The Maid of Milan

Written by Beverley Eikli
Review by Mary Seeley

Why should frail Adelaide Leeson, three years married to Lord Tristan, so dread a visit from his friend, James, now Viscount Dewhurst and the celebrity author of an epic poem, “The Maid of Milan”? Possibly because Addy and James have “a past”, and she has inconveniently fallen in love with her husband, a man with a commitment to social justice and moral values.

The premise sounds intriguing, but unfortunately I found this book very disappointing. For at least 70 pages, there is no clear indication when it is actually set. I finally concluded “early 1820s”. Just to confuse matters, the simpering lady on the cover seems to be wearing a 16th-century dress!

Tristan has a limp, but we never learn how this injury was sustained or its relevance to the plot; he speaks of taking up his seat in the House of Lords but later refers to himself as an MP (a member of the Lower House). For such a complex plot, many of the scenes and a great deal of the dialogue seemed slow-moving and repetitive, and I quickly lost patience with both Addy and Tristan as characters. Addy’s manipulative mother, Mrs Henley, remained an appalling caricature.

There is some careless editing: Kitty Carew (an actress) slipped in as Kitty Cardew on one occasion, and there is far too much roiling and raking (of gazes, hands etc.) and slanting of glances. Please be careful when someone drops his or her eyes (it doesn’t sound very pleasant).

However, the final chapters, when the skeletons started to tumble out of closets, were real page-turners, and the characters more emotionally honest. If only the rest of the book had the same qualities.