10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
Murder and romance., 21 Dec. 2003
I loved this book. I was gripped by it from beginning to end and really felt I was living in the 1860s while I was reading it. It's a retelling of the Greek myths about Helen of Troy and Agamemnon but it isn't necessary to know them. The story reads just as well as a straight historical novel set in the 19th century and there's a section at the back that shows how the events in the book match the ones in the myths.
The characters are three-dimensional and are written with an understanding of what makes people act as they do, even to the length of murder. ( The killing was heartrending and so was Kate's wedding and what happened to her afterwards. ) I cared about all of them, but most of all for Celia, Kate and Hermione and am glad I didn't live then when it was so easy for women to be trapped by what was expected of them. Some of the people are strongminded enough to make satisfying lives for themselves despite the difficulties and without showing the selfishness of Eleanor ( Helen ) whose elopement affects everyone around her.
The prose is poetic and the dialogue is in keeping with the times but completely natural and easy to read. The descriptions of the places are atmospheric and senuous, whether they are of the gardens and fountains of Damascus, plough-horses standing in a field in Dorset on a cold winter afternoon with a red sun setting behind them or cranes stalking on white sand-banks in India.
All the historical detail helps to give a vivid picture of what it was like to live then. I didn't know of the Christmas customs such as the games like Snappen-tongs the children played or the Ooser with its bull's horns prowling in the underground passages in the great house of Vauchurch to catch the maids.
This book has murder and romance and a real feeling for the times. It was the first by Stickland that I'd read. I'm looking forward to reading the others now.