In her previous five novels, Hore has been adept at creating credible characters in historical settings. Her latest intersperses the life in contemporary London of Emily, enjoying her new publishing job, with that of Isabel, who arrived semi-destitute at her glamorous aunt’s house in London in 1948, and fell into a job in publishing. Emily is charged with finding out more about a recently deceased writer named Hugh Morton, whose impending biography will be published by her firm.
Intriguingly, she has a copy of one of Morton’s previous books with a dedication to “Isabel”. This is not the name of Morton’s formidable widow.
Hore’s characters are vulnerable and fully drawn, and their private lives are sensitively portrayed. Occasionally, the prose becomes ... not derailed (too critical), but tilted, by enthusiasm: “These she perused eagerly without recognising any of the authors and hardly any of the titles.” “Or many” could substitute more elegantly for “and hardly any”. But Hore, like Kate Mosse, who also often follows the lives of a contemporary and a historical protagonist, prefers to write long, well-researched historical novels in highly accessible prose rather than lit fic, and, with both being best-sellers, who can blame them?