A sweeping historical from Britisher Read (The Templars, 2000, etc.), who brings us into WWI and the Russian Revolution as seen through the eyes of a liberated young lady of the early 20th century.
Alice Fry may seem as English as Devonshire cream, but she is actually half-French, and her father, the founder and president of the Progressive Press, is a couple of degrees short of being an outright Communist. Alice is both open-minded and uncommonly well-informed about the world—thanks, in part, to all the books on her father’s backlist—so it shouldn’t be too surprising that her first great love affair is with someone most of her friends consider entirely inappropriate: an aristocrat. Edward Cobb is the son of a baronet, a product of Eton and Oxford, an army officer, and a budding member of Parliament. Seduced by the precocious Alice, he’s smitten overnight and begs her to marry him. Although Alice disapproves of marriage as an institution, she accepts. But soon afterward Alice’s father becomes the center of controversy when one of his books (a treatise on sex) brings a trial for public obscenity. Worried for his political career, Edward decides that Alice is too much of a liability and breaks off the engagement. Pregnant with his child, Alice leaves the country for a position as governess in the household of a Russian count. There, the turmoil of WWI and the approaching Russian Revolution surround her—turmoil that she (as daughter of a socialist intellectual) is in a better position to understand than most. Meanwhile, Edward regrets his decision and sets off to search for her in a Europe convulsed by revolution and war. Alice, however (now the mother of Edward’s son), has fallen in love with the baron who hired her.
A real potboiler but a good one: interesting characters, exciting situations, a nice, taut narrative.