Cossacks in Paris appears to be an historical novel, it is in fact a love story set in an historical context.
At the end of the book author Jeffrey Perren explains that he hasn't allowed historical fact to get in the way of a good story and advises that the serious student of nineteenth century European history in general and of the Napoleonic era in particular should look elsewhere.
This is not to say that the book isn't packed with historical information: if you are new to the Napoleonic Wars this story will give you an exciting over-view and may well inspire some further reading of a more academic nature.
There are three main characters in the novel:
Breutier Armande is French; a confidante of Napoleon; an engineer with a special interest in sewers and railways; and a single-mindedness of character that at times borders on the manic. Sent to Russia on a spying mission by Napoleon, he encounters Kaarina who quickly becomes the love of his life.
Kaarina is an enlightened, intellectual woman who has gone with her father and sister to the court of Tsar Alexander hoping for an education in the university and determined to avoid an arranged marriage with the Tsar's favourite Cossack, Agripin. A chance meeting with Breutier Armande and a passionate love affair begins.
Meanwhile, Agripin is besotted with Kaarina the moment he meets her. He is determined she will be his wife regardless of her strongly expressed dislike. Brought up as an adopted son of fiercely clannish Cossacks, Agripin has not learned to take "No" for an answer.
The ups-and-downs of this complicated love triangle is at the heart of the story which is further complicated when Kaarina's twin sister Kaisa falls for Agripin. Despite his infatuation with Kaarina, Agripin is indifferent to Kaisa.
In addition there is a wealth of supporting characters from all ranks of society. A fascinating aspect of the novel is the evolving relationships between Breutier Armande and the two rulers. Armande has taken the lessons of the French Revolution to heart and as a devotee of Thomas Jefferson, regards himself as equal to anyone and in his dealings with Tsar Alexander and Emperor Napoleon, it shows.
This novel is written in an easy-to-read, fast paced style which races across the European continent at break neck speed. There is a wonderful juxtaposition of historical settings with a contemporary use of language which contributes to the novel's lively accessibility.
Although there is sufficient historical detail to give the novel authenticity the reader isn't overwhelmed with unnecessary information about battles and the politics of the day.
All in all, Cossacks in Paris is an unusual, enjoyable and light-hearted novel which would make ideal reading for a holiday, a long flight, cold winter nights or any other time when you just want to lose yourself in a book.
Thanks for reading.
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