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*Starred Review* Horan's spectacular second novel (following book-club favorite Loving Frank, 2007) has been worth the wait. Brimming with the same artistic verve that drives her complicated protagonists, it follows the loving, tumultuous partnership of Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson and his Indiana-born wife, Fanny Osbourne. Fanny, an aspiring artist still tied to her unfaithful first husband when they meet in 1875, is fiery, courageous, and the mother of two living children. Louis, a younger man whose frailty belies a joyous, energetic spirit, dreams of writing full-time. While he perfects his craft, she becomes his protector and editor-collaborator, accompanying him across Europe and America and finally to Samoa in hopes of healing his weak lungs. This is more than just another novel designed to honor the unsung accomplishments of a famous man's spouse, though. Equally adventurous and colorful, Louis and Fanny could each command the story singlehandedly. Together, they are riveting and insightfully envisioned, including through moving depiction of how their relationship transforms over time. Horan also explores relevant social concerns, such as cultural imperialism and xenophobia, and how Stevenson's life influenced his literary themes. An exhilarating epic about a free-spirited couple who traveled the world yet found home only in one another.--Johnson, Sarah Copyright 2010 Booklist
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Horan's second novel (following Loving Frank) again mines the true story of a remarkable woman of history to impressive effect. This time, instead of Mameh Cheney and Frank Lloyd Wright, the central couple is Fanny Osbourne and Robert Louis Stevenson. The novel charts their relationship from their first meeting in France, where Fanny takes her two daughters after leaving her irresponsible, cheating husband, Sam, and the death of her son, Hervey. At first, it's Louis's cousin Bob who teases Fanny out of her grief, but ultimately Louis, 10 years younger than Fanny, is the one who wins her heart. The novel goes on to describe Fanny's return to America (she is later followed by Louis) and her divorce from Sam, marriage to Louis, and their years spent in the South Pacific traveling from one island to another. Her own writing talent is submerged in the wake of Louis's growing fame, and her influence over him creates envy among his circle of friends in Britain. This beautifully written novel, neatly balanced between its two protagonists, makes them come alive with grace, humor, and understanding. Horan's empathy for both Louis and Fanny allows her to capture their life together with all the complexity and nuance of a real-life relationship. Agent: Lisa Bankoff, ICM. (Jan. 2014) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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Horan chronicles the romance between Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-94) and his American wife, Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne (1840-1914), in her anticipated sophomore effort after the acclaimed Loving Frank. With both individuals looking to escape family difficulties, the two meet and fall in love at an artists' retreat in France. They take up globe-trotting in the interest of Stevenson's poor health, and their search for a curative climate takes them throughout Europe, across the United States, and, finally, to the Pacific Islands, where they live until his death. Stevenson's illness and its impact is well drawn, as Horan captures the frustration of a vibrant mind trapped within a weak body. Osbourne's ceaseless devotion allows her husband to concentrate on his writing, but her sacrifice comes at great personal cost to them both. Despite such renderings, the characters remain at arm's length from the reader and their mutual passion never touches us. While Horan succeeds in presenting the couple's entire lives together, much of the drama and relationship growth appears to have been sacrificed for the sake of totality. VERDICT The many fans of Loving Frank will flock to this novel, but those looking for a deep character study of either Stevenson or Osbourne may come away dissatisfied. [See Prepub Alert, 6/24/13; library marketing.]-Liza -Oldham, Beverly, MA (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.