Songs of Steppe & Forest
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Song of the Siren
Since childhood Lady Juliana has depended on her allure for survival. So when a sudden, debilitating illness robs her of her looks, her sense of her place in the world is shattered. The court that once idolized her spurns her. Who is she, if not the siren of men’s dreams?
Enter Felix Ossolinski—scholar, diplomat, Renaissance man. A riding accident in his teens forced him to redirect his energies from war to the life of the mind, and alone among the men of the sixteenth-century Polish court he sees in Juliana a kindred spirit, a woman who has never appreciated her own value and whose inner beauty outweighs any marring of her face.
At Felix’s suggestion the Polish queen offers Juliana a way out of her difficulties: spy for the royal family in return for a promise of financial independence. Facing poverty and degradation, Juliana cannot refuse, although the mission threatens not only her freedom but her life. Felix swears he will protect her. But no one can protect Juliana from the demons of her past.
Song of the Shaman
Once a servant, now a shaman, Grusha has found a place for herself and her small son in the Tatar world. When her teacher dies just as an epidemic strikes the camp, Grusha accepts full responsibility for the horde’s spiritual health. Indeed, she saves many children, including her own.
Yet her success underlines a more fundamental dilemma. Her son is growing up without a father, a serious handicap for a sixteenth-century warrior, and Grusha believes she must do her best to provide one for him. Only when a suitable candidate takes an interest in her does Grusha realize that revisiting the past she remembers with such nostalgia will force her to pit her own needs against those of her son.
Song of the Sisters
Darya Sheremeteva knows her duty. Everywhere the young Russian noblewoman turns, someone in her circle of family and friends seeks to remind her that she exists to serve a single purpose: to marry a powerful man selected by her male relatives and bear children, preferably sons, to continue his line.
But after years in isolation nursing her elderly father, Darya questions whether marriage and motherhood constitute the best, never mind the only, future for a woman of twenty-five. Should she not instead take monastic vows and surrender her will to the soaring ritual of the Orthodox Church?
When a cousin lays claim to her father’s estate, Darya’s decision acquires a new urgency. Because her cousin will stop at nothing to advance his career, and his most valuable asset is Darya herself.
From the first page of Song of the Sisters I was transported to sixteenth-century Russia. C. P. Lesley’s rich prose brings the challenges faced by the young noblewoman Darya and her sister Solomonida to vivid life. Charmed by her humor and ingenuity, I read avidly, rooting for Darya to find her own path beyond the control of her strutting peacock of a cousin, Igor. With themes of love, trust, friendship, and female empowerment, Song of the Sisters is an enthralling read that had me turning the pages long into the night.
—Kate Braithwaite, author of The Girl Puzzle and other novels
From Tatar shenanigans on the steppe to the machinations of Moscow’s elite, trained historian C. P. Lesley weaves historical facts with a prodigious imagination and a passion for sixteenth-century Russia. In Song of the Sisters, the third installment of Lesley’s delightful Songs of Steppe & Forest series, she has re-created a world of misogynistic laws, court intrigue, formidable clans competing for power, and women’s camaraderie in the face of male domination.
—G. P. Gottlieb, author of the Whipped and Sipped Mysteries
A vividly told tale full of magic and mysticism, passion and betrayal. The story of Grusha will grab you by the heart and throat as you travel through the medieval world of Russia and the steppe.
—Terry Gamble, author of The Eulogist and other novels
Song of the Siren is an exciting start to a new historical series. C. P. Lesley brings sixteenth-century Eastern Europe to life in a vivid and engaging way. Juliana is an inspiring heroine—a woman who overcomes tragedy and heartbreak to reach for that most elusive of prizes, freedom.
—P. K. Adams, author of the Jagiellonian Mysteries and other novels
C. P. Lesley’s Song of the Siren takes us to multicultural sixteenth-century Poland-Lithuania and Russia in this part adventure, part love story, part narrative of a woman's self-discovery and empowerment. Readers interested in the European Renaissance will enjoy this beautifully detailed historical novel.
—Charlene Ball, author of Dark Lady: A Novel of Emilia Bassano Lanyer
C. P. Lesley’s Song of the Siren whisks us away to Eastern Europe and Russia in this captivating tale of a heroine with a past. Juliana has lost her looks—or so she believes—but not her faith in her own mind, and as she confronts the enemies of her present and the demons of her childhood, she becomes a woman who cannot, and will not, be conquered. Lesley’s fans are sure to be delighted, and new readers will quickly become devoted followers.
—Sarah Kennedy, author of The Altarpiece and other novels
Across half a millennium comes this tale of a complex and fascinating heroine with threads that will rouse and resonate with women even today. The smart dialogue throughout the book weaves together a cast of characters—of whom we’re never quite sure who to trust—through betrayal, hope, fear, conflicting loyalties, determination, and love. Juliana ultimately emerges as a champion for all who think they are broken but instead find undiscovered, unimagined strength.
—Ellen Notbohm, author of The River by Starlight
From a talented author, Song of the Siren is well-crafted, nicely paced. An entertaining novel set in the Russian court.
—Weina Dai Randel, author of The Moon in the Palace