This book was written in 1990 and recently reissued, which encouraged quite a few romance reviewers to revisit it. On the strength of extremely positive reviews from a range of review sites, recommending particularly the characterisation and the prose, I gave it a go. But be warned, it's nowhere near as good as people say it is!
First of all, the characters are for so thick a book (450 pages of reasonably small print in my edition) surprisingly thin. They have silly names as well, which did get in the way of my enjoyment - I couldn't think why a Victorian woman was called Submit - I'd accept it as the name of a 17th century woman of Puritan stock but not a Victorian girl - and Graham would be perfectly acceptable as a surname for a Victorian gentleman, but its popularity as a first name is very much a late 20th century development. Names do matter.
We spend a good deal of time primarily in Graham's mind and then a fair amount of time sharing Submit's experiences and emotions. Both struck me as rather dull and banal and when Submit is actually engaged in writing herself, she seems very much a Mary Sue for the writer.
There is scarcely any action to speak of, and what there is e.g. a 'Summer Hunt' leaps out as inaccurate - the hunting season runs from November to April in the UK - there is no summer hunting. There is also the question of one (American) couple divorcing so that the wife can marry our hero - given the rumpus that the thought of the heir to the throne marrying a divorcee caused in 1936, it is extremely unlikely that a peer of the realm could calmly contemplate marriage to a divorcee some 80 years before. There was a strong 20th century sensibility to most of the events and atmosphere of the book which marred it for me.
Numerous reviewers have remarked on Ivory's 'marvellous prose' - not this one. It was long-winded, over-written, at times incoherent and extremely heavy with adverbs and adjectives that ultimately seemed empty as opposed to illuminating. I felt as though I were wading through treacle. It was painfully slow.