This novel has had mixed reviews but sadly I'm in the `no' camp, but am finding it really hard to work out why it's such a failure. The author wrote her PhD thesis on C18th literature and knows her stuff but somehow there is no life, no heart, no drama, no excitement in this book at all - it's just words on paper, and has nothing to draw this reader into it at all. I expected to love it, being quite a fan of Pope, particularly the Rape of the Lock, as well as loving historical fiction but found this just dull, dusty and static.
Set during the reign of Queen Anne (1711), the background is one of the Jacobite plot to assassinate the Queen and put a Catholic Stuart on the throne; and the foreground is filled with the decadent aristocracy playing out their marriage games amongst the balls, gambling dens and opera of C18th London. At the heart is the relationship between Arabella Fermor (Pope's Belinda) and Lord Petre. Sub-plots involve Pope looking for inspiration for his next poem, and famous literary characters wander on and off-stage (Rochester, Addison, Steel, John Gay, Lady Mary Wortley-Montagu etc).
All of this sounded great and I snapped up the book eagerly, only to emerge disappointed and puzzled as to where it all goes so wrong: there is a plot, there are characters, the writing itself isn't bad, yet the whole thing fails to come together in any sense at all. Other reviewers here have clearly enjoyed it, but I have to sympathise with the 1* star reviewer who abandoned the book (even though I did manage to finish it by skimming - and no, it doesn't improve): having a knowledge of Pope's writing doesn't improve the reading experience at all. Very, very disappointing.