Thursday, 19 May 2011

Across the Fickle Winds of History - Novella/Short Story Week

Across the Fickle Winds of History
By Stephanie Burkhart

Released in 2007, "Across the Fickle Winds of History" was written under my pen name, SG Cardin. It's a time traveling story with strong romantic elements.

Set in St. Petersburg, Russia 1913, Olga Romanov, the eldest daughter of Nicholas II finds herself attracted to a handsome stranger, Paul Kerensky. After Paul escorts Olga to a ball, Olga decides she wants to get to know him better. She schemes with her sisters to have Paul stay at the palace and he's quickly established as her bodyguard. Her father, Nicholas II, has done the unthinkable – petitioned the Duma to allow Olga to be recognized as the Heir Presumptive should anything happen to her brother, Alexi. Nicholas was pressured into doing this by his most recent prime minister, Tsichov.

Soon, Olga finds herself caught in the middle of intrigue and secrets. Can she find love and peace as the heir to the Russian throne, or does history have another course for Olga to follow?


"Across the Fickle Winds of History" is a story close to my heart. In my senior year of high school, I took a Russian History class. This class had a major impact on me. I learned the story of Nicholas II and Alexandra, and how their only son, Alexi, was afflicted with hemophilia.

Hemophilia is a bleeding disease where the blood does not clot so one could literary bleed to death. Alexi's health was always delicate and it forced Alexandria to turn to Rasputin, an Orthodox monk and the only person who could stop the bleeding when Alexi had an episode. The Russian nobility detested Rasputin – and Alexandra. In the end, the Russian royal family lost their lives when soldiers loyal to the Bolsheviks assassinated them in 1918.

For me, there were a lot of historical "what-ifs." What if Nicholas dared to change the laws of succession so women could inherit? He did have four beautiful, healthy daughters. When Nicholas abdicated, he also did so for Alexi, his son, since he knew of Alexi's poor health. Women couldn't take the throne. At the time a regency was discussed – a regency with Olga as the regent until her brother could come to the throne. However we all know what happened. The Russian people turned toward communism and Lenin to lead them and turned their backs on the Imperial Family, the Romanovs.


I wanted to write "Across The Fickle Winds of History" to tackle that "what-if" question. I also wanted to tackle what happened to Anastasia, the Czar's youngest daughter. Throughout the 20th Century, there were rumors of Anastasia surviving the massacre of her family, but did she really?

What I found most tragedic about Nicholas' story is the loss of his family. Olga, Tatiana, Marie, and Anastasia each had distinct personalities that we hardly got a chance to know. Robert K. Massey's book, "Nicholas and Alexandria" was a fascinating read into the Imperial family world.

I originally wrote the story in 1995, but kept it on the shelf, dusting it off in 2006. I researched the Imperial family and the times they lived in. Since I was into self-publishing, I used Lulu. Through their affiliates, I took advantage of their editing services and graphic artists to come up with the cover.

The story is 40K, novella size, which makes it a great size to read. What I enjoyed the most were the characters. Olga sees the world in a refreshing realism compared to her father. She's torn between duty, love, and family. Paul is also caught between his duty and love. Olga is convinced she'd make a good Czarina, but Paul knows history must follow another course. If you enjoy history, you'll enjoy this historical "what-if."

4 Stars
Shannon Yarbough, Lulu Book Reviews

THE SET UP: Paul and Olga are at a ball.

We went back to the dance floor, and I discovered he had a stamina no other man had. It seemed almost unnatural, and I grew winded a second time before he took me upstairs to the second floor to get some air. We looked down over the railing, admiring the dancers.

He stood close to me, his hand in the small of my back, his diamond hard body pressing ever so slightly into mine.

“Would you like another drink?” he asked.

“Thank you, but no, Paul, I’m fine,” I replied. We spoke in his native English and I noticed no unusual pauses in our conversation, although I must admit, I had a very proper accent compared to his.

“Tell me about you, Olga. How is it Tatiana takes such command when you are alone, but here, in front of all, you clearly assert yourself?”

“I do what is expected of me, and since I am the oldest, a lot is expected of me,” I replied.

“Like what?” he asked.

“I have to learn my lessons so I can represent Russia.”

“Represent Russia? How so? Are you in line for the throne?” he asked.


He cocked his head as if he expected a different answer. “You’re not?”

“No, I’m not. Czar Paul changed the law of succession. Only a man can inherit the throne,” I replied.

“Really? Wasn’t that a long time ago? Aren’t things different now?” he asked.

“It was a 100 years ago, and no, things haven’t changed.”

“There’s been no discussion of changing that law to allow women to inherit?” he asked.

