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Red Mistress: A Novel

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In the wake of the Russian Revolution, a determined young woman breaks with her past to become a spy in 1920s Paris, where shadowy intrigues and a dangerous romance put her loyalty to the test.

In the spring of 1914, Nadia Shulkina, the daughter of Russian aristocrats, looks toward a bright future. She has no premonitions of war, let alone the revolution that is about to destroy her comfortable world.

Her once-noble family is stripped of every possession, and more terrible losses soon follow. To save what's left of her family and future, Nadia marries a zealous Bolshevik in an act of calculated reinvention.

It won't be her last.

When she agrees to work undercover for the Soviets in 1920s Paris, Nadia is drawn into a beautiful yet treacherous world of secrets and deceit. Beset by conflicting loyalties and tested by a forbidden love affair, she becomes embroiled in a conspiracy that ends with a shocking murder. What chances will she take to determine her own fate?

290 pages, Paperback

First published July 21, 2020

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About the author

Elizabeth Blackwell

6 books335 followers
As the daughter of a U.S. Foreign Service officer, Elizabeth Blackwell grew up in Washington, D.C., interspersed with stints in Africa, the Middle East and Europe--pretty much always with a book in hand. She majored in history at Northwestern University (hooray! more reading!) and received her master's in journalism from Columbia University, which led to a career as an editor and writer for a number of publications that have since gone out of business (surely just a coincidence?). She now writes fiction from her home office in the Chicago suburbs, in between wrangling her three children and fighting for a parking spot at the local Target.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 108 reviews
Profile Image for Karren  Sandercock .
715 reviews131 followers
September 5, 2021
Nadia Shulkina, is the teenage daughter of Russian aristocrats and her parents own a house in Saint Petersburg and have a small county estate in Priyalko. In 1914, Nadia and her family are worried about her brother Vasily, he’s fighting in the war and the Russian troops are hungry and poorly equipped. Nadia’s sad when her English governess Miss Field’s returns to England and she's lucky to leave when she did.

The Shulkina’s have no idea, the Russian revolution is about to start, the friendly peasants living nearby, break into their country house and violence erupts. Nadia and her mother manage to hide, they return to Saint Petersburg, the house is taken over by the government and the two women are homeless. Nadia’s loses everything, the comfortable life she took for granted is gone, her extended family, friends and brother have either left Russia, are caught up in the civil war and some are in hiding.

Nadia marries Alek Semelkova, he’s older, and a Bolshevik and she has very few options. Alek wants her to travel Paris in the 1920’s, she’s to work as a translator and be a spy. Paris is full of Russians, they fled the country during the revolution and many are involved in the Russian Cultural League. Working under cover for the Soviets, Nadia has no idea who she can trust, and she’s not sure if she can even trust her own husband. She meets Lee Cooper, he’s English, he’s writing a book, he employs her to translate documents and she developes feelings for him. Nadia’s involved in something that’s gotten out of control, a conspiracy, she feels like she’s being followed, she feels unsafe, and she's trapped in her unhappy marriage.

Red Mistress, is a story about the Russian revolution, the terrible inequality, and people were literally starving in the streets, the rise of the communist party, and Nadia surviving in a time of civil unrest, danger, and turmoil. I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, I liked Elizabeth Blackwell's writing style and the book's full of interesting characters, historical facts and five stars from me. https://karrenreadsbooks.blogspot.com/
Profile Image for Stephanie Anze.
657 reviews110 followers
September 3, 2020
Nadia Shulkina is the daughter of Russian nobility. She is a teenager that likes exploring, drawing and dreaming of balls and parties that she will be able to attend one day soon when the Bolshevik Revolution breaks out. Little by little Nadia's family losses its home, land, possesions, titles and lives. Soon the family is reduced to the clothes on their backs and a dwindling reserve of hope. Realizing that her only chance of survival is to work, Nadia does so. When she is proposed marriage to by a high ranking Bolshevik officer, she accepts. She does so, not out of love, but as an act of survival. This will be one of many choices that Nadia does for the sake of her survival and that of her family.

The cover is the first thing that caught my eye and the premise of this novel is what drew me in. Nadia Shulkina is an aristocrat and up to the first years of her being a teenager, enjoyed a life of ease and luxury. She comes from a line of a distinguished Russian family. Her biggest concern is her debutante coming out ball when her family is stripped of everything by the Bolsheviks. Knowing that work is the only way to survive, Nadia throws herself into it. The Russia she knows is changing and if she is to live, she needs to change along with it. Which is why she accepts a marriage proposal from a high ranking member of the party. Its a calculated act of survival. When "asked" by her husband to become a spy, she knows this marriage is an calculated act for him too. As Nadia embarks on her new role of spy, its yet another reinvention.

