Mariella Lingwood is a cool and calming influence on the people in her life. She has her needlework, her family, her fiance' Henry, , in effect, a life perfectly mapped out. When the Crimean War breaks out, Henry, a brilliant young doctor, is called upon to help set up hospitals for the Army. Mariella's cousin Rosa, who is a tumultous and beautiful force of nature in Mariella's life, soon follows to serve as a nurse with Florence Nightingale. Letters from Rosa stop, leaving the family unsure of her safety. Then Mariella receives news that Henry is deathly ill, but saw Rosa on the battlefield not long before he fell ill. Mariella travels to Henry in Italy where she discovers that all may not be as she thought. Only by traveling to the Crimea warfields will she be able to find the truth, if she actually wants to face it.
The Rose of Sebastopol starts off as a predictable historical romance but quickly develops into a richly engrossing novel, filled with twists and turns. It is a river of a book, calm and smooth on the surface, with dark whirling dropoffs beneath, eager to pull the reader in. Mariella is a treat as a character to watch develop throughout the book, as are all the characters. Katharine McMahon used a deft hand with each new layer of development throughout the story, lavishing meticulous detail upon detail to create a wonderful book. The Rose of Sebastopol is one of the must read historical novels of 2010.
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.
For Mariella Lingwood, Rosa's cousin, the war is contained within the pages of her scrapbook, in her London sewing circle, and in the letters she receives from Henry, her fiancé, a celebrated surgeon who has also volunteered to work within the shadow of the guns.
When Henry falls ill and is sent to recuperate in Italy, Mariella impulsively decides she must go to him. But upon their arrival at his lodgings, she and her maid make a heartbreaking discovery: Rosa has disappeared.
Following the trail of her elusive and captivating cousin, Mariella's epic journey takes her from the domestic restraint of Victorian London to the ravaged landscape of the Crimea and the tragic city of Sebastopol, where she encounters Rosa's dashing stepbrother, a reckless cavalry officer whose complex past - and future - is inextricably bound up with her own.
As her quest leads her deeper into the dark heart of the conflict, Mariella's ordered world begins to crumble and she finds she has much to learn about secrecy, faithfulness and love. But, in the thick of a war fought on more fronts than one, she also discovers a strength and passion she never knew she possessed.