WeWriWa—The yearly nightmare

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. I’ve been sharing from my alternative history, And Aleksey Lived, which released 17 July, on my primary protagonist’s real-life 100th death anniversary.

This snippet takes place in the middle of the night on 17 July 1930, on the eve of a memorial service for Aleksey’s parents. Aleksey and his newlywed wife Arkadiya, who’s now seven months pregnant, have relocated to the suburb of Peterhof to get away from the worst of the summer heat. They’re staying in Znamenka, an estate that’s part of a large complex of palaces, whose owners are now Grand Duchess Anastasiya, her husband Prince Roman Petrovich, and their surviving children.

This night proves to be Arkadiya’s first disturbed night of sleep, as she discovers her new husband is wracked by nightmares every year on this date.

“You’re safe with me, golubchik,” she soothed him as she stroked his sweaty auburn hair. “I can guess what you dreamt.”

“The same nightmare I always have on this date, at exactly this time.” His voice shook. “The White soldiers don’t get into the cellar in time to save me, and the murderers chase my sisters around the room with bayonets before shooting them in their heads.  Then the ringleader tries to stab me with a bayonet, and shoots me in the head when he can’t get past the jewels sewn into my undershirt.  If not for those jewels, my sisters and I would’ve been dead for twelve years.”

Arkadiya laid her head on his chest. “If I could take those bad memories and nightmares away from you, I would.  You didn’t deserve to almost be murdered at thirteen.”

Sometimes, the greatest heroes are those no one expects.

Aleksey, the miraculously rescued boy Tsar, knows he may not have a long life, but he’s determined to do all he can, as long as he’s alive, to bring his empire into the modern era and rule with love. But since real life isn’t a fairytale, there are a number of obstacles standing in his way.

Aleksey’s uncle Mikhail, his regent and guardian, radically transforms into a revenge-minded autocrat, and expects him to rule with the same iron fist. Mikhail’s behavior as Regent alienates and horrifies an increasing number of people.

As much as Aleksey wants to take power and start making everything right, he’s held back by his youth and inexperience. In order to gain real-world experience outside palace walls, he heads off to the Sorbonne for four years. After graduation, he begins co-ruling with his uncle.

Shortly before his twenty-fifth birthday, Aleksey is finally compelled onto the throne in his own right. Determined to endear himself to the people and demonstrate how modern and compassionate he is, he begins granting sweeping reforms. However, before he can be formally coronated, he’s ordered to find an Empress.

Arkadiya Gagarina is the least-likely Empress anyone could imagine. Not only is she a morganatic princess, but she’s also seven years older than Aleksey, walks with a limp, and carries several large, hidden burn scars. Regardless, Aleksey wants her and no one else.

Aleksey’s choice of a bride endears him even further to the people, and the reigning couple’s popularity increases even more with the birth of their first child. But just when it seems like Russia has finally come into the modern era, the biggest challenge yet comes when another war breaks out.

And thus begins the most heroic act of his life.

WeWriWa—No shame in imperfections

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. I’ve been sharing from my alternative history, And Aleksey Lived, which releases 17 July, on my primary protagonist’s real-life 100th death anniversary.

This week’s snippet comes a bit after last week’s, when soon-to-be-Empress Arkadiya began looking at fashion books and magazines with her future sister-in-law Tatyana, to get ideas for her wedding gown. Tatyana has explained each style of neckline and sleeve, and Arkadiya has said she’d prefer not to show her arms. Though the engagement photographs printed all over the world showed the burn scars on her arms, she wants to pretend everyone has forgotten about that.

Arkadiya also references the limp in her right leg, and the additional burn scars on her stomach and abdomen. She laments how she’ll be such a blemished bride.

Tatyana put her hand on Arkadiya’s left arm. “Everyone in this world who’s lived outside of a glass bubble has scars of some sort, be they physical, emotional, or mental.  Many people who appear physically unblemished are deeply scarred where no one can see it.  After what my siblings and I escaped, and what we saw, our hearts, souls, and minds have been riddled by scars we can never get rid of.  These scars make us who we are, and tell stories of survival.  Hiding them and pretending to be perfect gives a false impression.  There’s no shame in having an imperfect body or state of mind.  That’s one of the reasons Sunbeam likes you so much, because you’re not perfect, and have known suffering on a personal level just like he has.”

