Brothers Paul and Johnnie, each making their own way from working class to wealth, both love Louise, who we first meet one long hot summer when she is pregnant with daughter Anna.
There follows a series of shifts in time and place, from London where we see Louise’s life before motherhood and on into the alcohol infused decade that follows Anna’s birth, to Yorkshire having lost Anna and Paul to Paul’s new wife, Sonia and a new life in the country.
The pace then changes as we watch three stories unfold: Anna and David, Louise and Johnnie, Paul and Sonia.
Beautiful writing, all the more so knowing there will be no more from Helen Dunmore.
John Shakespeare becomes embroiled in the Babington Plot to free the exiled Catholic Mary Queen of Scots, to assassinate her Protestant cousin Queen Elizabeth I and to put Mary in the English throne.
We enjoy subplots galore, weaving around fishing fleets and family dynasties, a criminal mastermind, his thugs and hideouts, ensnaring highborn and low in a web of connections Shakespeare has to unravel in a race against time to save his former lover, Kat, from the hangman’s noose.
Carmel and Katrina’s “friendship” is established by chance early on, cemented when their strong mothers settle into their own solidarity. In An Experiment in Love, we are shown how these relationships evolve as the two girls progress through the 1960s state education system to become first generation university students, moving from their home town in Lancashire to study in London in 1970.
Along the way a third girl impinges on the “friendship”, boys and sex arrive on the scene and we watch Carmel’s slow yet steady descent into anorexia.
Sarah Dunant continues on from Blood & Beauty, following the Borgias as they extend their power over the city states that made up Renaissance Italy.
As Catalan Pope Alexander VI Rodrigo Borgia consolidates his control over the Catholic church, his offspring extend the dynasty’s authority in the secular world – Cesare Borgia by battle, siege and subterfuge, Lucrezia Borgia by marriage and courtly influence in Ferrara.