Bianca is the illegitimate and Italian daughter of a wealthy young English iron-master. She visits England, with her dying mother, to seek aid from her father. But he has died, leaving behind him a wife and a legitimate daughter, Alice. Alice, tendered and brought up with every comfort and luxury, weds one of her own class, a wealthy manufacturer. It was a marriage founded on mutual love and respect, but business engrosses the time of the husband, that the young wife is led astray by the poetry, light talk, and bad sentimentalism of a young idler, and is on the point of eloping, when discovered by her husband....
Geraldine Jewsbury was born in Measham, then in Derbyshire, now in Leicestershire. She was the daughter of Thomas Jewsbury (d. 1840), a cotton manufacturer and merchant, and his wife Maria, née Smith, (d. 1819). The family moved to Manchester in 1818, after her father's business failed. After her mother died, she was brought up by her sister Maria Jane Jewsbury. In 1841 Geraldine Jewsbury met the Carlyles. Thomas Carlyle pronounced her "one of the most interesting young women I have seen for years, delicate sense & courage looking out of her small sylph-like figure." Jewsbury has earned a place in literature in three respects: as a novelist, as a critic and publisher's reader, and as a figure in London literary life. Jewsbury was primarily a novelist of ideas and moral dilemmas.
Douglas Jerrold's shilling magazine, 1848 — Miss Jewsbury's last work we consider to be deserving the utmost attention. The pungency of her style, the penetration of her observation, the nobility (we had almost said) the manliness of her sentiments, entitle her to great consideration. She has the power, the fervour of genius.
Lancashire authors and orators, by John Evans, 1850 — Miss Jewsbury's recent production of the Half-Sisters has presented a description of novel writing, that we cannot commend in too high a strain. By this work she may not only claim a position in the foremost ranks of Lancashire Authors, but in addition, hold no ordinary place among the most distinguished novelists of modern celebrity. And in this opinion we are not alone, since the Athenaeum, the Critic, and Literary Gazette, have all sang her praises to the same euphonious tune.
Susanne Howe, Geraldine Jewsbury: Her Life And Errors, 1935 — The Half-Sisters, published by Chapman and Hall in 1848 and in two other editions in 1854 and 1861, was of all her novels the one in which the woman question looms largest; it was in her opinion her best effort.