This narrative started out strong. There are several parts where the prose is very beautifully written. The pace gradually built up and plot development is satisfying. For me, personally, this book lost steam some way along the halfway point. Whereas these was a sense of tension and urgency before, now that felt less. I wish there had been some more character development, some more depth to them. Nadia's husband, Alek, in particular needed to be fleshed out more (in my personal opinion). There were some surprising elements but also some very convenient coincidendences. Now, having said that, I did enjoy the way in which the narrative flowed as well as the overall story. As I have very few books pertaining to the Russian Revolution in my reading repertoire, this one is a nice addition. Historical detials were well integrated. This is a book about choices made for the sake of survival, about lies and reinvention, and about calculated risks. Ultimately, this is a book I enjoyed raeding.

Profile Image for Leah.
375 reviews3 followers
June 21, 2020
It’s no secret I love history and historical fiction, but Russia and the Soviet Union have never been one of those areas that I have an interest in. I do, however, also love spy novels, so I thought I’d give The Red Mistress a try. Wow, I was not disappointed! From the first page, Ms Blackwell’s writing had me hook, line, and sinker.

The story revolves around Nadia, the daughter of a Russian Aristocratic family. She is a young teenager when the revolution begins and her world is upended and she quickly has to learn how to survive in the new Soviet Russia. She soon finds herself married to an influential member of the party, but she knows she can’t trust anyone, let alone her husband. He then sends her to France to use her language skills as an interpreter née spy at the embassy and she she finds herself embroiled in a plot to overthrow the Bolsheviks. Or is it? Who can she trust? Who is following her? Along the way she meets Lee, a British socialist with whom she has an affair. But is he spying on her too?

And then the story gets good! No kidding, the plot twists just kept going. This was one of those books I couldn’t put down. If you like historical fiction, Soviet or Russian era stories, or spy novels, although there really isn’t that much spy craft, just the underlying theme, this is a great read. Perfect for the beach or a lazy Sunday.

Thank you to NetGalley, the publishers and the author for an ARC in return for an honest review.
Profile Image for هاميس محمود.
121 reviews31 followers
December 11, 2022
من الروايات الجميلة جدًا ، لم استطع أن أتركها من يدي حتى أستكملتها للنهاية في وقت قياسي ، مكتوبة بسير أحداث مشوق ، جذاب. أحداثها كانت في فترة الثورة الروسية. شخصياتها مرسومة بعناية. أول قراءة لي مع الروايات التاريخية ، ولن تكون الأخيرة.

" لكل منا لحظة ينقلب فيها العالم الذي يعرفه رأسًا على عقب ، مزلزلًا ما يؤمن بأنه حقائق لا ريب فيها. "
من نادية شولكين الفتاة الجميلة التي تنتمي إلى طبقة وعائلة أرستقراطية تتطلع لحياة حلوة في روسيا ، إلى امرأة ذات ثلاث هويات مختلفة ، ففي زمن الحرب وقيام الثورة ، كانت ناديا تمر بتحول مريب بعد أن فقدت الكثير وعانت ، ولكن بدأت الحياة من جديد تضعها في أختبارات أشد حينما أصبحت جاسوسة ، ومتآمرة سرية ، وامرأة عاشقة كله في ذات الوقت.

كانت متزوجة من أليك ، البلشفي الذي سرعان ما شعر بشئ غريب تجاهها. لتدخل في سلسلة من الأحداث المثيرة عندما عرفت حقيقة عاشقها وتورطت في جريمة قتل وشك زوجها إنها بتخونه وأيضّا عندما عرفت السلطات أنها ليست إلا جاسوسة.

السيدة الحمراء ، حكاية عن الحرب والحب والثورة ،
في أسلوب أخاذ جميل. تركت بداخلي انطباع حلو ، أنا حبيتها جدًا. 🤍🌸

ترجمة سراج سراج كانت رائعة.
Profile Image for Fatima Mohamady...
363 reviews79 followers
May 31, 2022
"كان لي الكثير من الوجوه والكثير من الأسماء. مت وولدت من جديد... ولكني بدأت حياتي باسم "ناديا شولكينا"، وهو اسم كنت أفخر به في يوم من الأيام، وهو أيضاً اسم سار بي نحو حتفي."

بين عامي ١٩١٤ و ١٩٣٨ تدور الحكاية، وهي فترة زمنية غنية بالأحداث التي ستشكل محطات مهمة لنا، بداية من الحرب العالمية الأولى وانتهاء بمقدمات الحرب العالمية الثانية..
"ناديا شولكينا" العضوة الأصغر في أسرة من نسل واحدة من أعرق عائلات النبلاء الروس هي دليلنا في هذه الحكاية، والتي كانت حكاية روسيا بقدر ما هي حكايتها..

تعيش ناديا حياة هادئة مع أسرتها الصغيرة، بالقدر الأقل من الترف الذي يسمح به وضعهم المادي المتواضع مقارنة مع باقي أسر عائلة شولكين، حتى تأتي الحركة البلشفية لتعصف بهذا الهدوء..
فيسقط النبلاء وتغرق البلاد في بحر من الدماء، ويصعد الشيوعيون مستأثرين بالحكم وأسباب الترف..
وكالعادة يبقى الشعب دائراً في ساقية الفقر والعوز..

