I first came across the idea for my novel The Summer Palace while conducting research. The terem concept was skimmed over at first. The seed of interest, however, started to grow and I had to learn more about the intentional seclusion of women. The Summer Palace is a Historical Fiction based on one of the terem systems that existed in 17th Century Russia. The fact is—that some women did live in utter seclusion and when allowed outside, on rare occasions (ceremonies, services, etc.), they were covered head to toe, so no one could set their eyes on them. The fiction is—the people and the circumstances in which they lived.
Another fact addressed in this story is the bride-show a viewing of eligible women in front of a prince or high nobleman. Tsar Alexis I found his first wife in this manner. They would simply pick the one that appealed to them. However, their dowries and family status were also a big consideration. The fiction, again, is the women involved in the selection and the imaginings of those women.
Despite this attitude toward women one woman did rise to power in Russia. Due to her indomitable spirit and refusal to deny her birthright Sophia Alekseyevna Romanova ruled Russia from 1682-1689 until Peter the Great came of age. Subsequently, after his rule women sat on the throne of Russia for another 76 years. From this a love story was contrived capitalizing on another little known fact about Russia. In 1640, during the reign of Tsar Michael I European's were invited to live in Russia to train the unenlightened nation in the ways of modernization in all facets of life. The New German Quarter was established for these military experts and artisans to live, and that is where Peter the Great escaped to after the 1682 military coup. He spent much of his adolescence building friendships and learning skills that later transformed Russia into a dominant force in Europe. I think the fascination I have with this exceptional time in history and the inherent rich Russian tradition makes it an interesting read.