“No, not that I’m aware of.”

He pursed his lips and nodded his head, accepting my words. “Well, perhaps it’s coming, then.”

“Really? I doubt it.”

“You’d be surprised, Princess.”

“That’s the second time you’ve used the word “princess.” I suppose that would be the English word for my title, but in Russia, I’m a grand duchess.”

He leaned close to me. “Olga,” he whispered. Our conversation faded away for the moment. He put his hands on my upper arms and his warm, honey brown eyes locked onto mine. “I have no right to tell you this, but the moment I saw you, I felt drawn to you.”

His words hung like the lightest feathers in a breeze, and he brought up a hand to my hair, teasing my ringlets. “You’re so gentle, so kind, so sweet. I think of you as my princess.”

I took his hand and led him to the nearest balcony. With the glass door shut behind us, I pulled him to the darkest corner the balcony had to offer and put my hands on his waist, looking up into his eyes. My heart pounded in my chest. My breathing became deep and ragged.

“What spell have you woven over me? You’ve been on my mind since the moment I saw you. What will happen when this evening ends? Will you go home the way you came – through a broken gate?”

“I…I can’t go home. Not yet,” he replied. His entire body shook, as if he was holding himself in rigid check.

“Will you stay at the palace?”

“I have no reason to.”

“Are you looking for one? Are you playing a game with me, trying to win my affections, so I will ask you to stay and further lie to my father?”

“I would ask you to lie only so that I could spend time with you.”

He placed his hands on my arms again and the touch jolted my senses. I should have repelled him and walked away. After all, what could the future hold for us? While he was Russian, he was also an American, a commoner, and my mother would frown upon such a match for me – or at least I thought she would. Still, the pull of his magnetic eyes drew me closer to him, and tempting fate, my hands then went over his shoulders. Our lips teased each other for a second, awkwardly trying to find their place, until they firmly met in a kiss. Oh, how I melted into him! His arms wrapped around my body, holding me tight.

The pressure of his lips massaged mine in a way I’d never felt before. My body suddenly felt hot all over as the kiss deepened. Our mouths grew with an intense hunger I did not think possible, but when he ran his tongue over my bottom lip, now swollen from his endeavors, I put my hands on his chest and slightly pushed him away, startled at how he affected me, and at how I could have easily given him more.




About the Author: Stephanie Burkhart is a 911 dispatcher for LAPD. She also served as an MP in the US Army. Multi-published, she has a children's book, "The Giving Meadow" with 4RV Publishing. She's an avid reader , loves coffee in the morning, and her favorite movie is "The Sound of Music."

You can find me at:
Tweet me at:


Lindsay Townsend said...

Hi Steph - I love 'What ifs' and alternative histories and your novella, 'Across the Fickle Winds of History' sounds very interesting indeed.

Love the kiss excerpt!

StephB said...

Lindsay, I love "what if's" and alternative histories as well that's why I really enjoyed writing this story! Thanks so much for popping in.

This on is a little different for me because I use first person narration. The story is told from Olga's POV and the epilogue from Anastasia's.

Ah, the kiss... sigh...I'm a sucker for a good kiss, too.


Margaret West said...

Saw your link on the threads so I'm Waving hi lol my husband is a Hemophiliac. Loved the excerpt. good luck with it.

Celia Yeary said...

Steph--yes, the "what ifs" keep many rumor alive and well, and often they might have a ring of truth in them.
I've always been interested in Nicholas and Alexandria--remember Dr. Zhivago? Plus since I taught biology, I used the son's hemophilia as an example. The boy was coddled by his mother, and she became involved with wicked Rasputin to save him. The child's illness and the parents' involvement has also been blamed for their own downfall. They were not paying attention to the country.
Back to your novella. You did a great job researching, and that old photo is priceless.

StephB said...

Margaret, thank you so much for sharing. With the advances in modern medicine, is able to manage the hemophilia well? Are there activities he shouldn't participate in?

Celia, Yes, I remember watching Dr. Zhivago as a young girl. Celia, Alexi's hemophilia is a great learning tool for biology class! Well done to think of it.

I agree - they had their eyes on Alexi, not the nation and that help to contribute to the perfect storm that took their royal house down.

Thank for the shout out on my research. It's a topic that totally fascinates me.


LK Hunsaker said...

Great background info for your novella! It's always amazing to me how people used to be so horribly superstitious and afraid of everything they didn't understand. I guess we still are to a large part, but not so bad. ;-)

Mona Risk said...

Hi Steph--as you know anything Russian interests me. I visited the church built around the room where the Romanoffs were assassinated. A very sad mausoleum.
You have such an incredible imagination.