وبينما استطاع العديد من أفراد عائلتها الهرب لخارج روسيا، وجدت ناديا نفسها مجبرة على البقاء، موصومة بعار كونها "شخص سابق"، تنظف المراحيض وتستجدي الأكل والمسكن..
الكثير من التغيرات والمنعطفات قابلتها، لكن أكثرها أهمية والذي لعب الدور الأكبر في تغيير مسار حياتها كان الظهور المفاجئ ل"أليك" صديق خالها كعضو بارز في "الحزب"، مع بطاقته السحرية التي بوسعها فتح الأبواب المغلقة ومنح أخيها الضابط السابق في الجيش الأبيض المناهض للشيوعية فرصة لحياة جديدة..
وربما، توفير حصص أكبر من الطعام وحياة لائقة!!

للحكاية من بدايتها خطان، نرى في أحدهما ناديا، وفي الآخر النهاية المفاجئة والغامضة ل"السيدة الحمراء"، نراقب اقترابهما من بعضهما منذ البداية، ونترقب التقاءهما..

ونظراً لتسلسل الأحداث، لم تكن الحبكة مفاجئة لي إلا أن ذلك لم يمنع استمتاعي بالعمل لأن عنصر المفاجأة ليس ما أبحث عنه في الأساس، لكنه السرد الذي كان ممتعاً وسلساً، ربما حتى أكثر مما توقعت..

برغم سلاسة الحكاية إلا أني توقفت عند عدة نقاط، منها أني لم أستسغ أبداً الجزء "الرومانسي" من قصتها والذي بدا مبتذلاً أحياناً وربما كانت لتكون أفضل لو لم يقحم عليها، ما يقودني لذكر أكثر ما افتقدته في العمل: وجود بعد نفسي أعمق للشخصيات، وخصوصاً ناديا، فالعمل مشحون بأحداث مهمة وتغيرات خصبة كان يمكن للكاتبة أن تخرج منها بالكثير من الأفكار والمشاعر التي لم تجد فرصة للظهور..

ربما هي واحدة من المرات القليلة التي رأيت فيها أن الحكاية كانت تحمل أكثر بكثير مما قيل، لكنها رغم ذلك تظل تجربة ممتعة..
Profile Image for Olesya Gilmore.
Author 1 book185 followers
December 25, 2020
RED MISTRESS is one of those (now rare) books I couldn’t put down. It is the moving story of Nadia, a former aristocrat-turned Bolshevik spy, who has to survive in a dangerous world where nothing is as it seems, nothing is as it should be, and everything is at stake, including her heart.

I really loved Nadia, she is intelligent and likable. She is also such a sympathetic character, with emotional and physical wounds that simply made my heart ache, especially knowing that there were so many like her who suffered at the hands of the new Soviet regime just because they were born noble.

The storyline is super engaging, with a relentless pace that left me breathless, the historical background of the Russian Revolution and its aftermath filled with chaotic change, social and personal turbulence, and fear above all else. Blackwell’s skilled insertion of the right historical information at the right time didn’t distract from the story, instead distilling the complex political situation to what was most relevant to the story. This helped to keep the story’s pace and my interest—which is such a hard line to toe as a historical fiction author!

I would have loved this book to be longer, with more about Nadia and her husband, as well as more in-depth development of scenes that were told in exposition—simply because the novel was so fascinating I wanted more. As a Russian myself, I also wanted more on Russia, the setting, all those little cultural details that for me are so familiar and dear. I hope that one day Blackwell returns to the world of RED MISTRESS. I would love to come along for another breathless ride.
Profile Image for Rachel.
2,008 reviews66 followers
March 13, 2020
Red Mistress by Elizabeth Blackwell is an enjoyable historical fiction that encompasses the rise the rise and events of the Russian Revolution, and the immediate years thereafter.

This story is about Nadia whom was a part of the Russian royals/aristocracy during the time of this upheaval. Many were arrested and executed. A few were able to flee to other countries, where their lives were drastically altered and became impoverished. Others were lucky enough to find family, friends, or trades that allowed them to survive. Nadia was able to marry and involve herself with the Bolsheviks and then later became a spy of sorts in France. Mystery, suspense, intrigue, and also surprisingly, love/romance are all themes that are incorporated into this entertaining and enjoyable HF.

I enjoyed the plot/time frame, the character cast, and also the ending. I also enjoyed the author’s note on what was real vs fiction.

4/5 stars

Thank you NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for this ARC and in return I am submitting my unbiased and voluntary review and opinion.

