Cover Reveal for The Story of Us

I absolutely love the cover for The Story of Us, with its haunting images of Kreshchatyk and Pechersk Lavra under the Nazi occupation! With only two months to go until publication, I am getting super excited. I can’t wait to see this book out there and to share it with all of you!

Watching the Red Army withdraw from Ukraine in the face of Hitler’s relentless advance, Natasha Smirnova realises her life is about to change forever.

As Kiev is cast under the dark cloud of occupation, Natasha falls in love with Mark, a Hungarian soldier, enlisted against all his principles on the side of the Nazis.

But as Natasha fights to protect the friends and family she holds dear she must face up to the dark horrors of war and the pain of betrayal. Will the love she and Mark share be strong enough to overcome the forces which threaten to tear them apart?

The Story of Us is a powerful tale of love, loss, and the power of hope set in Kiev during the Second World War, perfect for fans of Kate Furnivall, Pam Jenoff, and V. S. Alexander.

The story of Natasha and her family is very close to my heart. Like most Russians, I grew up hearing about the war from my grandparents. These stories are in our blood, like our love for Pushkin and our penchant for drinking tea with every meal. My grandparents were too young to fight in the war but old enough to remember the hunger and the fear for everyone they loved, especially their fathers, far away at the Eastern front and inching their way towards Berlin.

The Kindle edition will be published in December and the paperback a couple of months later. The Story of Us is available for pre-order at all the online retailers.

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For more buying options,  view on Harper Collins Website

Savaged Lands is acquired by HQ Digital/HarperCollins

I have amazing news! My first novel, Savaged Lands, has a new home. It has been acquired by HQ Digital, an imprint of HarperCollins, who publish many of my favourite authors. The book will have a different title (The Story of Us), a brand new cover, and will be available in December. I’m thrilled to be joining HQ Digital family and can’t wait to share the new edition with all of you!

On This Day in Napoleonic History – 21 January 1793

Louis XVI is executed by guillotine at the Place de la Révolution in Paris

The king’s execution marked the turning point of the French Revolution. On hearing about Louis’s death, Napoleon said, ‘Oh, the wretches. The poor wretches. They will go through anarchy.’

Napoleon saw the king’s execution, followed in October by Marie-Antoinette’s, as a tactical error. ‘Had the French been more moderate and not put Louis to death,’ he later said, ‘all Europe would have been revolutionised.’ As it was, the king’s death would propel all major European powers to start arming against France.

On This Day in Napoleonic History – 15 January 1801

Armistice of Treviso

General Guillaume Brune took it upon himself to conclude the armistice at Treviso between French and Austrian armies that forced Emperor Francis to give up Peschiera, Verona, Legnago, Ancona and Ferrara. He retained Mantua, however, and that was one fortress the First Consul really wanted.

Napoleon, who was furious with Brune, declared that he would immediately resume hostilities unless Mantua was given up. ‘I ordered Brune to immediately break this armistice and push forward, at least till he obtained the cessation of Mantua,’ remembered Napoleon.

The Austrians had no choice but to agree and a few days later Treaty of Lunéville was signed, putting an end to the Wars of the Second Coalition.

On This Day in Napoleonic History – 14 January 1806

Marriage of Eugène de Beauharnais and Princess Augusta of Bavaria

It was another example of a marriage arranged by Napoleon, despite the fact that Princess Augusta was engaged to the Grand Duke of Baden at the time, and Eugène was in love with someone else. To convince his step-son to marry the Bavarian princess, Napoleon sent him a cup with her picture on it, assuring him that she was much better looking in real life.

When the Princess became pregnant, Napoleon half-joked, ‘Make sure you don’t give us a girl,’ suggesting she drank a little bit of undiluted wine every day as a way to avoid such an unfortunate circumstance. When in March 1807 she gave birth to a daughter, Napoleon ordered to call the child Josephine. In his congratulatory letter to Eugène, he said, ‘All that now remains for you to do is to make sure that next year you have a boy.’ They would have another girl.

On This Day in Napoleonic History – 11 January 1814

The treachery of Joachim Murat

Joachim Murat, whom Napoleon had placed on the throne of Naples in 1808, promised in a treaty with Austria to lead 30,000 men against Eugène de Beauharnais in order to drive French out of Italy. In return for his betrayal of Napoleon, Austria guaranteed the security of Murat’s throne of Naples for himself and his heirs.

