The Romanov Heiress
Publication date: March 20th 2023
Genres: Adult, Historical
Four sisters in hiding. A grand duchess in disguise. Dark family secrets revealed…an alternate future for the Romanov sisters from Jennifer Laam, author of The Secret Daughter of the Tsar and The Lost Season of Love and Snow.
With her parents and brother missing and presumed dead, Grand Duchess Olga Romanova must keep her younger sisters safe. The Bolsheviks are determined to eliminate any remaining holdovers from the tsarist regime, hunting down the last Romanovs and putting them to death. Now living in England, the Romanov sisters remain hidden to protect their identities, even as isolation strains their relationships.
But they can’t distance themselves from the world forever.
Olga learns that a peer of the realm has accused the late Empress Alexandra of betraying Russia and her allies during the Great War. Under the spell of the scheming Grigori Rasputin, Alexandra disclosed military secrets to the enemy and pursued a separate peace with Germany. If this rumor becomes history, it will destroy her mother’s legacy and her sisters’ futures.
Disguised as “Olivia,” a wartime nurse turned maid, Olga accepts a position in Lord Hammond’s household. There, she works to discover the truth about her mother. When Olga meets his lordship’s heir—an alluring, enigmatic war veteran—her situation grows even more precarious. Could she fall for the son of her new enemy? As she learns more about the tragedies of his past, Olga realizes the connection between their families is more complicated than it appears.
The fugitive lay on her back, bruised limbs pressed flat, hidden alongside her sisters underneath a mound of coarse blankets. As the ambulance rumbled to a halt, gasoline fumes flooded the rear compartment, masking the heavy odor of their unwashed bodies. Her breathing grew labored. She didn’t know where they were or who had stopped them. She only knew they must not make a sound.
Over the past weeks, they moved slowly through land held by the Bolsheviks. Every evening at dusk, they ate carefully rationed portions of tinned meat and dry wafers while their two saviors—agents from England with forged papers identifying them as officers of the Red Guard—checked the radio transmitter for word of Allied progress toward the northern ports along the White Sea. Then, during the scant hours of darkness afforded by the short summer nights, they traveled a tortuous course to avoid military checkpoints.
Bundled in tattered sweaters, Olga and her three sisters were gaunt. Their neglected hair hung limp about their shoulders. But their faces once adorned postcards, calendars, and boxes of fancy chocolates. If detained, they would be recognized at once.
The missing daughters of the tsar.
Anastasia’s warm body pressed closer, trembling as she tensed her jaw and tried to stifle a cough.
A terrifying scenario unfolded in Olga’s mind. Thick boots pounded on the roadway before soldiers with red stars tacked to their lapels tossed the blankets aside and dragged Olga and her sisters back into the hellish world they’d been so desperate to escape. What if this journey had been for nothing? Worse than nothing because they had left their parents and sick little brother, Alexei, behind.
Olga was twenty-two years old and the eldest. It fell on her to get them through this nightmare, no matter the outcome.
She felt around until she located her youngest sister’s hand. She held it tight, flinching at the hard calluses and pus leaking from an erupted blister on the pad of Anastasia’s thumb.
Deep masculine voices, muddled and indistinct, rumbled outside. The fingers of Olga’s free hand balled into fists, rage displacing fear. The Bolsheviks may have stolen everything she held dear, but Olga would confront them as a true Romanov. Unbroken. When they raised their revolvers, she would hold her head high and ensure her face haunted these traitors for the rest of their lives.
The back door of the old field ambulance creaked open. Tentatively, Olga drew the blanket down. After hours of near-darkness, sunlight momentarily blurred her vision. When Olga released Anastasia’s hand and sat upright, a cool breeze caressed her forehead.
Before her stood a broad-shouldered gentleman of about fifty, with black brows, a full beard flecked with gray, and brown eyes behind wire-framed spectacles. The man wore a khaki tunic, as Papa had during the war. The coat’s golden buttons and belt buckle gleamed in the morning sun.
“Your imperial highness.” The gentleman removed his hat and bowed his head. He had spoken in English. She assumed he was the commanding officer. A half-dozen other men stood behind him, each dressed in the same khaki uniform. Some rose on tip-toe to get a closer look at Olga.
None bore a red star on his lapel.
Her sisters emerged from under the blankets. They pressed her shoulders, exhalations warm on the back of her neck.
“I think he’s in charge.” Tatiana, the second eldest, whispered in Olga’s ear. “And waiting for you to speak first.”
A spark of hope ignited in her heart, yet Olga didn’t trust these strangers. It had been far too long since anyone outside her family had shown her kindness or respect. For months, they had been kept under constant watch: shoved about, subjected to barking orders and humiliating whims, and made to feel they clung to life by the thinnest of threads. Olga remembered the defeated expression on her little brother’s face when she’d said goodbye for the last time. Even her once proud father bent under the weight of captivity.
Their saviors, the two men who had rescued them from that nightmare, rounded the vehicle and walked toward the soldiers, broad smiles brightening their ruddy faces.
And then the words fell from Olga’s tongue easily, as Mama had always preferred to speak English with her family. “We are here then? We’ve made it to British soil?”
“We have delivered you to Arkhangelsk. From here, you will be transported to your new home.”
“We are in your debt, sir.”
Olga waited because she knew he would say more. There had to be more. While they had been rescued, their parents and brother remained imprisoned in Ekaterinburg, along with a handful of loyal servants.
“You will return for the others, won’t you?” she said, heart thumping. “My family. Our doctor. My mother’s maid. You must promise.”
The officer held her gaze. “The Bolsheviks fortified their defenses around the city’s perimeter. We can’t send our agents back to the house.”
Faced with those terrible words, Olga couldn’t bring herself to ask anything else. Couldn’t bear to hear it was too late. Her stomach churned, but she must not break. Not here. Not yet. As the eldest, she needed to stay strong. For her sisters.
When Olga said nothing more, the officer turned back to his men. Three soldiers joined him, lining up before her sisters to help them out of the ambulance.
“I know you are in pain,” the officer told her. “Remember that you and your sisters are safe. You survived. And we have done everything in our power to find a secure place for you. I promise.”
An avid history nerd, Jennifer currently lives in California with a spoiled tabby cat named Jonesy. When not reading or writing, she enjoys planning cosplay for the next San Diego Comic-Con, experimenting with vegetarian recipes (to mixed results), and obsessing over House Targaryen or Baby Yoda.
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