Alexander Pushkin's fatal due was fought over his wife's honor. I didn't know much more about Natalya until I read Martin Cruz Smith's Tatiana, in which a yacht is named after her. For the Russian characters in the book, that name has negative connotations. Natalya was said to be overly flirtatious, but not overly bright. Recent research has revealed a different side of Natalya, a sensitive and intelligent young woman. I'm grateful for the opportunity to tell her story in The Lost Season of Love and Snow.
Russia's greatest poet, Alexander Pushkin's work is so popular in Russia that it has been said there are always fresh flowers on monuments to him. He is less well-known to English language readers. I recommend Eugene/Evgeny Onegin and The Bronze Horseman to get a feel for his vivid writing.
Unlike his descendant - the last tsar, Nicholas II - Nicholas I ruled in an ultra-authoritarian manner and was known as "The Iron Tsar." When he came to power, a group of elite officers, the Decembrists, attempted to replace him with his brother, the more liberal Constantine. The Decembrists were inspired in part by Pushkin's early poems. Severely punished for their actions, the ramifications of this unsuccessful coup would come to haunt the Pushkins.
After Alexander Pushkin's death at the age of 37, conspiracy theories related to his fatal duel became a part of Russian history. Some believe that Pushkin's opponent wore a makeshift bulletproof vest and that the tsar himself had been complicit or even active in planning the duel. After news of Pushkin's death spread, the tsar was forced to deal with a mass expression of grief and anger over the needless death of the brilliant poet.
A dashing French courtier considered by many to be "the other man" in the story, the background of Natalya and Georges' relationship is complicated. Although rumors spread about the two, Alexander himself considered the duel with Georges an affair of honor between men and never blamed his wife, nor thought she had done anything wrong.