London, 1887. The country is absorbed by Queen Victoria’s Jubilee and Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West show, with an economic recession causing poverty and disaffection amongst the poorer class of society. The story centres on Maribel Campbell Lowe and her radical politician husband, Edward. Maribel, an intelligent and engaging woman in her late 20s, a photographer and aspiring poet, has a number of secrets concerning her background, which are revealed to the reader over the first half of the book; if uncovered in Victorian England, they would ruin both her and Edward socially. Her husband, however, is doing much to hasten their decline by his active support for the protesting and increasingly disaffected elements in society, and eventually he is imprisoned for rioting.
Throughout the story the reader waits for disaster to fall on the Campbell Lowe household – but it is an uplifting and ultimately optimistic tale, as well as being impressively narrated. The historical context is sound, and the plot thoroughly engages the reader. It is based on real figures and their circumstances, which are not widely known. This is a wonderful story; I have read Clare Clark’s previous three novels, all of which have been reviewed by the HNS, and this is by far the best.