I am posting this review to my GR account immediately and will post it to my Amazon and B&N accounts upon publication.
(3/13/2020- No option of posting on Bookbub as of today).
Profile Image for Sally Stanton.
727 reviews5 followers
August 15, 2020
This was a great listen as the narrator was terrific. I enjoyed every minute as it moved along nicely and was a little different twist on historical fiction starting with the Russian Revolution which I find really interesting. Nadia (the red mistress) was very engaging and I liked hearing the story through her POV. I realized at the end that I had expected lots of intrigue, suspense and other great spy stuff which didn't materialize. I was really looking for more heart beating excitement but instead got some nice romance.
I still would say this is an above average novel and would recommend to anyone who loves historical novels with a touch of romance.
Profile Image for Toni.
194 reviews12 followers
August 16, 2020
3.5 This had a lot going for it. It started out well, really pulling the reader into the life of Nadia Shulkina and her family. The strains and changes of the coming revolution also imprint themselves on Nadia, for hers is a large burden. The rest of the story is good, though perhaps not great. This novel could have been fantastic. It has all the elements. The problem is that the writer got too much in the head of the main character and her actions allowing all emotions, events, and important pieces of the story to go undeveloped. The relationship between Nadia and Lee Cooper (the handsome journalist) was as ingesting as a yawn and as exciting as watching paint dry. The reason is because Lee has no discernible personality. He was just ‘there’ as : handsome blonde journalist. I felt nothing about their romance or interactions. Even Nadias relationship w Alec, her cruel husband whom she married to save her beloved brother was underdeveloped. We know Alex is heartless and he married her because she was an aristocrat and he can spend his life beating down someone who was once ‘above’ him. There’s so much to mine there, so much to explore in their relationship. It’s not done though. He’s just the typical bad Bolshevik and she’s downtrodden somewhat scared wife. It’s all so watered down to a few exchanges that give Nadia just enough to make her next move. The entire story was Nadia and what went on on Nadias head. The nuance of real people living real lives with real feelings was never part of the story. The Revolution, the war, the Gulag, the entirety of what’s going on in the lives of these characters are reduced down to water. It felt like the writer has an outline and felt her goal was to get her main character from a to b to c. In a novel a story has to be mind for emotion and reason, for inner turmoil and philosophy and psychology of the mind. This could have been so much more. This could have been a touching, moving, exceptionally well written cat and mouse game abounding with Soviet agents, French Agents, Emigres, Spurs, evil Bolsheviks, and wonderful characters of the time. It could have been a story of the love of two people who need each other more than they know. That love could have been explored, it should have been. Even with Alec we know very little. Nadias time in jail was skipped through in a few sentences. All emotion, truth, grit, suffering, inner turmoil, and even the charm that goes into the dance of a love story was left by the wayside. Everything here felt flat. Rushed over. Sterilized. Here was a great book that was waiting to be written and was ultimately printed as a shell. It’s a crying shame. I thought the story was nothing special, but Nadia and her family were a wonderfully good place to start. A family in which to show the horrors and the escapes, the suffering and the sorrows of the Russian Revolution upon the minor aristocrats. The writer missed the forest for the trees, sadly. I liked the story well enough. I liked Nadia. It’s just that I never was invited into Nadias world. I never got to know the people in her life. That made her story very one dimensional. I’d also loved to know why Vassilly, knowing what his sister went through (esp in the name of saving his life) denounced her and that was it. Too much left on the table. A little lovely watercolor had the potential to be a magnificent oil paint artwork. The artist forgot the light, the heart, the nuances, and the magic that makes great art. I hope the writers next book does more exploring of humanity and less explaining it. Now that would be something to read!
9,356 reviews78 followers
July 19, 2020
Nadia and her family lived well before the Russian Revolution but then everything came tumbling down for her. Grinding poverty and being a non-person reduces her to a shadow of herself but her uncle Sergey is there as more or less of a safety net for both Nadia and her brother Vasily. Unfortunately, so is Alek, who before things went bad, flirted with her mother. Nadia marries Alek, becomes a translator, thanks to the English she learned from her governess, as well as her French, and then finds herself on a mission to uncover traitors to the USSR who are resident in Paris. This has a great start but fell off for me because I could not grasp WHY Nadia continued with her mission in Paris. Certainly she wasn't committed to the cause, not one bit. The argument could be made that she was worried about Sergey and Vasily but that wasn't raised. Certainly she wanted to be close to Lee but really, I don't understand why she followed through with any of the "espionage." Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. I know I sound sour but know that this is a well written novel that will appeal to fans of historical fiction.
Profile Image for Karen Schex.
43 reviews4 followers
April 28, 2020
Over the past few years, I've become a fan of historical fiction and while most books seem to focus on WW1 or WW2, Red Mistress takes us on a journey through the Russian Revolution. My ancestors are Russian, which made this story all the more poignant.

The story centers on Nadia, a young girl born into Russia’s aristocracy. Through a series of events during the Bolshevik Revolution, Nadia is forced to make a life-altering decision to save herself and her family and in turn, finds a way to reinvent herself.

Red Mistress is well-written with fully developed characters and storytelling that creates excellent visuals of Russia, Paris, and England. It’s a story full of love and loss, trust and deceit, hope and defeat, all sprinkled with a little espionage.

Thank you NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for this ARC
May 23, 2022
الرواية التاريخية رقم 4 لهذا العام!