WeWriWa—Arkadiya and Tatyana

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. I’ve been sharing from my alternative history, And Aleksey Lived, which is scheduled to be released on 17 July, if all goes according to plan. I’ve been so one-tracked over the past few months, finishing up final edits, and know I haven’t been as prompt as I used to be about reciprocating blog visits!

This week’s snippet comes right after last week’s, when soon-to-be-Empress Arkadiya went to talk about the wedding dress with her future sister-in-law Tatyana after luncheon. Tatyana complained about being featured so often in the fashion books and magazines in front of them, and Arkadiya objected to this deprecating comment by saying Tatyana is so beautiful and always well-dressed.

Tatyana, left, with her youngest sister Anastasiya in 1915, at the infirmary in Tsarskoye Selo

“Photographs don’t do your beauty justice.  I already thought you were beautiful before meeting you in person, but now it’s obvious you’re even more beautiful than I thought.  You have the natural look of a princess, someone who’s very special.”

“Thank you very much for thinking so highly of me, but I’d rather be recognized for my nursing and charity work, not any physical beauty or how finely I dress.  God also deserves all the credit for how I look.  All I did was be born.”

Arkadiya looked through the pictures, featuring both Russian women and famous women from other European countries.  Some of the photographs also featured women from North America.  They were all dressed in the kinds of clothes she’d never imagined she’d someday have the option to wear, both on account of their level of finery and because of the world-famous designers.

WeWriWa—In the Poppy Red Salon

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. I’ve been sharing from my alternative history, And Aleksey Lived, which is scheduled to be released on 17 July, if all goes according to plan. This week’s snippet comes right after last week’s, when soon-to-be Empress Arkadiya followed her future sister-in-law Tatyana into the Poppy Red Salon after lunch.

Arkadiya tried not to look too much at the paintings of Tatyana’s parents, which had certainly been brought here by the palace’s new mistress instead of left over from a previous owner.  Other obviously new additions were watercolors of Tatyana, her sisters, and their brother, along with small framed photographs of their family before the catastrophe.

Tatyana motioned to a white and gold satin settee. “Please have a seat, Arkadiya Mikhaylovna.  The fashion magazines and books are right there, with bookmarks in the wedding sections.  I wish I weren’t featured so much in these books and magazines.  Other society ladies should be considered for best-dressed, not someone everyone already knows about.  It feels like cheating to always mention me.”

“Oh, but you’re always so well-dressed, and so beautiful,” Arkadiya said.

WeWriWa—Elegance after elegance

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. I’ve been sharing from my alternative history, And Aleksey Lived, which is scheduled to be released in exactly a month, if all goes according to plan. I’m currently experiencing computer problems, but I thankfully still have an 11-year-old computer as backup if the issues aren’t fixed in time. It runs a bit slower and isn’t so up to date, but the most important thing is that it works!

This week’s snippet comes a few lines after last week’s, when soon-to-be Empress Arkadiya had lunch with her future sister-in-law Tatyana and Tatyana’s three surviving children at Yelagin Palace. Everything about this palace and its menu impresses Arkadiya with its unfailing elegance. Now, dessert is served.

Menu for the Romanov Tercentenary, 1913

The cooks had prepared miniature hazelnut and chocolate mousse cakes, a cheese platter, plum tartlets, nectarine pudding, lemon and chèvre cheesecake with rhubarb and wine gelées, and chocolate raspberry roll cake. Arkadiya couldn’t imagine ever becoming used to such high-class dining. It always seemed far too much for one meal, particularly given how many leftovers these meals produced. Common sense would dictate the cooks only prepare as much as was expected to be eaten, instead of making too much and not keeping leftovers for the next day. Giving away the extras was wonderful charity, but the same could be accomplished by deliberately making food to be given to hungry locals and important visitors.

After luncheon concluded, Pavel and Varvara went back to their classroom, and Arkadiya followed Tatyana and Galina to the Poppy Red Salon. They entered through tall double doors of mahogany covered with delicate, gilt bronze decorations and engravings, flanked by very polished white pilasters, and topped by a pediment. As its name suggested, the room was full of poppy red furniture and silk tapestries. The deep red commingled with white, dark mahogany, and gold. In contrast to all the other finery in the room, the floor was plain parquet.