Five Directions Press

Jan 19, 2021

Song of the Sisters

Songs of Steppe and Forest 3

Five Directions Press 2021

Everywhere young Russian noblewoman Darya Sheremeteva turns, someone in her circle of family and friends reminds her that she exists to serve a single purpose: to marry a powerful man selected by her male relatives and bear children, preferably sons, to continue his line. But after years in isolation nursing her elderly father, Darya questions whether marriage and motherhood constitute the best, never mind the only, future for a woman of twenty-five. Should she not instead take monastic vows and surrender her will to the soaring ritual of the Orthodox Church? When a cousin lays claim to her father's estate, Darya's decision acquires a new urgency. Because this cousin will stop at nothing to advance his career, and his most valuable asset is Darya herself.

Years ago, C. P. Lesley decided to focus on sixteenth-century Russia. After all, they say, “write what you know,” and as a historian with a Stanford doctorate, that’s what she knew. It was also a time and place filled with exciting and dramatic events, some of which defy belief. The result was a mystery story set in 1530s Moscow about a young couple resolving a series of crimes by combining clues they pick up in the gender-segregated worlds of husbands and wives. Although she didn’t complete that novel, the original idea gave rise to The Golden Lynx, which became the basis of a series called Legends of the Five Directions and led to her becoming the host of New Books in Historical Fiction here on the New Books Network. 

After almost a decade spent creating an entire world of characters, she couldn’t bear to let them go, and the result is Songs of Steppe & Forest, a less tightly linked set of books that exist in the same story space five to ten years later and feature characters who, for one reason or another, took a back seat in the Legends novels. Songs of Steppe and Forest will answer the question, “What made Ivan the Terrible so terrible?”. When not thinking up new ways to torture her characters, C.P. Lesley edits other people's manuscripts, reads voraciously, maintains her website, and practices classical ballet. That love of ballet also finds expression in her Tarkei Chronicles series, "Desert Flower" and "Kingdom of the Shades."

I interview authors of beautifully written literary fiction and mysteries, and try to focus on independently published novels, especially by women and others whose voices deserve more attention. If your upcoming or recently published novel might be a candidate for a podcast, please contact me via my website,

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G.P. Gottlieb is the author of the Whipped and Sipped Mystery Series and a prolific baker of healthful breads and pastries. Please contact her through her website (

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