I love Howatch’s early books which emphasize dark, gothic plots before she delves into religion and philosophy. This one is a multi-generational, Victorian-era saga. Cashelmara is the family seat in Ireland of a titled English family. The book details their rise and fall, beginning with Lord Edward de Salis. Basically, a reimagining of the life of Edward II, the historical research is spot on as events unfold such as the Great Famine and the rise of Irish Nationalism. One reason the book is so compelling is that Howatch uses a different character’s point of view in each section. We think we know that person until a new narrator takes over changing our opinion. I loved Edward when reading from his point of view. Not so much when I saw him from his wife’s perspective. The characters are multi-faceted, flawed, neither hero or villain. The book is all about melodrama with a capital M. There’s adultery, financial ruin, alcoholism, twisted sexual desire and murder. Hooray! I also loved Howatch’s Penmarric and her first book, The Dark Shore.