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A sweeping historical drama, based on the true and enduring love of Thomas Cochrane and Maria Graham.

Chile, June 1822. Maria Graham, a young British widow, watches as her compatriot Admiral Lord Cochrane sails triumphantly into the Valparaiso Bay, fresh from leading the Chilean fleet to victory over the country’s Spanish rulers.

Cochrane, a popular yet outspoken hero of the Napoleonic wars, is drawn to Maria, a woman whose intelligence and spirit of adventure rival his own. Yet their intense and extraordinary relationship must contend with a climate of uncertainty, political turmoil and civil war.

Inspired by Maria Graham’s own journals, MARIA AND THE ADMIRAL vividly brings to life the story of one woman who tested the limits of society, and of her enduring love for one of the most colourful figures of her age.


Billington's descriptions of the landscape are lush and evocative, and her portrait of Maria is delightfully honest
[An] intense and moving novel
Despite the beauty of the setting - the ruby mountains, the emerald ocean - Billington keeps a rein on the romance and while, at times, the readers longs for a swooning love story, one suspects that Billington's clearer-eyed version would have been infinitely more to Graham's own tastes
Maria Graham was an author who broke through the conventions of her time ... it was as a widow in Valparaiso, she saw the flamboyant Admiral Lord Cochrane sail into the harbour, fresh from leading the Chilean fleet to victory over the Spanish. Rachel Billington imagines their intense relationship in this engrossing novel
It's as much a record of 19th-century Chile as a drama, and Rachel Billington gives a real sense of the beauty and atmosphere of Valparaiso and its surroundings. ... Her consciousness of the limitations of romantic love and her old-fashioned acceptance of emotional and physical pain make Rachel Billington's Maria touching and dashing in equal measure
There is an admirable economy to Billington's writing. It moves through death, earthquakes and childbirth with something of the brisk, matter-of-fact qualities of Defoe
Rachel Billington discovered Maria's Chilean journals in the London Library and, using Maria's own words, in a voice so witty and intimate, so utterly human, she makes an already gripping story even more so because of the powerful presence of Maria whispering in our ears. A wonderful story and a terrific way of discovering more about a previously unknown corner of history