Opening in 1909 in Wales, this is the story of 15-year-old Rhiannon, who, with her sister, finds herself orphaned and having to take refuge with her aunt, a music hall star. A rags-to-riches story, it has scenes of rape, death and destruction, as well as theatrical glitter, comradeship and love. It is also full of errors. The heroine’s age fluctuates, the number of men killed in a pit accident does not tally with the numbers missing and saved, and for some reason the author chose to end with one particular character’s death, rather than the triumph of the heroine, giving a downbeat ending to what should have been an upbeat read.
Perhaps, though, for historical novel readers the most iniquitous error is the lack of historical detail. Although we are told the year in the chapter headings, this story could have been set any time during the 20th century. There is little in the way of description of dress, the language used is mainly modern, and the whole atmosphere lacks that immediate sense of being in another period.