Songs of Steppe & Forest
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.
Song of the Sinner
After surviving marriage to a brute, Solomonida Sheremeteva has sworn never to take another husband. As a boyar’s widow, she at last has the right to choose her own destiny, and she intends to devote her attention to securing a happier future for her daughter. Never mind that she has feelings for a handsome official. His inferior rank means that any association with him can only damage her own child’s prospects.
Anfim Fadeyev could not agree more. He knows as well as Solomonida that a priest’s son should not aspire to the hand of a noblewoman, whatever his achievements in the government and in trade. He needs a mother for his children, not a highborn lover. So when passion overwhelms him and Solomonida one winter’s night, they both face a dilemma: how to respond when the demands of the heart contradict those of the head?
Song of the Storyteller
Lyuba Koshkina has long known that her father, an ambitious and unscrupulous nobleman, will stop at nothing to see her wed the grand prince—soon to be crowned as Russia’s first tsar, Ivan the Terrible. A few months after her sixteenth birthday, the call for the tsar’s bride show goes out. But Lyuba has goals of her own, and they do not include a royal marriage. She wants to record the tales that fill her head from morning to night, including the adventures of her own family. One day, she catches a handsome stranger reading her work and realizes that here stands the man she has loved since childhood—and that neither her father nor the Church will permit them to wed.
Timur Alexeevich has spent years away from home, learning from his uncles how to rule a Tatar horde. An unexpected summons brings him back to Moscow and the girl he once thought of as a little sister, now a scintillating, learned, and self-assured beauty destined—at least according to her father—to become Russia’s first tsaritsa. Even the grandson of a khan cannot compete with so exalted a future. All seems lost, until Lyuba discovers that a storyteller has the power to weave her own future from the twists of fate.