Everywhere young Russian noblewoman Darya Sheremeteva turns, someone in her circle of family and friends reminds her that she exists to serve a single purpose: to marry a powerful man selected by her male relatives and bear children, preferably sons, to continue his line. But after years in isolation nursing her elderly father, Darya questions whether marriage and motherhood constitute the best, never mind the only, future for a woman of twenty-five. Should she not instead take monastic vows and surrender her will to the soaring ritual of the Orthodox Church? When a cousin lays claim to her father’s estate, Darya’s decision acquires a new urgency. Because this cousin will stop at nothing to advance his career, and his most valuable asset is Darya herself.
Years ago, C. P. Lesley decided to focus on sixteenth-century Russia. After all, they say, “write what you know,” and as a historian with a Stanford doctorate, that’s what she knew. It was also a time and place filled with exciting and dramatic events, some of which defy belief. The result was a mystery story set in 1530s Moscow about a young couple resolving a series of crimes by combining clues they pick up in the gender-segregated worlds of husbands and wives. Although she didn’t complete that novel, the original idea gave rise to The Golden Lynx, which became the basis of a series called Legends of the Five Directions and led to her becoming the host of New Books in Historical Fiction here on the New Books Network.
After almost a decade spent creating an entire world of characters, she couldn’t bear to let them go, and the result is Songs of Steppe & Forest, a less tightly linked set of books that exist in the same story space five to ten years later and feature characters who, for one reason or another, took a back seat in the Legends novels. Songs of Steppe and Forest will answer the question, “What made Ivan the Terrible so terrible?”. When not thinking up new ways to torture her characters, C.P. Lesley edits other people’s manuscripts, reads voraciously, maintains her website, and practices classical ballet. That love of ballet also finds expression in her Tarkei Chronicles series, “Desert Flower” and “Kingdom of the Shades.”