Genre: Romance (with a hint of the paranormal)
Date of Publication: 20th January 2015
ISBN: ISBN-13 978-1-60659-849-8
Number of pages: 332
Word Count: 90,000
Cover Artist: Niki Browning
In the madcap, chaotic days when Communism crumbled in the USSR, Tonia meets and falls in love with Englishman, Peter Monroe. Despite the protests of her family and the more strenuous
objections of the KGB Tonia agrees to marry Peter only for him to mysteriously disappear.
Twenty years later a life-toughened Toni must revisit these bitter-sweet memories when she finds herself and her daughters endangered by the consequences of that love affair.
In her despair Toni comes to realise that true love really does conquer all … even death.
Present Day: Dorset, England
Excitement being a kindred spirit to fear, Toni was undecided as to whether it was a trickle of fear she felt shivering down her spine or a trickle of excitement.
As she sat staring at the screen of her laptop, the darkness shrouding the room seemed to draw in on her: her head swam, her palms became clammy. Tears welled up in her eyes. She blinked them away, hoping that by doing so the message on her screen would disappear. It didn’t.
Peter Monroe wants to be friends on Facebook
Hesitantly she maneuvered the cursor over the ‘connect’ button and pressed ‘enter.’ The screen mutated to show the Facebook page for ‘Peter Monroe.’ It was Peter! She recognized the profile photograph instantly. She’d taken it. She remembered posing him in front of the bandstand in Gorki Park on that spring day back in 1990, remembered laughing at the stupid faces he pulled, remembered the way his long chestnut hair flopped over his forehead, remembered…
How could she forget? He had been her one true love.
Love. A word made empty by misuse…by overuse. She wondered how many had ever endured the touch of real love, that soul-eviscerating sensation that comes when you know you have found your soul-mate. Very few, she decided. Perhaps this was all for the good: true love brought anguish in equal measure to joy. As the last twenty years had taught her, finding true love was a bitter-sweet blessing. Her fingers trembled as she typed.
Is it really you, Peter?
The reply was instantaneous.
Yes…I’ve missed you, Tonia.
She couldn’t stop herself: the tears flowed down her cheeks.
She paused, terrified that what she would type next might cause this marvelous mirage to vanish.
But I thought you were dead.
The seconds ticked by, then:
Hi, I’m Tonia Voronina, and I’m the lead character in Nelli Rees’ first novel “Ghost Love”.
I was born in Moscow, USSR and grew up as a music-obsessed kid. But a career as a concert pianist never quite happened so I opted to study English and Linguistics at the Moscow University of Linguistics. That’s where I am in October 1989 when “Ghost Love” begins, just when the USSR is in meltdown and things are getting very chaotic. Into the classroom walks the oh-so-handsome Peter Monroe, an English exchange student. Kismet! Unfortunately it’s a relationship that isn’t popular with my friends, the university or, more seriously, with the KGB …
A picture of me?
If I could pick the star who would play me on the silver screen it would be Olga Kurylenko, you remember her best from her role in “Quantum of Solace” in 2008.
Describe yourself what is your worst and best quality?
My worst quality: lack of confidence coupled with chronic shyness. It seems terrible to have to say this when I’m living in what is, after all, a Communist country but Orwell was right: all men (and women) might be equal but some are more equal than others. And after a lifetime being told you’re somehow second rate it’s difficult not to start believing it.
My best quality: grim determination. Despite everything I got into the best language university in the USSR … and had the most handsome man in the world fall in love with me.
What is the one thing you wish other people knew about you?
That Peter Monroe is my boyfriend.
What is your biggest secret something no one knows about?
That Peter Monroe IS my boyfriend.
Before the English students came to the university I remember what Zoya Mikhailovna (my English professor) said:
‘You have been granted a special privilege because you are the top group in the University and are considered politically sound, true members of Komsomol. As a reward for your hard work and diligent study, a weekly lesson has been organized with the young visitors from the Capitalist world in order that you might perfect your spoken English. But I hope I do not need to make clear that you all must demonstrate vigilance during these classes, that you must not give in to any Capitalist incitements or succumb to their specious propaganda. Rather you must use these classes as an opportunity to prove to our British guests the superiority of the Soviet, socialist, way of life especially when compared to their rotting Capitalism. You must not accept any presents from them, not converse with them on any subject that might be construed as trivial or anti-socialist and above all, must not …’ Zoya Mikhailovna struggled with the nature of what she was about to suggest, ‘… enter into a personal relationship with them. To do so would be to put your place in this University at risk. Remember, you are ambassadors of your Socialist motherland and must justify the trust placed in you by the University’s Party organization.’
