Laura Reid is an American college student who has gone to Russia to study abroad right after the Cold War. Paranoia of the war has broken out all over the country, and the government is keeping a very close eye on everyone - especially foreigners. Russians and foreigners are not allowed to have any relationship with each other or there are serious consequences. All of the students have been warned about how Russians will pretend to be in love with them, and convince them to get married, so they can go to America. Will everyone remember this warning though? Or will they fall for a Russian playing tricks on them?
One day, as Laura is crossing the bridge back to her dorm, she is cornered by gypsies who harass her to give them money. She starts to panic, but a man soon comes to her aid and the gypsies take off. This man turns out to be a young Russian artist named Alyosha. Russia suddenly doesn’t seem so bland and lonely now that Laura has met Alyosha. As they spend more and more time together, Laura starts to believe that they are in love. Her friends try to warn her of Alyosha’s possible intentions and what could happen if they get caught together, but Laura doesn’t want to hear it. Will Alyosha’s true intentions be revealed? Or is it really true love?
Natalie Standiford does an excellent job of describing Russian culture at this time. She uses her own experiences as well, since she studied in Russia for a time. This is a great book for people who enjoy learning about different cultures and other countries. It also does a great job of representing the time period it takes place in -- right after the Cold War. This element of the book is part of what makes it so unique. Standiford’s writing gets boring and repetitive at times, and some of Laura’s actions are hard to follow. It may feel like you want to stop reading the book altogether, but you can’t because you have to know how it ends. The question of Alyosha’s truthfulness is always burning in the back of your mind. We also wonder just how far people are willing to go for freedom. The harsh realities of expected outcomes are very evident in this book and we watch as Laura Reid matures and experiences love in another country.