It’s not an accident that the hero and heroine of One Last Kiss are both Russian, though the story takes place in Regency England because both characters find themselves in London due to uncontrollable circumstances brought about by the Napoleonic Wars. I’ve been extremely lucky to have visited Russia three times, and my favorite place is Pavlovsk Palace.
Pavlovsk may at first appear rather plain when compared to some of the much larger, more opulent palaces like Peterhof or Tsarskoye Selo. However, the moment you step onto the property, a feeling of peace and serenity surrounds you. The only sounds you hear are the soft breezes rustling leaves and the occasional happy bird chirping.
In 1780, architect Charles Cameron began building the classically styled palace for Catherine the Great’s son, who would become Paul I, and his wife, Maria Feodorovna. Though smaller than many of the other palaces, it is known both for the beauty of its fifteen-hundred acre landscape park dotted with decorative pavilions and statuary, and for its unparalleled artistic collections including furniture, textiles, and sculptures.
Unfortunately, Pavlovsk, like many of the palaces in St. Petersburg, was destroyed during World War II. The Siege of Leningrad (historically and currently known as St. Petersburg) began in September of 1941, and Pavlovsk Palace was occupied by enemy troops for nearly two and a half years. What remained in the palace was pillaged, bridges and pavilions were destroyed, and more than seventy thousand trees were felled to build fortifications around Leningrad. Most damaging of all, in January 1944, when forced by the Soviet Army to retreat, enemy forces set the palace on fire, reducing it to little more than a pile of rubble.
Countless fragments of murals, fireplaces, plaster moldings, and other pieces of décor were painstakingly sifted from the rubble of the palace. These, along with architectural drawings, pictures, and other items that survived, made restoration of Pavlovsk possible. Restoration began in 1954, and the interiors of the palace were completed in 1978, making Pavlovsk the first of the Russian palaces to be reconstructed after the war.
The first time I visited Pavlovsk, a feeling of serenity overcame me the moment I stepped off the bus. It’s the only palace in any country I’ve visited that I could imagine living in. I was especially drawn to Maria Feodorovna’s library. With afternoon sun shining gently through the windows overlooking the pond, it looks and feels like the perfect place to write.
I was delighted to learn that one hundred and twenty-five books that were stolen from Pavlovsk during the war were located in Germany and returned to the palace recently. In 2012, a research group from the University of Bremen was formed whose focus is to track down the artifacts that were stolen from six Russian museums that were decimated by the German occupation during the war, including Pavlovsk Palace. In all, more than 300,000 books were taken, 11,500 of which came from Pavlovsk. There is still much research to be done in both Germany and Russia to determine the fate of the rest of the books, but even this small stash of books is helping to restore the palace to its former glory piece by piece.
What is your favorite place you’ve visited? What makes it so special to you?
Ally has worked as a horse trainer, director of marketing and development, freelance proofreader, and a children's librarian, among other things. None of them were as awesome as writing romance novels (though the librarian gig came closest). She lives in Texas and is convinced her house is shrinking, possibly because she shares it with three kids, five dogs, a cat, a rabbit, and assorted reptiles. Oh, and her husband.
Ally likes to curse in Russian because very few people know what she's saying, and spends most of what would be her spare time letting dogs in and out of the house and shuttling kids around. She has many stories in her head looking for an opportunity to escape onto paper. She writes historical romance set in Regency England and Imperial Russia.
About the Book
Captain Mikhail Abromovich would rather single-handedly face the entire French army than follow orders to deceive Anna, the woman of his heart, by feigning a courtship to hide his covert activities.
Ever since a gossip sheet revealed the details of her extensive dowry, Princess Anna Tarasova has been overrun by fortune-hunting lords. When her childhood sweetheart mysteriously appears in London and asks to court her, it seems too good to be true.
For Mikhail, who is both soldier and spy, being chosen to represent Russia in secret negotiations with Britain should be the assignment of a lifetime. But once his deception is revealed, he’s certain Anna won’t believe his love is real.
Misha watched as she leaned low over her mare’s neck and gave the horse free rein. He let out a whoop and took off after her, his much larger mount rapidly gaining ground. He had closed the distance to about ten feet when a fox, perhaps roused by the vibration of the horse’s hooves against the ground, dashed out of the bushes. His stallion barely glanced at the disturbance, but Anna’s horse shied away. She tilted to the right, and before she could regain her balance, her mare kicked at the fox, sending her hurtling to the left. His heart lurched, knowing he would not reach her in time to help.