What are you most afraid of?
The KGB finding out I’m dating a foreigner.
What do you want more than anything?
To be with Peter. This will be difficult but there is hope. This is what Peter said to me:
‘The good news is that I think I’ve found a way of getting you a visa and when I get back to England I’ll finally be able to sort things out. I won’t lie to you: it’s going to be tricky and it’s going to take time especially as my father has been very difficult.’ A wry laugh. ‘That’s not your problem, Tonia, so I won’t burden you with it. What I’m trying to say is that though we might be apart for a few months you must never doubt me. I want you to know four things. First, that I love you.’
‘I love you too, Peter,’ echoed Tonia.
‘Second: I need you. I only feel complete when I’m with you, Tonia. You are my soul-mate and without you I am only half-alive.’
Tonia looked up into Peter’s face. His expression was serious and his eyes had become darker. He took her hands into his.
‘Third: I’ll come back to you. You must know that this might take a little while but I will come back. I promise.’
Tonia saw the anguish Peter was feeling. He was steeling himself – and her – for the troubles to come, troubles both with his family and with the Soviet and British authorities.
‘And last … you must always know that we will be together.’ He kissed Tonia again. ‘Those are the four things you must never forget: I love you, I need you, I’ll come back for you and we’ll always be together.’
What is your relationship status?
Single but hopelessly in love.
How would you describe your sense of fashion?
Terrible. I’m living on a student grant of 45 Roubles a month (that’s about $60) plus what I earn giving piano lessons, so as you might imagine there isn’t much left over for clothes … anyway there’s nothing worth buying in the shops. Most of my clothes I make myself. I have one special dress though, the black one Peter gave me to wear when I sing in ‘Mister Twister’ jazz club. It was made by a funny company called Armani. You can check me out (or rather my alter ego, Nelli) singing Marlene Dietrich’s ‘Falling In Love Again’ on youtube.
How much of a rebel are you?
That’s a funny question. I never thought of myself as a rebel but I suppose I am … a sort of sotto voce rebel. I always follow my heart no matter what obstacles are put in front of me and like I say I can be VERY determined. Yes, only a rebel would fall in love with an Englishman … only a rebel would defy the KGB and the Komsomol Committee.
What do you considered to be your greatest achievement?
Getting into the Moscow University of Linguistics. Everyone apart from me came from a school specializing in foreign languages … I did it the hard way through night school.
What is your idea of happiness?
Being free to follow my heart.
What is your current state of mind?
Confused: everything in the USSR is topsy-turvy at the moment. Communism is crumbling, capitalism is coming and all the old certainties are gone. It’s a country that wants to be free but hasn’t quite got the courage to be free. It’s a dangerous time.
What is your greatest regret?
Nothing. The past is past and what’s done is done. I refuse to repine about that which I cannot repair. Like Edit Piaf sang, “Je ne regret de rien”.
What is the quality you most like in a man?
Loyalty (and broad shoulders!)
What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Who is your favorite hero in fiction?
Athos (from Dumas’s “The Three Musketeers”) – loyalty personified … and mean and moody with it.
Which living person do you most admire?
If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
Stop being so shy!
What is your motto?
Follow Your Heart.
Prize 1: "Pink Flowers" Necklace from Nelli’s "Jewelry for All Seasons" collection (handmade lampwork beads, sterling silver findings, crystals and hand dyed silk ribbon);
Prize 2: "Malachite Mystery" Pendant and earrings (handmade lampwork beads, sterling silver findings and chain, crystals);
Prize 3: "Tiger! Tiger!" Earrings (handmade lampwork beads, sterling silver findings, crystals);
Prizes 4-7: Bookmarks with glass bead ornamentation (handmade lampwork beads, crystals, steel dividers);
Prize 8: Signed paperback copy of 'Ghost Love';
Prize 9: Signed copy of Nelli’s book 'Glass Bead Jewelry Projects';
Prize 10 - 14: Signed promo copies of Nelli’s album 'Jazz Noir'.
Nelli Rees, born in Moscow, trained as a linguist and a musician. With her future husband Englishman Rod she worked and travelled around Russia, finally coming to live in England in 1998. Nelli has had several successful careers: recording a critically acclaimed nu-jazz album “Jazz Noir”, becoming an award-winning jewellery maker, writing a book “Glass Bead Jewelry Projects”, and doing all this whilst being a mother and a wife. “Ghost Love” is Nelli’s first novel and draws heavily on her own experiences as a young woman in Soviet Russia and the obstacles she and her husband-to-be faced during those difficult times.
Video of Nelli performing "Falling In Love Again":