At midnight on July 16, 1918, Tsar Nicholas Romanov and his family were murdered, thus signifying the end of the Russian empire. Historians believe that a peasant by the name of Rasputin was instrumental in the downfall of the dynasty. Because Nicholas thought that Rasputin could cure their son, Alexis, who was suffering from hemophilia, Rasputin was able to influence the Imperial Family.
But what if Rasputin’s power did not come from God as he claimed but from a simple jewel, a tri-colored fifteen caret tourmaline? And what if that very stone landed in the hands of a lonely teenager a century later?
My young adult novel, One Stone Left Unturned is told from two points of view, two teenage girls, living in different times and different places leading parallel lives with a parallel needs and desires. Told with historical accuracy and woven with elements of mystery and fantasy, the novel chronicled the lives of a doomed princess and a bullied teenager.
Targeted Age Group:: Young Adult
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I have always been fascinated with the Russian Revolution and the children who were caught in the middle.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
The characters are real – the point of view is from Tatiana Romanov, the second older daughter. I did a year of research before writing the book.
Tatiana finished her prayers on her knees and jumped up into bed, covering herself with a threadbare cotton blanket. She was still freezing from the frigid bath she had taken hours ago.
It was very cold, and the cold was relentless. The chill slid up her legs and down her chest and into her ears and her eyes and turned her nose into a block of ice. Even the heavy layers of clothing she wore, woolen clothing which never came off, offered little protection.
Well, this was Siberia after all.
Tatiana had read about Siberia with her tutor, Pierre Gilliard. She had thought that someday when she was a grown-up princess, she would visit far off places and give courage to the people who lived there.
She never thought the person needing courage would be she.
Tatiana had no idea what prompted this rather sudden and horrifying event. Her father, Nicholas, had been a good, kind tsar. He had loved his people. He had considered them his children. Her mother, Alexandra, always faulted her husband for being too weak. She blamed him now, Tatiana knew. Alexandra thought that if her husband had been stronger, they would not be here now. Even if it meant using violence. But that was not Nicholas’s nature.
So instead his people had used violence against him. And his family.
Tatiana turned over on her small army cot. The soldiers had allowed them to take their own beds, which was comforting.
But the comforts afforded the family were few and fleeting.
After a bumpy, four-day journey by railroad, the Romanovs had been taken to the Governor’s House in the small town of Tobolsk. Some servants traveled with them, Gilliard, the children’s tutor, Trupp, Nicholas’s valet, Kharitonov, the cook, Demidova, her mother’s maid, and the children’s personal maid, Irina. Even Doctor Botkin, their private physician, was able to accompany them.
At first Tatiana thought that being exiled wasn’t as bad as she had feared. Although they weren’t allowed out of the property except to go to church, the family could walk in the yard, at least up to the high wooden fence. Even the food was rather tasty. Local farmers supplied them with butter and eggs, and the good nuns from the local convent brought sugar and cakes.
But after a few weeks, things became to change. An order came through demanding that all older soldiers leave the Imperial Army. A new commander was in charge, and he brought his own young, unsympathetic soldiers. Alexander Nikolsky’s thick, greasy black hair framed his broad face like two curtains. His eyes were cold and his manner abrupt.
Tatiana was terrified of him.
She had to go to the bathroom, and she hated to get up. Slowly she lifted the covers off her and shivered as her stocking feet touched the icy floor. She crept out of the room and into a narrow corridor. The lumpy lima bean porridge she had for supper rose in her throat, and she gagged.
She was steps from the bathroom when she heard voices.
“Right now, all we can do is wait,” a man said.
“Yeah, well, I’m tired of waiting,” the second man complained. “I’ve been in Siberia now for close to four weeks, and I want to go back to Moscow. I want to see my family. I’m tired of guarding them. I’m tired of that horrid woman with her bad attitude and her sense of entitlement and that bratty boy who is heir to the throne. I feel sorry for the tsar and if you ask me, she’s the one who brought Russia down. She and that crackpot monk, Rasputin, whom she allowed into the palace.”
“Well, I blame Nicholas, the good tsar. What did he do for his people? That’s what I want to know. While they were starving, he and his family were vacationing in the Crimean or off the Baltic Coast or in Finland or in Poland. While his army was dying, a million killed, millions without weapons, where was he then?”
“You better be quiet,” the second man said. “There is no telling who is listening.”
Were they referring to Tatiana who was just around the corner, her face glued to the stone wall, her heart beating so frantically that maybe they heard it?
“We’re in the middle of nowhere,” the first one said. “Who’s going to hear us? Who’s going to care? I tell you that they have forgotten us, just like they have forgotten them.”
“They have not forgotten them,” the first one argued in such a soft tone that Tatiana had to tiptoe several steps forward in order to hear. “As soon as the Provisional Government can, they’ll move them. But right now, it’s too dangerous. The Bolsheviks have taken over the railway stations, the bridges, the banks, the post offices, even the telephones and all the public buildings. And if they have their way, the Romanovs won’t be going to England. They’ll shoot the whole family.” Silence and then in a resigned voice someone muttered, “And us too.”
A door slammed, and Tatiana raced to her bedroom. She collapsed on her cot, dazed. Evidently, there was a civil war going on in Russia. The Provisional Government wanted Tatiana and her family to leave the country, but the Bolsheviks weren’t so kind.
And the Bolsheviks were winning.
Marianna Heusler is an Edgar nominated author of eight published books and over one hundred short stories. She is also a teacher at a private girls school on the upper east side of Manhattan.
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