It is 1887, and an unsettled London prepares to celebrate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee. Maribel, beautiful bohemian wife of maverick political Edward Campbell Lowe and self-proclaimed Chilean heiress educated in Paris, debates how to make her own mark on the world, while experimenting with the new art of photography. However, the wife of an outspoken member of parliament, whose views inspire enmity and admiration in equal measure, should not be hiding the kind of secrets Maribel has buried in her past.
When a notorious newspaper editor beings to take an uncommon interest in her, Maribel fears he will destroy not only Edward's career but both of their reputations.
Clark's fourth novel (after Savage Lands) offers an informative if disjointed portrait of the Victorian era, encompassing socialist politics, spiritualism, economic crisis, tabloid journalism, Buffalo Bill's Wild West, and family secrets. Maribel Campbell Lowe is the wife of an earnest MP, whose passion for the socialist cause puts his political career at risk. Maribel's photography hobby brings her into contact both with the Indians of Buffalo Bill's show and the growing spiritualist movement, whose members are fascinated by the possibility of spirits appearing in photographs, a sometimes accidental and often duplicitous practice. The core of the book is Maribel's personal history, a secret life she has hidden at the cost of losing her family. When a devious newspaper editor comes close to revealing her past, and destroying her reputation and her husband's career, bright, resourceful Maribel must take a stand. Individual vignettes Maribel's photo studio, the lively spirit of the Wild West Show, her husband's involvement with socialism will charm devotees of the Victorian era, but no meaningful connection between them is made, and the novel bursts at the seams as Clark struggles to wrap them up by the end.