From her luxurious mansion in St James’s, London, Milady looks back through the years – to hear the church bells ringing in celebration of Wellington’s great victory at Waterloo, at the time when she left clacking tongues behind her in the Sussex village of Alfriston for adventure and employment in fashionable Brighton, the ‘second capital of England’. There as the seventeen-year-old Sary Snudden, with her reputation already ruined, she becomes a prostitute, the ‘Painted Lady’ of the title.
Yet even Regency conventions are to prove too narrow for a girl of Sary’s flamboyant character. Caught up in a passionate affair with young David Stanville, heir to Lord Southbourne’s great estate of Hadderton, she and her lover cross the Alps on a perilous journey by coach and sled to the excitement of a popular revolution in Turin and an erotically charged idyll in the Italian lakes. But the question of how she’ll cross the greater gulf, which lies between her humble origins and the noble status David seeks for her, remains the central problem of Milady’s life.
Moving from the great military encampments of Napoleonic Sussex to the pleasure grounds of nineteenth century Europe, from the practical routines of a well-run brothel, to the elegant manners of St James’s, Painted Lady spans a colourful half-century of European history.
A delightful, romping adventure, the novel introduces an unforgettable new heroine to historical fiction.
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