This is a story with many layers: of time, character, marriage, history and human relationships set primarily in 1817 England, as post-Napoleonic War recession caused discontent among the working classes. The main action begins with a meeting between long estranged spouses: free-thinking, strong willed Mary, who has spent the last nine years wandering among the intelligensia (Byron, Shelley, that crowd); and handsome, sardonic Kit, who is trying to incorporate the maturity he gained during his wartime service into his former life as a free-spirited wastrel. Mary and Kit, both of the upper class, eloped at a young age in the teeth of a family feud. After a year of passionate sex and frolic, they stumble into betrayals and part in anger.
Now, nine years later, they are both at another turning point: Mary is thinking of divorce in order to marry her current lover; Kit is turning his thoughts to a career with the Home Office. Yet, their passionate reconnection side tracks them both into a reconsideration of their past and their future.
Rosenthal tells the story of these two flawed and vibrant people through flashbacks and shifting points of view, including the perspectives of various well-developed secondary characters.
The book is called an "erotic romance" in some marketing which made me hesitate before buying it and lead me to expect something especially graphic and highly charged. However, while Rosenthal does treat readers to some briskly enjoyed encounters between Mary and Kit, those looking for the lengthy descriptions of Stephanie Laurens or the intense sensuality of Jo Beverley and Mary Balogh will be disappointed. Instead, the pleasure of this book comes from the growth of even the most minor characters.