My rating: 4 of 5 stars
For any reader interested in seeing behind the iron curtain of 1970’s Russia, during the Brezhnev years, Jazz with Ella is a must read. A group of Canadian university Russian language students, their professor and his teaching assistant are allowed to visit the then Soviet Socialist Republic to see first-hand what life is like in a Communist society. They are scheduled to visit Moscow and St. Petersburg, (then called Leningrad), and then to take a river boat cruise on the Volga, the first western group to be allowed to do so. All this happens under the careful supervision of a militant tour guide, Natasha, whose job it is to see that they don’t see anything or meet anyone they shouldn’t. In this task, she is doomed to fail with a group of free spirited Canadians.
Jennifer, the teaching assistant, meets and falls in love with Valodya, a handsome and very talented young jazz pianist. Valodya has been repeatedly demeaned and demoted by the powers that be for his interest in this decadent western art form. An educated man, he has been reduced to menial labor at the point in the story where Jennifer enters his life. He wants to get out of Russia so that he can be free to play the music he loves. Jennifer wants to help him but is realist enough to know that this is probably impossible.
We get to know the group of students in the course of this complex, layered story. They are an interesting and disparate lot. And Jennifer is not the only one among them to fall in love with a Russian.
There is intrigue, romance, and a touch of danger, all set against the dreary Soviet background. A delicious mix and a good read.
Available at www.libroslibertad.ca
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Following are my published novels. Go to my Goodreads page, to find more info and reviews.
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• The Memory of Roses ~ The story of a secret and how it impacts two generations of the McQuaid family. It unfolds on the beautiful Greek Island of Corfu and is a tale complete with beautiful and passionate women, handsome and fiery men, and an intriguing mystery.
"The Memory of Roses by Blair McDowell is simply an incredibly lovely story. It’s also a love story, and a story about finding yourself, and about closure. The theme running through the book is “all’s well that ends well.” -- Marlene, Reading Reality
• Delighting In Your Company ~ Delighting In Your Company is a paranormal romance set on an exotic Caribbean island, featuring a handsome ghost and an adventurous heroine who travels back in time to solve a mystery!
"Delighting In Your Company is a unique paranormal romance that brings together island folklore, history, and mystery with an unlikely romance between the past and present that had me going through a torrent of emotions and made it impossible to put down." -- The Romance Reviews
• Sonata ~ Sayuri McAllister has just arrived home to Vancouver to find some shocking situations:
~ A robbery has taken place at her family home, and it is being investigated by her old flame;
~ Alyssa James who she barely knows, is about to become her new stepmother;
~ and Alyssa’s brother, Hugh James, is a charming Irishman who is intent on bedding and wedding the rich and beautiful Sayuri.
It’s a confusing and difficult time for Sayuri, especially when dangerous accidents happen to her father and herself – or are they accidents?
“I found Sonata to be a charming novel that left me laughing out loud in parts and gnawing nails in others. It was a delight to read.” – Night Owl Reviews
• Abigail's Christmas (short story) ~ An enchanting tale of love and romance, with a magical touch of fantasy.
Abigail's Christmas is a holiday story about Abigail who goes looking for a tree on Christmas Eve, and ends up with the man of her dreams in a sleigh in the Rockies --- with a wedding in the offing! Is it real? Is she dreaming? Or is it just Christmas magic?