كلما ازداد تعمقي بالقراءة عن الثورات، أدرك أن جميعها وجوهًا مختلفة لعملة واحدة، تسير على الوتيرة ذاتها، وتشتعل بالفتيل ذاته، وتُحدد الأهداف ذاتها، وتؤول إلى النهاية نفسها مهما اختلف الزمان. لم يكن الاتحاد السوفيتي يختلف في كنهه عن حال روسيا قبل الحرب وقيام الثورة البلشفية. فمازالت الطبقة المختارة ذاتها تسيطر على كل شيء، غير أنها منحت الشعب شعورًا وهميًا بالمساواة.

السيدة الحمراء هي رواية عن الحرية والمعاناة، والنهوض مُجددًا رُغم المآسي والألم، تُبرز بين صفحاتها كيف يتذلل المرء لما يكرهه طمعًا في حياة كريمة وهمية، تصل به في نهاية المطاف إلى سجونٍ حقيقية.
Profile Image for Sydney Young.
1,047 reviews83 followers
October 28, 2020
Relentless voice, driving our heroine to the disaster made of her life by the red revolution. Then the surprises come in angsty twists as you wonder how it will all end. Great escape, highly enjoyable. I couldn’t put it down.

Also hurrah, NOT WWII!
Profile Image for Amálie (ami.ma.fotak).
250 reviews43 followers
May 16, 2021
/knihu jsem četla v rámci spolupráce s Fragmentem/
Tohle je snad první historická fikce o bolševické revoluci, kterou jsem četla... A byla teda moc dobrá :D Autorka v knize popisuje život Nadi, která se narodila do ruské aristokratické rodiny, které bolševici po revoluci všechno vzali, a jak se Naďa naučila přežívat v novém systému. A protože miluju historii, přišlo mi, že kniha byla skvěle napsaná a představila téma dobře. Člověk teda musí něco málo o tématu vědět pro souvislosti, ale je to his. román pro starší čtenáře... Ale jinak knihu doporučuju, sledovat 20. století z Nadina pohledu bylo záživné čtení :)
July 12, 2020
I wasn't sure what to expect from this book because of Elizabeth Blackwell's previous books. They've kinda got that historical yet creepy ghost vibe on my opinion and the sypnosis for this one threw me. I loved it though!!!!!!!! The espionage, secrets, passion, and deception weaves into an amazingly great historical fiction book!!! Five stars from me
3 reviews
September 3, 2020
I really enjoyed this book!

I found this book so interesting. My grandparents came to the United States from Russia. Both of them had passed away before I was born. It was great to have a glimpse of why they left Russia. They had gone to England and boarded a ship from there to the United States. They lived in New York.
Profile Image for Melissa B.
566 reviews18 followers
December 7, 2021
A slow starter, but I intriguing as it went along. Being a spy during the Russian Revolution was the perfect backdrop for this life with many twists and turns.
Profile Image for Jackie McClellan.
45 reviews1 follower
October 30, 2021
Overall an interesting story , set mostly in Russia before, during and after the revolution. What a scary time and so very bleak. Ms. Blackwells writing really paints the picture.

This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Mayu.
183 reviews16 followers
July 4, 2020
3.75 stars
Okay, I really enjoyed this book. I really did. But I think the main problem was I had expected way too much after reading the synopsis. Red Mistress was actually one of my 5 star predictions, so guys, you get the height of my expectations! Anyway, I will delve deeper into what caused me to rate the book low, but first I would like to talk about what I loved in this book.

What I loved:
1) I really enjoy books that talk about how people were effected by war/revolution, both during it and in it's aftermath. And this Elizabeth Blackwell did really well. In Red Mistress we follow Nadia, daughter of Russian aristocrat, through her eyes we see how the Russian revolution affected her and her family and also other people. I really enjoyed these parts. It was like I was in Russia during this time experiencing every thing first hand.

2) Even though I saw quite a few twists coming, but there were some twists that quite surprised me. If you know me, you know how much I love surprising twists. So this was another thing I loved about Red Mistress.

3) If you had asked me to give you one reason why I really enjoyed this book, I would have said because I was able to follow Nadia's journey through different stages of her life. The war, the Russian Revolution, her marriage, the love affair, her working as spy. I really enjoyed this, because it was written in first POV, so we get to experience everything that she experienced, her emotions, her thoughts, her thoughts about other people she met during this process, everything. This is something I really look for in books, especially historical fics and women's fics, following along a person's journey.

4) Finally the last reason why I loved this book. I loved the love story. I am not going to elaborate on this point, because I am sure, I will give massive spoilers, so I will leave it at that, I loved the love story.

So, what went wrong?
1) Okay, as I had mentioned before this was one of my 5 star predictions. So I had expected a lot, a lot from it. When I read the synopsis, I thought Red Mistress is going to be a spy thriller, with a lot of suspense, action and thrill. But it didn't turn out like that. Red Mistress read like a women's fiction that has historical aspect. It did have some twists and turns and also suspense, but in no universe can I categorize this book as a spy thriller. Don't get me wrong, this doesn't mean this was a bad book, it just means it didn't live up to what I expected from the synopsis. If I hadn't had those expectations, this book would have been a much better read.

