Patricia Wright, a history teacher, has elaborated this romance of a 19th century English governess in Russia from the actual letters of one of her relatives, and she strikes a fair balance between historical accuracy and the romantic plot. Eleanor Lovell meets her Knightley protector on the shipboard passage from London to St. Petersburg--an unattractive, older man who saves her from starving on the streets when her uncertain job evaporates like a summer on the steppes. Her introduction to the ""great paradox of Russian life"" is designed to attune the reader to the society: aristocratic splendor among the filthy serfs, superstitions and religion, methods of child care, plagues of cholera, and terror of the secret police. Eleanor takes to playing Florence Nightingale after the start of the Crimean War and ultimately is caught in a power play between two opposing factions. Wright's heroine is a feisty, proto-liberated young lady, and tiffs is a well-constructed, creditable contribution to the genre.