Lord Loveall, heretofore heirless lord of the sprawling Love Hall, is the richest man in England. He arrives home one morning with a most unusual package - a baby that he presents as the inheritor to the family name and fortune. In honor of his beloved sister, who died young, Loveall names the baby Rose. The household, relieved at the continuation of the Loveall line, ignores the fact that this Rose has a thorn...that she is, in fact, a boy.
Rose grows up with the two servant children who are her only friends, blissfully unaware of her own gender, casually hitting boundaries at Love Hall's yearly cricket game and learning to shave even as she continues to wear more and more elaborate dresses. Until, of course, the fateful day when Rose's world comes crashing down around her, and she is banished from Love Hall as an impostor by those who would claim her place as heir.
This gender-bending romp about a boy raised as a girl in 19th-century England penned by musician John Wesley Harding, writing here under his real name more than lives up to the hype it will surely, ahem, engender. On a night in 1820, effeminate and ineffective (at least according to his mother) Lord Geoffroy Loveall, happens upon a baby abandoned in a trash heap. He brings it home to Love Hall, the grand estate that he is set to inherit, and pronounces the baby his daughter and heir. There's just one problem: the baby is a boy. Geoffroy refuses to accept this fact, but the happy news causes his ailing mother to die on the spot. The baby named Rose is raised as a cosseted and doted-on proper young lady, and the legitimate heir, a ruse that works beautifully until Rose begins to wonder about the facts of life: why, for example, does she suddenly feel the urge to pee standing up, like her friend Stephen, rather than squatting like his lovely sister, Sarah? Adolescence (and a few whiskers) only causes further confusion as does the word "BOY," which begins to ominously appear around the estate. Eventually, Rose's cover is blown, and the scandal prompts several sets of greedy relatives to descend, claiming the Loveall inheritance as their own. There's a huge cast of characters, plot twists aplenty, loads of historical detail (including original Victorian ballads) and a satisfying, tied-together ending that also, in two epilogues, manages to offer up a poignant take on historical interpretation. Yet this lengthy and involved tale makes for speedy reading. Best of all, Rose's original narrative voice is engaging from the get-go: smart, funny, observant, and even hip.