It is 1914, and New York socialite Eliza Ferriday is thrilled to be travelling to St Petersburg with Sofya Streshnayva, a cousin of the Romanovs. The two met years ago one summer in Paris and now Eliza is embarking on the trip of a lifetime to see the splendours of Russia.
But when Austria declares war on Serbia and Russia's imperial dynasty begins to fall, Eliza escapes back to America, while Sofya and her family flee to their country estate. In need of domestic help, they hire the local fortune-teller's daughter, Varinka, unknowingly bringing intense danger into their household.
On the other side of the Atlantic, Eliza is doing her part to help the White Russian families find safety as they escape the revolution. But when Sofya's letters suddenly stop coming, she fears the worst for her best friend.
From the turbulent streets of St Petersburg and aristocratic countryside estates to the avenues of Paris to the mansions of Long Island, the lives of Eliza, Sofya and Varinka will intersect in profound ways.
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