Some fictional characters are so extraordinary they expand way beyond the pages in which they live. Think of a female British adventuress and you think first of Moll Flanders. Until now. Moll has met her match in Beth Tremoille--sometimes known as Alabeth Alder or Beth Mannacott. There's good reason for all these names as the young woman who uses them must run and fight for her very existence through trauma and turmoil enough for twenty such as she. Her creator, Sarah Stanley, is a welcome addition to the ranks of magnificent story-tellers with this family saga that includes romance, suspense and adventure.
Ms. Stanley is a masterful weaver, keeping the various story lines clear and untangled, even when the characters from one skein mix with another one. There are young and old, rich and poor, titled and commoners, innocent and evil. Sometimes almost all of these traits may be found in one person. But yet, there is humor as well, and sympathy for people thrust into situations beyond their normal existence, forcing untoward behavior on occasion.
The England of 1815 was not always a nice or pretty place to live. The war with Napoleon was finally over, but unemployment was rampant, and the economy was slowing. This affected everyone at every level of society. People of every rank found themselves doing things they'd never before considered, and the author is superb at mining these motivations to their fullest, in order to expose the human frailties to which we're all subject.
In some ways, this is a gritty, rather than a pretty story, but it is honest, and in the end, truthful. It may not be for the very faint at heart, or those looking for a beautiful day spent in the bucolic countryside. What it is -- is unforgettable. It would also make for a superb multi-episode filmed costume drama. Very few of the relationships are satisfactorily resolved in this book. Rumor has it there will be a continuation volume in the next few months. Hooray!