When the heart is the mind’s greatest enemy, the soul becomes a battlefield.
It happened one hot, moonlit midsummer night at a ball in Auckland, New Zealand, 1884. Miss Anna Brown walked out onto the terrace and into arrestingly beautiful Russian artist Sasha Ivanovsky. He is unconventional, unfettered, adventurous, dangerously bohemian—everything she is not, everything she fears. But she is bewitched. His eyes—dark, mysterious, smoulderingly passionate— burn into her mind, into her heart, into her very soul. Unthinkingly, she dances the night away with him.
When dawn breaks, it brings with it the cold light of reality. Ivanovsky is not wealthy, not well-bred, not respectable, not suitable, not safe. Anna’s carefree exhibition on the dance floor has set the tongues of society wagging, and she cannot bear it.
With one glance from his dark eyes, he stole her heart away on that fateful midsummer night. But she is desperately determined that he will not steal away her body and soul too. A resistance must be mounted. Her rebel heart must be subdued, and all thoughts of doomed, dangerous loves locked away. But is forgetting such a man, such a love, impossible? The flame of love he ignited in her heart will not extinguish. Drop by drop she can feel herself melting away. Soon there might be nothing left of her…
But the sea has a gift for Anna. Something dangerous. Something forbidden. Something that threatens to wreck her…
Content: No strong language or graphic sexual content.
Length: 62,000 words
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It is woven expertly. We experience late 19th century New Zealand through magical imagery – the use of metaphor is amazing. This book is crafted intelligently and beautifully written. [...] I was entralled by the telling of this story.
This book is very well written and neatly edited. The author did a good job with this book.
A little annoyed at her slowness, Anna frowned. She did not like to be puzzled. ‘Delighted, Mr Ivanovsky.’
But Anna had lied. She was not delighted. Mr Ivanovsky disturbed her. She felt like an explorer who had suddenly found themselves face-to-face with a strange, never-before-seen creature.
Mr Ivanovsky had a thick head of silver hair, yet he looked less than forty. The shock he received must have been truly terrible to cause such a thing. Mr Ivanovsky was tall and broad-shouldered as an oak tree, with a powerfully muscled neck that would have been brutish on many men, but in him was mixed with a gentleness that made it merely strong.
He was also much too handsome. His features were smoothly full, considered in their strength, and his dark brows thoughtfully heavy, his lips sensitively full and perfectly formed.
And the eyes. The soulful dark brown eyes were peaceful and drowsily hooded, yet still seeming to miss nothing. There was something arrestingly otherworldly about that face, yet not in an ethereal way. This other world was the hidden kingdom of the deep-rooting fir tree, the otherworld of the life-giving soil that nourished the shimmering cornfield and the blossoming cherry.
Mr Ivanovsky smiled. The smile was warm, sad, secretively knowing and slightly reserved. A smile that could have melted ice. ‘Why so melancholy?’
She almost gasped. So direct. So exposingly direct. ‘I…I…am merely feeling a little hot. The air inside, so terribly close…’
‘Pardon me for disturbing your mournful thoughts earlier. I was not lurking down here with sole intention of killing your moment of respite.’
Anna suddenly remembered Mrs Bingham mentioning a Russian who might be at the ball. A Russian guest who was an artist commissioned by a wealthy patron to paint the New Zealand landscape. And everyone knows that artists are always poor and of obscure origins. This man was a humble artist, not some marauding Slavic warrior come to carry her off. She was pleased to find her usual unsinkable social composure returning.
She gave a smile that she believed was gracious, although others might have thought it was frosty and rather patronising. ‘Thank you, Mr Ivanovsky. I am feeling quite recovered now. I think I shall return to the ball before I am missed.’
He gave a gracious inclination of the head. ‘You are welcome, mademoiselle.’
She turned to leave, but his quiet, reflective voice forced her to stop if she wished to remain polite.
‘There is no need to be afraid of sadness, Miss Anna. Sadness holds many beautiful things for those with will to uncover them.’