#GuestPost: Forbidden Love, Soviet Style By Nelli Rees
Please Note: Review will be posted soon.
Privet! (That’s Russian for ‘Hi!’)
I’m Nelli Rees and my first novel, “Ghost Love”, is out now, published by Phaze, billed as a ‘romantic thriller with a flavoring of the supernatural’. “Ghost Love” has two intertwined stories set twenty years apart these following the adventures of a Russian girl, Tonia, as she discovers that true love really does conquer all … even death.
The ‘Forbidden Love’ plot device has been around since writers first put pen to papyrus so writers should treat it with care. Familiarity is, after all, first cousin to boredom and ripping off Romeo and Juliet isn’t seen as a great step towards announcing your creative originality. But …
“Ghost Love” takes the reader back to the world of Moscow circa 1989, then capital of Communist USSR, a USSR undergoing what I have come to call ‘the Second Russian Revolution’, the time when Communism was crumbling and the Iron Curtain was being torn down. Sure it was something of a ‘soft’ revolution – there wasn’t the fighting in the streets or the civil war that marked the revolution of 1917 – but in many ways it was just as profound. The move from a centrally-planned, authoritarian Communist state to one which was free-market and democratic (well, sort of democratic) was pretty traumatic and one the old Communist apparatchiks fought tooth-and-nail.
One of the things these apparatchiks were most terrified of was losing control of young people so they did everything in their power to keep them under their thumb. This is what Tonia’s professor intended when she announced that British exchange students were to join Tonia’s class (I know this because I took it from my diary written back in 1989):
‘I hope I do not need to make clear that you all must demonstrate vigilance during these classes, that you must not give in to any Capitalist incitements or succumb to their specious propaganda. Rather you must use these classes as an opportunity to prove to our British guests the superiority of the Soviet, socialist, way of life especially when compared to their rotting Capitalism. You must not accept any presents from them, not converse with them on any subject that might be construed as trivial or anti-socialist and above all, must not …’ Zoya Mikhailovna struggled with the nature of what she was about to suggest, ‘… enter into a personal relationship with them. To do so would be to put your place in this University at risk. Remember, you are ambassadors of your Socialist motherland and must justify the trust placed in you by the University’s Party organization.’
Now this, believe me, was no idle threat … if the Communist Party blackballed you there was absolutely NO chance of getting a decent job post-uni. These efforts to make sure you toed the line were backed up by the KGB who had an almost fanatical interest in monitoring and subverting any romantic attachments formed between Russians and Westerners. We were watched all the time and any digression from the Party line resulted in an interview with the KGB, a truly scary experience.
So, if there is anyone out there of the opinion that there’s no such thing as ‘forbidden love’ in the modern world, think again. What’s described in “Ghost Love” is the real deal. But thankfully, love does conquer all: my English husband and I have just celebrated twenty-five years together.
In the madcap, chaotic days when Communism crumbled in the USSR, Tonia meets and falls in love with Englishman, Peter Monroe. Despite the protests of her family and the more strenuous
objections of the KGB Tonia agrees to marry Peter only for him to mysteriously disappear.
Twenty years later a life-toughened Toni must revisit these bitter-sweet memories when she finds herself and her daughters endangered by the consequences of that love affair.
In her despair Toni comes to realise that true love really does conquer all … even death.
Present Day: Dorset, England
Excitement being a kindred spirit to fear, Toni was undecided as to whether it was a trickle of fear she felt shivering down her spine or a trickle of excitement.
As she sat staring at the screen of her laptop, the darkness shrouding the room seemed to draw in on her: her head swam, her palms became clammy. Tears welled up in her eyes. She blinked them away, hoping that by doing so the message on her screen would disappear. It didn’t.
Peter Monroe wants to be friends on Facebook
Hesitantly she maneuvered the cursor over the ‘connect’ button and pressed ‘enter.’ The screen mutated to show the Facebook page for ‘Peter Monroe.’ It was Peter! She recognized the profile photograph instantly. She’d taken it. She remembered posing him in front of the bandstand in Gorki Park on that spring day back in 1990, remembered laughing at the stupid faces he pulled, remembered the way his long chestnut hair flopped over his forehead, remembered…
How could she forget? He had been her one true love.
Love. A word made empty by misuse…by overuse. She wondered how many had ever endured the touch of real love, that soul-eviscerating sensation that comes when you know you have found your soul-mate. Very few, she decided. Perhaps this was all for the good: true love brought anguish in equal measure to joy. As the last twenty years had taught her, finding true love was a bitter-sweet blessing. Her fingers trembled as she typed.
Is it really you, Peter?
The reply was instantaneous.
Yes…I’ve missed you, Tonia.
She couldn’t stop herself: the tears flowed down her cheeks.
She paused, terrified that what she would type next might cause this marvelous mirage to vanish.
But I thought you were dead.
The seconds ticked by, then:
About The Author:
Nelli Rees, born in Moscow, trained as a linguist and a musician. With her future husband Englishman Rod she worked and travelled around Russia, finally coming to live in England in 1998. Nelli has had several successful careers: recording a critically acclaimed nu-jazz album “Jazz Noir”, becoming an award-winning jewellery maker, writing a book “Glass Bead Jewelry Projects”, and doing all this whilst being a mother and a wife. “Ghost Love” is Nelli’s first novel and draws heavily on her own experiences as a young woman in Soviet Russia and the obstacles she and her husband-to-be faced during those difficult times.
Video of Nelli performing “Falling In Love Again”: