Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Rose of Stebastopol

Hello Flower.

If the reading world goes all ebook I will miss remainders terribly. Finding a book that you have lusted after on the cheap or discovering a whole new to you author who thrills that only cost you a pittance? Those things are the adult equivalent of a snow day for me. Pure, no strings attached joy. I have found some wonderful things on bargain tables over the years not to mention all the fab-o gifts I purchased.

A recent sale table treasure is The Rose of Stebastopol  by
Katharine McMahon. I was of course drawn in by the pretty, pretty cover, discovered that the book was historical fiction and off to the register I skipped. Win, win for me. Rose was an A+ read and I found another author to follow.

The setting is Victorian England and the Rose is cousin Rose. Is this impetuous young thing coming in between proper Mariella and her up and coming surgeon/dreamboat/fiance Henry Thewell? While Henry and Rose go off to be the hero doctor and valiant nurse in the Crimea, Mariella stays home and worries, sews, pays calls, listens to her parents, is the poster child for the well brought up Victorian young lady. After Henry becomes ill and is evacuated to Italy, Mariella takes her first step toward independence and maturity by going there to nurse him. Her second step happens when in his delirium, Henry calls out for Rose. Mariella learns that Rose has been reported missing. She decides that she has to try and find her or at least find out what happened to her and turns of Rose's unreliable stepbrother for help. Despite all the letters from Henry and Rose detailing the horrors of the war that Mariella received it is no surprise that she is completely unprepared for the reality of the battleground and the military hospitals.

McMahon easily combines good storytelling with stellar research meant to entertain and enlighten not to bludgeon the reader into glassy eyed submission. My bare bones outline of the plot doesn't begin to address the complexities that McMahon layers into the story. She has taken an interestingly twisty love triangle set in a historically vibrant backdrop and mixed in significant emotional turbulence and freshness. The conflicting loyalties, class struggles, trust, betrayals, newly developing industrial tyrannies and the war are all used by McMahon to bring The Rose of Stebastopol up to the level of extremely satisfying read.


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