The Secret Love of a Romanov Princess
A Hundred Sweet Promises
A family secret revealed 40 years ago by a grandmother to her grandson is now an acclaimed Russian historical fiction novel. "A Hundred Sweet Promises" is the tale of the author’s grandfather, Nasrosoltan, a famed composer, who on the eve of World War I travels from Persia to Russia to study classical music at the St. Petersburg Conservatory with such masters as Rimsky-Korsakov. While there, Nasrosoltan falls in love with a Romanov princess, but the royalty surrounding him considers this a forbidden love. Unexpectedly, the Tsar gets involved, and Nasrosoltan suddenly finds himself in a battle between head and heart while being carried forward on a wave of destiny toward an uncertain future. A novel based on a true story set against the backdrop of the final days of Imperial Russia.
As he joined the ladies comfortably sitting on the floor near the fireplace, Nasrosoltan apologized for leaving them unattended for so long. After a short while of talking and drinking tea, Madame de La Martinière reached into her handbag and removed a small package, asking, “Would you like to join me in smoking some opium? My physician in Tehran prescribed it to alleviate my headaches.” As opium in Persia was consumed in a manner like wine in southern Europe, the others accepted the offer without pause.
The relaxed state of euphoria that followed their smoking led to Madame Shamsi addressing Nasrosoltan with a sultry voice. “Monsieur, I never forget a debt that I owe, and my obligation to you is a chanson.”
She slowly got up and situated herself in the middle of the room as if on a stage. She then began singing a lost-love lament in French with the most captivating voice. As Madame Shamsi sang, she kept looking into Nasrosoltan’s eyes, mesmerizing him like a snake charmer, with gentle sways of her head and hands outstretched invitingly toward him.
Nasrosoltan had never felt such an intense desire for any woman before this, wishing the moment would never end. Perhaps it was the effect of the opium, or maybe it was genuine affection, but whatever it was, the feeling crept into his heart and ensnared his soul as he succumbed to her siren song. The sound of her voice seductively beckoned him with a hint of furtive lust, and he wanted to jump up and embrace her. But instead, an infatuated Nasrosoltan remained in place in a trance, with his heart thundering.
Madame de La Martinière, also affected by the opium, lay in a daze, not saying a word, watching this scene unfold and wondering to herself if this was part of Madame Shamsi’s unrevealed plan.
When Madame Shamsi finished her impromptu performance, both Nasrosoltan and Madame de La Martinière applauded, and then she sat down very close to Nasrosoltan. Without giving it a thought, he reached out and grabbed her hand, kissing it in appreciation of what he had just heard.
Holding on to her hand, he said, “Madame Shamsi, that was divine! I am delighted to have won our backgammon match. If not, I would have never had the pleasure of enjoying your magnificent voice. I am sincerely grateful.”
But rather than reciprocate his affection, Madame Shamsi quickly pulled her hand from his grasp, and abruptly arose and sternly exclaimed, “We have a long day ahead of us tomorrow; we should get some sleep now that all bets have been paid!”
She then gestured to Madame de La Martinière that it was time to go to their room. As Nasrosoltan also got up and bid them both a good night, he suddenly worried that his impulsive gesture of grabbing and kissing her hand may have given her offense.
Sepehr Haddad is the grandson of composer Nasrosoltan Minbashian who was the director of the Iranian Conservatory (Tehran Conservatory of Music). Sepehr is also a Universal Music Group (UMG) recording artist, with the Billboard chart-topping duo "Shahin & Sepehr." He lives in the Washington DC metro area.