They read romantic novels, those of Scott and Chateaubriand. They memorized the poetry of Hugo and Lamartine. Ardently they responded to such ardency in painting as exemplified by the work of Delacroix. They got terribly annoyed and even a little sour when life refused to imitate art, no matter how hard they pretended. The four ladies in this excellent example of entertaining and informative collective biography were products of the first half of the 19th century and determined Romantics. Caroline de Berry was the most impulsive and appealing and she tried to reclaim the Bourbon throne of France for her son; in her case high romance led to a mundane pregnancy out of wedlock that took the edge off her glamorous appeal to married royalists. Marie d'Agoult was the affinity of Liszt. They pretended together, but when she got more realistic he got uncomfortable and they separated. Eve Hanska found Balzac in print and pursued him in the flesh to find an expensive and exhausting sick man in command of heroic visions of sensual/intellectual relationships. Marie Bashkirtseff was the most talented and the most Romantic. She was a wealthy Russian, an excellent painter and a consumptive who died very young, but not before she began to suspect how much self-hypnosis contributed to Romantic behavior. They were all victims of the 19th century position of women, they were all willful, all rich enough to indulge their predilections for life at concert pitch without going hungry or cold. Mr. Cronin, who has made use of their diaries, letters and the memoirs of contemporaries uses just the right blend of gentle amusement and admiration to describe them.