2) I agree that some of the twists were quite surprising, but the main twist, I saw that one coming from miles away. Okay, let me be honest, if this twist had not been the way it had been in this book, I would have been devastated, because I wanted it to happen this way with all my heart, but I would have given this book atleast 4 stars if it hadn't happened this way. This was another issue I had with this book.

I really enjoyed Red Mistress and I highly recommend it even if it didn't quite live upto my expectations. If you are someone who loves women fiction set during the war/revolution time, then I think you will really enjoy this book.
Profile Image for Lamia Shawky.
34 reviews1 follower
November 26, 2022
رواية ثرية و جميلة؛ أشبه بمشاهدة فيلم مشوق و ممتع و غير مبتذل، ف بطلة الرواية: ناديا شوكلينا هى شخصية استثنائية منذ أن كانت طفلة صغيرة تستمع بحياتها وسط أسرة ثرية من أم حالمة و رقيقة و على قدر عالى من الرقىّ و الجمال، واب يحمل إحدى الرتب العسكرية المرموقة و شقيق محب لم يتوانى عن خدمة بلده و الاخلاص فى الدفاع عنها و خال طيب القلب و عميق الجوهر و الروح و حتى اصبحت امرأة بالغة زاد من نضجها صعوبة ما واجهته من أحداث و مآسى و تحديات.
لطالما كنت اعتبر وجود أحداث سياسية كثيرة فى وسط أحداث اية رواية شئ يبعث على الملل و الفتور؛ ف لم تكن تجذبنى المصطلحات السياسيه بما تحويه من تعقيدات منها على سبيل المثال: الثورة البلشيفية و الاتحاد السوڤيتى و الأزمة بين روسيا و ألمانيا و غيرها من النواحي السياسية العديدة ،
و لكن هنا حيث تتناول الرواية هذه المفاهيم من خلال أحداثها الشيقة و سلاسة السرد و الربط بين جميع الشخصيات بمهارة و تشويق، لم استطع إلا أن انجذب ل فهم المزيد و ما ستؤول إليه الأحداث فى النهاية ؛
و قد ساءنى كثيراً مفهوم الاستيلاء على ثروات الاقطاعيين و أراضيهم و سلبهم ابسط حقوقهم من الاستقرار و الحياة الآمنة باعتبارها حق مكتسب لباقى طبقات الشعب الكادحة ؛ ف لماذا يجب فقط على هؤلاء أن يدفعوا ثمن معاناة الشعب بطبقاته من استقرارهم و سلامهم النفسى و حتى من أرواحهم دون أن يكونوا قد اساءوا باى شكل أو بآخر لأى إنسان،
و لماذا يجب أن يكون إعادة توزيع ما توارثوه من عائلاتهم و ذويهم بهذه الوحشية و القهر و الفظاظة و التحريض ضدهم ممن يريدون أن يستغلوا عقول البسطاء و احتياجاتهم كمحفز للوصول لاهدافهم و اطماعهم الدنيئة من خلال التحريض على العنف و القسوة فى انتزاع ما يعتبروه حق من حقوقهم، دون مراعاة أى معانى للإنساية و الرحمة.
و يعتبر تحول بطلة الرواية:ناديا شوكلينا من فتاة مدللة أقصى طموحها أن تكبر سريعاً ليكون بإمكانها إقامة حفلة راقصة لبلوغها سن السادسة عشر و إثارة اعجاب الفتيان إلى فتاة مكافحة كل ما تسعى إليه هو الحفاظ على روح والدتها بكل ما استطاعت من جلد و تحمل للصعاب بكل محبة، من أجل بضعة لقيمات أو مكان آمن يؤويهم بعد مقت�� ابيها و غياب أخيها فى الحرب، من النقاط البارزة فى الرواية ؛
ف لم يكن من السهل على فتاة فى مثل نشأتها أن تكون كالدرع الصلب إذا ما شعرت بتعرض أحد من ذويها ل خطر أو معاناة، و لم ينقطع سيل ما قامت به من تضحيات حتى نهاية الأحداث ، ف هى شخصية يندر وجود من يضاهيها فى اخلاص المحبة و التفانى حتى لو كان الثمن كل ما تملكه من راحة و سعادة و استقرار.
رواية جميلة و مشوقة و مليئة بالمفاجآت، و لن يسعك إلا أن تتعاطف مع بطلتها و تتمنى دائما أن تنصفها الحياة فى يوم من الايام تعويضاً لما قاسته و بذلته على مدار السنين و الايام.
788 reviews5 followers
June 23, 2020
Before the Russian revolution, Nadia Shulkina and her family led a life of privilege, with a country estate and a home in Saint Petersburg. Nadia was taught by an English governess and adored her older brother Vasily. With the rise of the Bolsheviks her father was murdered, their estate and home were confiscated and she became a “former person”. With her new status she was not entitled to a food ration card and survived by becoming a cleaner in her former home.

