2019 Reviews · historical fiction · World War I

New Release Book Review: Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly

Title: Lost Roseslost roses small

Author: Martha Hall Kelly

Published: April 2nd 2019

Publisher: Penguin Books Australia

Pages: 448

Genres: Fiction, Historical

RRP: $29.99

Rating: 4 stars

The runaway international bestseller Lilac Girls introduced the real-life heroine Caroline Ferriday. Now Lost Roses, set a generation earlier and also inspired by true events, features Caroline’s mother, Eliza, and follows three equally indomitable women from St Petersburg to Paris under the shadow of World War I.

From the author of the million-copy bestseller Lilac Girls comes Lost Roses, which once again celebrates the unbreakable bonds of women’s friendship during the darkest days of history.

It is 1914, and New York socialite Eliza Ferriday is thrilled to be traveling to St Petersburg with Sofya Streshnayva, a cousin of the Romanovs. The two met years ago one summer in Paris and now Eliza is embarking on the trip of a lifetime to see the splendors of Russia.

But when Austria declares war on Serbia and Russia’s imperial dynasty begins to fall, Eliza escapes back to America, while Sofya and her family flee to their country estate. In need of domestic help, they hire the local fortune-teller’s daughter, Varinka, unknowingly bringing intense danger into their household.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Eliza is doing her part to help the White Russian families find safety as they escape the revolution. But when Sofya’s letters suddenly stop coming, she fears the worst for her best friend.

From the turbulent streets of St Petersburg and aristocratic countryside estates to the avenues of Paris to the mansions of Long Island, the lives of Eliza, Sofya and Varinka will intersect in profound ways.


The New York Times bestselling author of the historical fiction title Lilac Girls, returns with another compelling story titled, Lost Roses. Martha Hall Kelly’s second novel focuses on three independent women, who are each dealing with their own challenges, on the home front, as the Great War rumbles in the background. Lost Roses is a composition of friendship, war, sacrifice and adversity during one of the most defining periods in our world history.

Opening in the year 1914, Lost Roses follows of the stories of three extraordinary women. The first Martha Hall Kelly introduces the reader to is Eliza, a regular fixture on the New York social circuit, who is just beginning a magnificent tour of Russia with Sofya, a relative of the Romanovs. But when the war breaks out, the Russian Royal family is faced with ultimate collapse. Sofya and her family are faced with no choice but to escape to the country, while Eliza is forced to return home to the US. Drawing in the help of a local fortune teller’s daughter, Varinka, places Sofya’s family under threat. Meanwhile, following her swift return home from Russia, Eliza is compelled to help as many Russian families find security in the face of the revolution. She fears greatly for her friend Sofya, especially when all written communication of her friend grinds to a halt. Lost Roses traverses time, place and society, as Martha Hall Kelly takes the reader on an unforgettable sojourn from the opulence of the Russian aristocratic court and sprawling estates, to Paris and the United States. The way in which the lives of Eliza, Sofya and Varinka become intertwined makes Lost Roses a profound read.

The Great War, the Russian Revolution and the female experience of war are all subject areas that completely fascinate me. I tend to go out of my way to seek these books out. My enthusiasm never seems to wane when it comes to reading more about this time period and dark chapter in our world history. As a result, my early interest level in Martha Hall Kelly’s second novel was very high.

It is clear that Martha Hall Kelly has conducted a great deal of research and personal effort to get all the details right in her novel. If you take the time to acknowledge her five page author’s note as the close of the novel, I am sure it will give you a very clear indication of the extent to which Martha Hall Kelly has gone to in order to maintain historical integrity. I lapped up all the period detail in this book, it was both illuminating and well presented.

What I liked about Lost Roses was the shared style of narration. Allowing the reader to look down the barrel of the Great War from three contrasted female perspectives was a great decision on behalf of the author. I appreciated seeing the world at this time through the eyes of this trio. They each had their own very colourful tales, battles and issues. I will say I was unable to develop a firm liking to, or solidify a strong connection to these women and I did find the narration a little slow pace wise. However, I did appreciate the trials and tribulations each went through as the war entered their lives –  in such different ways.

By far my favourite aspect of Lost Roses was the Russian focus, it proved to be a reading feast for this Russian history enthusiast. For me, it was the starring feature of the novel and it ultimately enticed me to continue to read on. The strong spirit of these women and what they endured ultimately carried me over to the finish line.

I would send Lost Roses in the direction of historical fiction readers, especially those who have an interest in Russia during the Great War, as well as the historic revolution.

Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly was published on 2nd April 2019 by Penguin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of Lost Roses, Martha Hall Kelly, visit here.

*I wish to thank Penguin Books Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.


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