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This implausible, plot-heavy romance is saved by the author’s beautiful prose.

Veda Grenfell, daughter of one of the most fashionable tailors in Victorian London, wins hearts with her beauty and boldness. Her charm, coupled with the protection of the formidable Lady Hambledon, seems calculated to win her an advantageous marriage. Then tragedy strikes; after a spell of typhus, Veda is left deaf. In the meantime, Lady Hambledon is killed in mysterious circumstances, sending Veda into despair. Soon, however, she rallies, and begins to recreate herself, learning to read lips, becoming an expert horsewoman and finally exploiting her natural gifts to become a tailor in her own right. Wearing—always the most exquisite—men’s clothes, she has the job of dressing Victorian high society. Meanwhile, the ne’er-do-well son of her lost friend, Lady Hambledon, has begun to show a dangerous preference for her. Harry is everything Veda could possibly want, but is also an earl, and required to marry for the honor and enrichment of his family, not for love. Of course, the reader knows a way will be found, but no reader could possibly foresee the Gothic labyrinth poor Veda will be made to navigate to find her way at last into Harry’s arms. Graham is willing to leave a few dangling inconsistencies in her headlong gallop to the next extravagant plot point, and the tender reader may feel battered by the end. But the sheer generosity of her invention, and her unfailing ability to create believable characters of every ilk, from the tepid to the grotesque, are nothing short of stunning. It would take an arrant killjoy to object to the improbabilities; Graham (Firebird, 1998) is always and abundantly a good time.

Roller-coaster romance; not for sissies.

Pub Date: March 7th, 2006
ISBN: 0-312-34913-0
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2006


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