Although Murat’s actions didn’t come as a surprise to Napoleon, the betrayal hurt, not least because Murat was married to Napoleon’s sister Caroline, who encouraged his treaty with Austria. Napoleon called the conduct of his sister and her husband ‘an insult and fearful ingratitude’, adding, ‘he’s very intelligent but he’d have to be blind to imagine that he can stay there whilst I’m gone or when I’ve triumphed over all this.’

And yet, Napoleon didn’t lose hope that Murat would come to his senses. During the 1814 campaign, Napoleon wrote to Eugene: ‘Should Fortune continue to favour us, we might be able to preserve Italy. The King of Naples might change sides again.’ Napoleon was right on both accounts – during the Hundred Days in 1815 Murat would try, unsuccessfully, to join Napoleon’s side. Nor did he keep his throne for long – within two years he would be executed by the Neapolitan firing squad.

On This Day in Napoleonic History – 8 January 1802

Napoleon and Josephine depart for Lyon

In Lyon the First Consul would be offered presidency of the new Italian Republic, made up of Cisalpine Republic and the provinces of Italy taken from Austria by the Treaty of Lunéville.

Napoleon’s two-week stay at Lyon was marked by parties, parades and receptions. On January 25 he was elected Chief Magistrate of the Italian Republic. Although the Italian nationalists were humbled by the fact that the new Republic had to be founded in France where Talleyrand could keep an eye on the proceedings, it was the first time that the word Italy had appeared in the political lexicon of Europe since the collapse of Rome in the 5th century AD.

Napoleon wrote a constitution for the new Republic with elective power resting in the hands of clergy, merchants, academics and land owners.

On This Day in Napoleonic History – 7 January 1813

Sweden declares war against France during the War of the Sixth Coalition

Sweden was ruled by Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, Marshal of France appointed by Napoleon, who was married to Napoleon’s first love, Désirée Clary. Bernadotte, whom Byron called ‘that rebellious bastard of Scandinavian adoption’ and who from the very start had a turbulent relationship with Napoleon, was elected to the throne of Sweden in 1810.

When declaring war on Napoleon in 1813, Bernadotte told him that he was not acting against France but for Sweden and that Napoleon’s seizure of Swedish Pomerania was the cause of the rapture. He added that he would always hold for his old commander the sentiments of the former comrade in arms. It is doubtful that his words were genuine but it couldn’t have been an easy decision for Bernadotte to make. Apart from his natural repugnance as a Frenchman to shed French blood, Bernadotte knew that in doing so he would be giving up his hopes, implausible though they were, of one day finding himself on the throne of France.

On This Day in Napoleonic History – 4 January 1802

Napoleon’s brother Louis is married to Josephine’s daughter Hortense

Just like many other marriages Napoleon had arranged, this one soon proved a disaster. Louis was in love with someone else at the time and couldn’t stand to be in the same room as Hortense. Nor did he try to conceal his animosity. The feeling was mutual – Hortense barely tolerated her husband and would have an illegitimate son by her lover, Colonel Charles Joseph, Comte de Flahaut in 1811.

Josephine is as much to blame for the match as Napoleon. She was eager to tie her family closer to that of her husband at any cost, even if it was the cost of her only daughter’s happiness. With heartbreaking sadness Hortense later described her school days as the happiest time of her life. The couple had three children. One of them, Charles Louis Napoléon Bonaparte, was to become Napoleon III, Emperor of the French.

On This Day in Napoleonic History – 3 January 1798

Napoleon is confronted by Madame de Staël

Soon after General Bonaparte’s return from Egypt, Charles Maurice de Talleyrand threw a reception in his honour. It was there that Napoleon had his famous exchange with Germaine de Staël.

Madame de Staël was the daughter of the stupendously rich banker and Louis XVI’s finance minister, Jacques Necker. She ran the leading and most celebrated Parisian salon. At the time of Talleyrand’s fête, she hero-worshipped General Bonaparte. Hortense de Beauharnais recalled in her memoirs that the celebrated intellectual followed Napoleon, boring him with incessant questions until he could no longer conceal his annoyance. Clearly expecting a compliment of some sort, she asked: ‘Whom do you consider the best kind of woman?’ To which Napoleon replied, ‘She who’s had the most children.’

For centuries historians criticised his comment as one that revealed much about his fundamental attitude to women. It was more than likely, however, that Napoleon’s words were nothing more than a throw-away remark designed to get rid of his annoying interrogator.