To Dream of Snow by Rosalind Laker
Severn House, 1st edition, 2004
Genre: historical romance
Since the untimely death of her fiancé just before their wedding day nearly a year ago, Marguerite Laurent has grieved, drooping over her work and no longer laughing and singing. When a demand comes from Russia, from the Empress herself, for the gifted embroiderer and designer of the gowns the French ambassador’s wife has worn, Marguerite leaps at the opportunity to start a new life far from her tragic past. She takes several women and girls with her to establish her atelier, and together they make the long, difficult trek to St Petersburg. After an inauspicious start, Marguerite is soon creating stunning designs for the Empress Elisabeth and the Grand Duchess Catherine. Despite the difficulties of court life, Marguerite forms strong friendships to sustain her. She also finds herself torn between a ghost from the past in the form of an English landscaper, Tm Harwell, new passion with Dutch painter Jan van Deventer, and entrée into a new world with imperial guardsman Konstantin Dashiski.
Is Rosalind Laker even writing these books anymore? I mean, her novels were never High Art, but they were always interesting historical romances, with an emphasis on the history, particularly artistic aspects trades and working, creative women. And though this follows her usual form, To Dream of Snow is drivel. It seems like a poor imitation of the usually entertaining Laker novels I’ve read in the past (To Dance with Kings is her best, I think). There is a great deal of name recycling, and while I know that some names were ubiquitous in history, surely in a novel some exception can be made? Not every Frenchwoman was named Jeanne, Marguerite, Marie, or Rose, after all—all names repeated from other novels, as is Laurent, Saskia, and van Deventer. The naming convention stuck out in my mind as an example of sloppy editing or writing. With regards to the former, there are several examples of words being used that make little to no sense in context. And on the inside jacket, reference is made to an art dealer by the name of Simon de Villiers, who appears nowhere in this novel. At one point, Marguerite rises early in the morning and admires the sunlight on St Petersburg—in early January. Hmmm. Laker also relies heavily on hackneyed romance phrasing and telling, not showing, readers the story. And despite all the telling, the book is very short, and feels tremendously rushed, unusual for her earlier work.
Though I often recommend To Dance with Kings and Banners of Silk, and don’t recall such problems in earlier novels from the Eighties like The Golden Tulip, Circle of Pearls or The Sugar Pavilion, I cannot recommend this novel to anyone. It sucks.
Cover: Busy and cluttered, it’s Marguerite in the snow (but not dressed very warmly) in front of a palace in St Petersburg.
‘You swear you will never tell?’ he demanded fiercely.
‘Never!’ she replied on a flash of hope.
02 August – 03 August