East Lynne by Ellen Wood

Coward! Sneak! May good men shun him, from henceforth! may his Queen refuse to receive him! You, an earl's daughter! Oh, Isabel! How utterly you have lost yourself!' When the aristocratic Lady Isabel abandons her husband and children for her wicked seducer, more is at stake than moral retribution. Ellen Wood played upon the anxieties of the Victorian middle classes who feared a breakdown of the social order as divorce became more readily available and promiscuity threatened the sanctity of the family. In her novel the simple act of hiring a governess raises the spectres of murder, disguise, and adultery. Her sensation novel was devoured by readers from the Prince of Wales to Joseph Conrad and continued to fascinate theatre-goers and cinema audiences well into the next century.

Tennyson’s Gift by Lynne Truss

In July 1864, a corner of the Isle of Wight is buzzing with literary and artistic creativity. A morose Tennyson is reciting 'Maud' to empty sofas; the photographer Julia Margaret Cameron is white-washing the roses for visual effect and the mismatched couple, actress Ellen Terry and painter G. F. Watts, are thrown into the company of the remarkable Lorenzo Fowler, the American phrenologist, and his daughter Jessie. Enter mathematician Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll), known to Jessie as the 'fiendish pedagogue', and Lynne Truss's wonderfully imaginative cocktail of Victorian seriousness and riotous farce begins to take flight.

The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles

Charles Smithson, a respectable engaged man, meets Sarah Woodruff as she stands on the Cobb at Lyme Regis, staring out to sea. Charles falls in love, but Sarah is a disgraced woman, and their romance will defy all the stifling conventions of the Victorian age. Widely acclaimed since publication, this is the best-love of John Fowles' novels.

After Such Kindness by Gaynor Arnold

Inspired by the tender and troubling friendship between Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell, After Such Kindness demonstrates Gaynor Arnold's extraordinary 'capacity to imagine the truth behind the facts'. With the same assured feel for the Victorian period displayed in her prize-listed debut, Arnold brings to scintillating life an idiosyncratic genius and his timeless muse.

The Rose of Sebastopol by Katharine McMahon

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.

The Mesmerist by Barbara Ewing

About the book London, 1838: the controversial practice of Mesmerism, with its genuine practitioners and its fraudulent chancers, has hypnotised the city. Miss Cordelia Preston, a beautiful, ageing, out-of-work actress terrified of returning to the poverty of her childhood, suddenly emerges as a Lady Phreno-Mesmerist. In her candle-lit Bloomsbury basement she learns to harness her… Continue reading The Mesmerist by Barbara Ewing

The Mesmerist by Barbara Ewing

About the book London, 1838: the controversial practice of Mesmerism, with its genuine practitioners and its fraudulent chancers, has hypnotised the city. Miss Cordelia Preston, a beautiful, ageing, out-of-work actress terrified of returning to the poverty of her childhood, suddenly emerges as a Lady Phreno-Mesmerist. In her candle-lit Bloomsbury basement she learns to harness her… Continue reading The Mesmerist by Barbara Ewing