Annette Vallon's story as the French lover of English poet Wordsworth is worth (sorry) reading for the historical background alone. It begins at the end of Annette's life, in 1821 Paris, with her brief reflection on her role as a woman just trying to get by during the French Revolution:
Some tried to change the world. I just tried to live in it, which became increasingly difficult.
...followed by chapter after chapter of author James Tipton's descriptive prose and snippets of Wordsworth's poetry, both of which enhance each other throughout the novel as Annette tells her story of political intrigues, civil war, madness and in the midst of it all, a star-crossed love. Madame Williams, as she is called following her spontaneous marriage to Wordsworth, takes on three different roles as the terror and turmoil of revolution push her and her family into extreme circumstances: that of mother to her child, loyal wife to her beloved (and sadly exiled) Englishman, and as the saving grace to hundreds of supposed counterrevolutionaries in danger of imprisonment and execution. Annette's passion for life, love and literature is reflected in many selfless acts of rescue, making her hands-down one of the the bravest female characters I've encountered. The stakes are high in this book, and after a comparatively tranquil, dreamlike beginning before the terror takes hold of Paris, the suspense starts and does not let up.
"What's the matter, Gerard?" I said.
"It's the demons," he said. "They're at the top of the stairs."
Does this story represent the real Annette Vallon, "French wife" of Mr. Wordsworth? I have no idea, but it's a historical fiction of the best kind: love and longing, sympathetic personalities, suspenseful intrigues, poetry that I can actually understand. So don't look at the cover and think you've got some boring book about tea cozies - if you're into his-fic or just a good book with all the fixings, here it is. Enjoy.