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Russia, 1854: the Crimean War grinds on, and as the bitter winter draws near, the battlefield hospitals fill with dying men. In defiance of Florence Nightingale, Rosa Barr – young, headstrong and beautiful – travels to Balaklava, determined to save as many of the wounded as she can.

For Mariella Lingwood, Rosa’s cousin, the war is contained within the pages of her scrapbook, in her London sewing circle, and in the letters she receives from Henry, her fiancé, a celebrated surgeon who has also volunteered to work within the shadow of the guns.

When Henry falls ill and is sent to recuperate in Italy, Mariella impulsively decides she must go to him. But upon their arrival at his lodgings, she and her maid make a heartbreaking discovery: Rosa has disappeared.
Following the trail of her elusive and captivating cousin, Mariella’s epic journey takes her from the domestic restraint of Victorian London to the ravaged landscape of the Crimea and the tragic city of Sebastopol. As she ventures deeper into the dark heart of the conflict, Mariella’s ordered world begins to crumble and she finds she has much to learn about secrecy, faithfulness and love.

Read by Clare Wille

(p) 2008 Orion Publishing Group


A heart-stopping tale of love and war during Queen Victoria's reign
In her novel written with great attention to detail and obvious affection for her characters and the time period, Katharine McMahon has penned a deeply affecting piece of historical fiction.
McMahon is a talented writer whose twists will keep you turning pages
Katharine McMahon is a great storyteller
Niamh Cusack
McMahon combines a thriller writer's grip, pace and punch with the true novelist's depth and warmth of feeling
This is the best kind of historical fiction with a searing climax and characters you really believe in
Its themes of medicine, contagious disease and the control of medicine speak to us as we battle with a global pandemic ... But it is not all war and medicine. There is a strong storyline, centred around the relationship between Rosa and Mariella, and the men who complicate their lives ... an enjoyable and thought-provoking read
Karen Warren