cover image The Remarkable Life and Times of Eliza Rose

The Remarkable Life and Times of Eliza Rose

Mary Hooper. Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, $16.95 (334pp) ISBN 978-1-58234-854-4

Hooper's (At the Sign of the Sugared Plum; Petals in the Ashes) novel of intrigue set in 17th-century England begins with a prologue in which an aristocratic lady in childbirth substitutes her infant daughter for a much needed male heir. The book then fast-forwards to 15-year-old heroine Eliza Rose, that traded infant daughter, now imprisoned in London for stealing bread after her stepmother casts her out. While some of this may seem familiar territory, Hooper's strong characters and taut plotting lend a freshness to Eliza's plight, especially when-despite her strong morals-she exploits her beauty and cunning to survive prison. The girl's charms land her in the care of Old Ma Gwyn, a famous madam, and Eliza's wit wins her the friendship and employ of Nell Gwyn, the madam's daughter and a famous actress bent on becoming the king's mistress (based on an actual historical figure). A star-crossed romance with a well-born gentleman will appeal to romance fans, but the portraits of society's villains lurking in the theater and on the streets will likely provoke the most thought, including a cad who marries and impregnates an innocent daughter of the gentry, and the prejudice against actresses and ""orange girls."" Though the ending may not come as a surprise, Eliza's admirable spunk and independence will keep fans of historical fiction and romance satisfied. Ages 12-up.