Nadia takes on a number of jobs as she re-invents herself. Caretaker for her mother, illustrator for a publication and provider for her surviving family, she does what she must to survive, even marrying Alex Semetov, an influential member of state security. Under his direction she becomes a spy. As Marie Duval she travels to Paris to make contact with Russian exiles and find evidence of plots against the Bolsheviks. It is this assignment that gives her a taste of freedom and a chance to find love. Everything is jeopardized when a murder is committed and she is exposed.

Elizabeth Blackwell takes you from the ballrooms of Saint Petersburg to the revolts and destruction of a way of life. Nadia grows from a young teen to a resourceful woman who must consider her every word and action to survive. The writing makes it easy to visualize the Russian countryside and the streets of Paris, making Red Mistress a story that is easy to recommend. I would like to thank NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for providing this book for my review.
May 11, 2022
السيدة الحمراء | إليزابيث بلاكويل
عدد الصفحات: ٣٠٩
التصنيف: بوليسي - دراما - تشويق - تاريخي .

تبدأ أحداث الرواية في الثامن عشر من مايو عام 1938، على حادث سير في لندن حيث تصطدم إمرأة بسيارة على طريق تيتشلي، والتي عُرفت فيما بعد على أنها "ماري دوفال".

تعود بنا الكاتبة عبر الفلاش باك، حيث وُلدت "ناديا شولكينا" في عائلة روسية أرستقراطية، ولكن مُفلسة.

وفي أحد أيام صيف 1917، وهُم ذاهبون إلى الريف كعادة العائلة، ولكن هذه المرة بدون أخيها الأكبر "فاسيلي"، تنقلب حياتهم رأساً على عقب، وتفقد "ناديا" شخصاً عزيزاً عليها، وفي تلك السنة بدأت ثورة أكتوبر الروسية وما تلاها من حرب أهلية مزقت البلاد.

بعد عدة سنوات من قيام الثورة، تتزوج "ناديا" من "أليك"، يُطلب منها أن تسافر إلى فرنسا لأداء مهمة، تتخذ لها اسماً مستعاراً "ماري دوفال"، ثم تتوالى الأحداث لتكشف لنا الرواية عن عدة مفاجآت.

رواية تاريخية مثيرة، تمنيت ألا تنتهي. أرشحها لمحبي الروايات التاريخية، خاصةً تلك التي تتناول بدايات القرن العشرين. وللمهتمين بالأحداث التي تلت الثورة الروسية والحرب الأهلية. استمتعت بأسلوب السرد واللغة السلسة، ولا بدّ في النهاية أن أشيد بترجمة سراج سراج الرائعة التي حافظت على روح النص.
Profile Image for Jeff.
1,187 reviews100 followers
June 16, 2020
Red Herring. This book seemed so real that I was *constantly* Googling to see if various people were in fact real. Only to get to the author's note at the end where Blackwell points out that at least a few characters were based on real life people - but the characters did not share the names of the people they were based on. From the opening opulence of Tsarist Russia just prior to WWI to the Bolshevik Revolution to the dramas of the new Political Directorate and Stalin's purges, this book spans about 25 years of momentous history and covers it in a way I had never really seen before. Great work in making every setting believable and almost palpable, and great storytelling within those settings to boot. Very much recommended.
Profile Image for Rachel Viñales.
69 reviews
January 28, 2022
I received an ARC of this book about a million years ago in exchanged for an honest review. (Sorry for not being quicker with this review, NetGalley - a pandemic happened).

Anyway, I’ve always been interested in Imperial Russia so I was drawn to this well-paced historical fiction novel set in Russia, beginning at the cusp of the Russian Revolution.

I was satisfied with the arc of the plot and the conclusion of the story. I know espionage is generally a sexy subject but I’ve never been a huge fan - but I liked that angle in this book nonetheless. I thought the narrative worked well because of the switch between Nadia’s narrative and the British SIS reports; I thought it was an interesting and thoughtful device that moved the story along while keeping me guessing about Nadia’s fate.

Sometimes I thought Nadia’s inner monologue, particularly related to her need to sacrifice herself to save her family - was too something - cliche? simple? I’m not sure how to describe it. But those were moments where perhaps the author could have shown more than told us what Nadia was thinking.

I also thought some of the side plot lines - particularly with Maya de Severin - were superfluous and unnecessary. It seemed like a gratuitous glimpse into the debauchery of 1920s Paris.

Overall, however, this book exceeded my expectations.
Profile Image for Marie.
75 reviews
June 6, 2020
I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

When I initially chose Red Mistress, I was anticipating a solid espionage story set in early 1900s Russia to vary up my string of historical fiction reads. What I ended up reading was much more. The story follows Nadia Shulkina across several decades where author, Elizabeth Blackwell, effectively portrays Nadia's character growth throughout the years. We first learn about Nadia's noble Russian family, the Shulkins, from her perspective as a child and progress through their challenges and losses throughout and after the main events of the Russian Revolution.

