London in the 1770s is bursting with opportunity. It's a city fuelled by new ideas and new money, where everything is for sale - including entrée into the ruling class.
Making their way in this buccaneering society are Carey Ravine, a spirited young woman of enigmatic background, and her husband, the charming, endlessly enterprising Oliver Nash. Carey and Nash share a historic connection to India and a desperate ambition to better themselves. But as Nash's plans draw them into a restless association of gamblers and secret societies, Carey begins to question what's really hidden behind the seedy glamour of their lives. Her unease grows with the appearance of a mysterious man whose appearance unearths a troubling secret from the past. Carey finds herself forced to investigate the truth behind the stranger's claims - and to confront her own illusions about herself.
It's refreshing to read a novel in this historical fiction genre centred around a married couple, albeit an unconventional one. As Carey and Nash navigate the trials and tribulations of married life, and of London, you soon become aware that in this society money and influence are everything. Carey is a great narrator. She is moral yet determined, and from the little we learn about her tragic backstory she deserves a good life. It's easy to see how Carey fell for Nash. Handsome, charming, and a chancer he is also determined, but his morals aren't quite so clear cut. The novel's settings are very well described, from the hustle and bustle of London - and the surprisingly debauched parties - to the languid heat of India. I was soon drawn into Carey's story and interested to know how it would end. I would also have been interested to find out what became of Hayle and his associates back in London.
The story is very well written, but beware of some unusual vocabulary - even as an English graduate I needed a dictionary at times! Then again it is nice to be challenged occasionally. I'm definitely looking forward to reading more from Debra Daley!
**Thanks to Olivia Mead at Quercus for sending me copy of this book in exchange for a review!**