The newest historical romance from Christy-winner Moser (Time Lottery) is an imaginative biography of the 19th-century Victorian poet Elizabeth Barrett on her way to becoming the wife of fellow poet Robert Browning and the author of the sublimely romantic sonnets from the Portuguese, of which the titular poem is best known. After her brother died in a sailing accident, the grief-stricken, sickly Barrett became a recluse who was spirited from her attic hideaway by Browning; the two wed and fled to Italy, and Elizabeth’s control freak of a father disinherited her. The outlines of her life make a great story, but Moser is really challenged to make dramatic hay out of Elizabeth’s recluse period. As a guilt-stricken Victorian invalid, Elizabeth leads a highly interior life, so the reader awaiting a grand love story needs patience. The name of her future husband doesn’t enter the action until more than a third of the way into the book. Moser has done wonderful homework and shares snippets of what she found in an appendix. The text of Barrett Browning’s sonnets are a true bonus.
After reading Washington’s Lady, I was very intrigued by Nancy Moser’s novels based on historical women including Jane Austen and Nannerl Mozart. How Do I Love Thee?, a novel based on a poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, was simply wonderful and entertaining! I must admit that I was a bit bored by the first 100 pages of the book due to a slow progression and was quite irritated by (sometimes furious!) the reality of poet’s secluded life and her relationship with her controlling and manipulative father. But I soon felt sympathy for her and was attached to her (as if she was my dear friend!) and her life including her love interest, Robert Browning, later her husband. Robert’s love for Elizabeth was simply refreshing, pure, unconditional, non-judgemental and devoted and I was glad that Elizabeth was able to taste the real love and happiness before her life ended through her loving husband and a son.
I love her poem, How Do I Love Thee? and I hope it inspires you to count the ways you love your significant other….
Sonnets From The Portuguese 43: How Do I Love Thee? by Elizabeth Barrett BrowningHow do I love thee?
Let me count the ways.I love thee to the depth
My soul can reach,
when feeling out of sight.
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need,
by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely,
as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely,
as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion
put to use In my old griefs,
and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,
–I love thee with the breath, Smiles, tears,
of all my life!
–and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.