The book blurb gave me the perception that this story would be more of an espionage-thriller, but I honestly enjoyed the parts that demonstrated the Shulkin family dynamics and character growth Nadia went through best. I also enjoyed learning more about the Russian Revolution and, judging by the author's note, the portrayals of what life was like trying to survive during that time. My few criticisms come as I felt I was being 'told' versus 'showed' throughout the book and I could have done without the romantic relationship, though I know it was a key piece of how the story concludes for Nadia.
Profile Image for Cheryl Sokoloff.
395 reviews10 followers
August 1, 2020
Red Mistress is a historical fiction novel that begins in 1914 in pre revolutionary Saint Petersburg. It tells the story of Nadia Kushlinka, whose family is considered aristocratic. Nadia’s mother is French and her “au pair”, Mrs. Fields, was hired from London, to teach Nadia and her brother Vasily, English. When the revolution begins, Vasily goes off to fight, And life changes completely for Nadia. She must reinvent herself, in order to survive. Lucky for her, her language skills serve her extremely well ....
Red Mistress is a great historical fiction read.

After finishing the book I watched author @elizabethblackwellbooks speak about writing the book and all the research that went into covering all the different time periods (and cities: Saint Petersburg, Paris, London). (She is the author in the top left corner in the 2nd photo). This FB live event really explained ALL THE WORK that goes into writing a book like this, (ALOT).

Well, @elizabethblackwellbooks, I am posting this #5⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review for #redmistress. I really enjoyed reading it, and I especially enjoyed listening to you (and all the other historical fiction authors) talk about writing historical fiction.
Thank you @NetGalley and @lakeunionauthors for my copy of Red Mistress in return for my honest review.

#historicalfiction #bolshevik #saintpetersburg #petrograd #paris #london #espionage #summerreads #beachreads
8 reviews
August 4, 2020
Nadia is a young aristocratic Russian who has lives like any other young lady. She enjoys drawing, her family and envisions her future full of large eloquent meals and fancy balls full of dancing. When the Bolsheviks revolution begins, Nadia finds her life turned upside down. Her father is killed before her eyes. Nadia finds herself leading her mother to safety envisioning how they will move on from this trauma. In an effort to protect her family from their aristocratic name, Nadia marries an up and coming Bolshevik with bold ideas who is full of arrogance and revenge. She soon finds herself being the “obedient” wife to appease her new husband. Soon enough, Nadia is on a trip to Paris as a Russian spy to seek the answers her husband wonders. During that fateful trip, Nadia finds out that there just may be more to life than grief, family obligations and obedient housewives.

This book does a beautiful job of pulling the reader in with it’s immediate newspaper notice of a “Red Mistress” being accidentally hit by a car. I love how the author goes back and forth between present day and past tense to show Nadia’s journey. If you love a book that’s full of suspense, wonder and action - this is it!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Liberty Brassbridge.
28 reviews1 follower
August 6, 2020
Red Mistress, a historical fiction by Elizabeth Blackwell was a joy to read. From the very beginning you could tell by the tone of the writing you were going to enjoy every part of the story. Blackwell makes a great transition first thing into the book and you will immediately be hooked by the first page. It starts off with Nadia, the main character, talking about her past. It is about the journey of her life starting in the year 1914 in Russia with the focus being on family. The way that Blackwell has structured the plot line has really kept you engaged, and really painted a picture to help you understand Nadia’s struggles. While based in a different era and country you are never left questioning anything, or not understanding any aspect of this interesting storyline.

If you are disappointed by books that do not have some huge plot twist or are easily predictable then this book is not for you. It is an elegant fictional tale about Nadia Shulkina’s life sprinkled with a little bit of romance. The ending truly gives you a sense of piece after experiencing the heartache Nadia experiences throughout her life. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves an eloquent tale, and I look forward to seeing what else Elizabeth Blackwell has in store.
Profile Image for Jessica.
179 reviews8 followers
March 11, 2022
This book was on a list for a long time. I kept passing over it thinking I've read books like it before....its probably some cheesy love story....well this book is kind of an example for me why you don't judge a book by it cover and a quick skim of its back cover.

First, very well written. The plot moves, the writer does a good job of developing the character, the time and the place. This doesn't romanticize the revolution, nor does it radically demonize it. This book shows the revolution and its aftermath from the class of Russians who were completely disposed and displaced. Nadia had to transform to survive. She become a chameleon not for love of country, duty, or anything else except for individual survival.

Second, this book does not try to bury you with details. It's a smooth combinations of snapshots of St. Petersburg, Moscow, Paris and then England between the 2 wars. And in the backdrop is this on going socio-political upheaval that is completely relevant but it's not the star of the story.

Nadia is a relatable character. So is Lee, and Sergei...I really enjoyed this one. The love story between Nadia and Lee is not the center theme, it's a side note. Nadia and how she survives the time and place she finds herself in...is a great story.
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