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Review: The Rose of Sebastopol, Katherine McMahon

Mariella is an over-protected, sheltered girl who lives mainly to sew and to long to be with Henry, her lifetime love.  Her life gets interesting when her cousin Rosa, a girl who is nearly her complete opposite, comes to live with Mariella and her family.  Rosa is beautiful, high-spirited, and passionate about nursing and helping people.  When the Crimean war begins, both Henry, a doctor, and Rosa go to the war effort.  When Henry falls ill, Mariella must go to him.  His strange request sends her to the Crimea, to the heart of a war she never wanted to get involved in, but where she finds hidden strength and who she really is.

I didn’t expect to like this too much, given that it’s had mediocre reviews, but that made it a very pleasant surprise when I did like it.  Mariella is a bit dull at first, but watching her come into her own is so satisfying.  The revelation at the end didn’t come as a complete surprise but had me looking back through the book, seeing things with new eyes.  Besides that, the Crimean war seems to be a rare topic in historical fiction and I loved it as a backdrop; I felt like I was learning, and this war seemed far more similar to modern wars than those in most of the historical fiction I read.  And I did end up satisfied with the ending; I didn’t feel that way at first, but the distance of a week has settled the book into my mind and I think it’s perfect.  I also really enjoyed the author’s prose style and found it both lovely and captivating.

Another recommended read; obviously not everyone has liked it as much as I have, but it’s definitely worth a try. Pre-order it on Amazon.

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