Winter 1916: St. Petersburg, Russia, is on the brink of revolution. Outside the Smolny Institute for Noble Girls, an English governess is waiting for her young charge to be released from school. But so are the Tsar's secret police...Beautiful and headstrong, Sashenka Zeitlin is just sixteen. As her mother parties with Rasputin and their dissolute friends, Sashenka slips into the frozen night to play her part in a dangerous game of conspiracy and seduction.Twenty years later, Sashenka is married to a powerful, rising Soviet leader with whom she has two children. Around her people are disappearing, while in the secret world of the elite her own family is safe. But she's about to embark on a forbidden love affair that will have devastating consequences.Sashenka's story lies hidden for half a century, until a young historian goes deep into Stalin's private archives and uncovers a heartbreaking tale of betrayal and redemption, savage cruelty and unexpected heroism-and one woman forced to make an unbearable choice.