Opening Line: “Nathaniel, this is Constantine.” Lady Rathbone nodded to him and then to the small blond boy standing next to a pair of adults whom Nathaniel assumed were his parents.”
This was only 50 pages long but they were a really, really good 50 pages. Well written suspenseful, heartbreaking, surprising, uplifting and just beautiful, I’ll definitely be searching out more from this author. Also complete in terms of story and character development, I became fully emerged in this novella which transported me back to another time when social standing, duty to country and family obligations were of the upmost importance. Being gay or even not marrying wasn’t an option.
We meet two young boys and watch as over a period of years they become best friends, then lovers, always separated by their preordained futures and country of birth. A surprising suspense factor came into play for me because I was always aware that WW1 was looming ahead, so as beautiful as it was watching Nathaniel and Konstantin fall in love it was also bittersweet because there couldn’t possibly be any future (even a clandestine one) between an heir to the British throne and his Russian counterpart.
Six year old Nathaniel and Konstantin meet each other for the first time in 1890’s England. I got the feeling that both boys were lonely, growing up in such wealth and standing and with so much expected of them when all they really wanted was to be children. Subsequently their connection is immediate, based on finding a kindred spirit.
Through Nathaniel’s eyes and over yearly summer visits and letters we see their friendship blossom into more, so that by the time they attend college together each is aware that those early kisses, fumblings and releases has developed into a serious love affair (although neither has a name for what they’re feeling or doing they just know that they long to be together) Eventually their carefree college days end, with family obligation and duty separating the men once more. They are now expected to marry and for me these were some of the most heartbreaking scenes. The anguish they each go through standing at the other’s wedding, imagining that the vows are for one another instead of their intended brides is heartbreaking.
“When it got to the part where Konstantin was saying his vows, Nathaniel concentrated on every word. It might sound foolish but he wanted to remember exactly what the words sounded like in Konstantin’s voice.”
With the progression of the 1st world war communication between our lovers cease, leaving Nathaniel trapped in England and assuming the worst. When he learns that the Russian royal family has been overthrown he’s devastated withdrawing from society and life in general, expecting to live out his days in seclusion. The ending is kind of abrupt but I have to say it was also perfect, leaving me with a big silly smile on my face. Cheers.
"Do svidanyia Nate.”
“Do svidanyia Kosya. Until we meet again.” Konstantin bit his lip and then turned away and walked onto the ship without looking back.”