The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley (♦♦♦♦½)
Nicola Marter works at an art gallery in London that caters to Russian clients. A woman named Margaret visits the gallery to appraise a wooden bird that has been passed down in her family for three centuries. Margaret says that "The Firebird", as the artwork is known, was given to her ancestor by Empress Catherine the First, of Russia, but without any authentication document there's no way to be sure. When Nicola holds the bird in her hand, she gets a glimpse of the past and knows that the story is true, but how to prove it?
In the company of Rob McMorran, a gifted psychic and former flame, Nicola traces the steps that Anna (Jamieson) Moray, Margaret's ancestor, took from her childhood as a neighbor of Slains castle in Scotland, to her late teens as a member of a prominent family in St. Petersburg, and her occasional acquaintance with the Czarina.
The Firebird chronicles the life of Anna Mary, daughter of Sophia Paterson and John Moray whom we got to know in The Winter Sea. In that novel it was revealed that Sophia gave her daughter away as not to blow her cover as a young widow, and to preserve the lives of her daughter and John from the possible retaliation of Queen Anne's spies due to John's involvement in the insurrection to bring back King James Stewart VIII to power in 1708.
I really liked The Firebird. This is the fourth book by Mrs. Kearsley that I have read after The Winter Sea, The Rose Garden and Mariana. The Winter Sea was my favorite among the three, and now The Firebird has become my second favorite book by Susanna Kearsley, who has also become my second favorite author after Daniel Silva.
The Firebird has all the elements that made The Winter Sea a success: parallel stories in time, meaty and believable characters, great chemistry between the protagonists, and paranormal elements. It helped a lot that The Firebird was a continuation of sorts of The Winter Sea, and some of the most likable characters of the latter, reappear in the former to enhance the story and bring it full circle.
The elements of political intrigue and maneuvering present in The Winter Sea reappear in The Firebird as well, for the story starts circa 1715, when the second Jacobite insurrection took place and failed miserably.
As the story moved to St. Petersburg, I was given a glimpse of a court I didn't know anything about; that made me up on my TBR list the book Russka by Edward Rutherfurd, a historical fiction account of Russia's history.