red-Army husband Boris, a singleminded sort who is up in the mountains, helping partisan-leader Tembot Kochan in his guerrilla forays against the Germans; her young brother dies after Gestapo torture. Yet, when Brandt locates Nadia in Nalchik, she can't resist him--so they share a passionate idyll, with Brandt vowing to change his ways: ""Nadia, I've been a loyal soldier all my life. But you--you and your people--have shown me that there are more important things."" Unfortunately, however, before Brandt can prove his anti-fascist courage, Boris is grabbed by the Gestapo, tortured, told of the Brandt/Nadia affair. And when the tide begins to turn the other way, with the Red Army recapturing Nalchik and the Germans retreating, Brandt will make some final attempts to Do the Right Thing--first rescuing Boris, then striving for nobility in a final, ultimately fatal, snowy-mountain encounter with the partisans. Hale, British author of comic thrillers under another name, doesn't do much that's convincing or fresh with the clichÃ‰d love/war triangle here; the B-movie dialogue is often stilted, undermined by distracting Britishisms; the three main characters are heroic cardboard. But the Caucasus terrain, with its multi-ethnic politics, is sturdily sketched in--so readers with a strong interest in the German/Russian side of WW II action may be mildly intrigued by this old-fashioned romantic melodrama.