The Rose of Sebastopol - Katharine McMahon This book is set in both England and Russia during the time of the Crimean War. The central character is Mariella, a pampered English maiden from a "connected" family. This book caught my eye for a number of reasons. First, it is Historical Fiction, which is probably my favorite genre overall, second, it fit a category in a challenge that I was participating in (you had to pick a random HF book off of the library shelves) and third, the book jacket hinted the Miss Florence Nightingale made an appearance in the book. She is an historical figure that has always intrigued me. What I found was an interesting tale of love and betrayal woven among the backdrop of Victorian England and the Crimean War. The two main characters, Mariella and her cousin Rosa, are as different as night and day. Mariella has always led a quiet existence, paying special attention to the social rules for women in the Victorian era. She is quiet, demur, shy, and spends her time sewing all manner of items for charity. Rosa, on the other hand, is headstrong, untraditional, artistic, wants to be a doctor, and considers Mariella the most important person in her life. Since women cannot become doctors, she is determined to become a nurse, like Miss Nightingale, and eventually follows her to the battlefields of the Crimean War to nurse the wounded. When she disappears, Mariella takes off for the same battlefields in an effort to find her.

I gave this book 4 stars. The story was really enjoyable, and kept me interested from the beginning. It was especially interesting to read about medical practices in the 1850s, which were actually more primitive than I expected. Although the book hinted at involving Florence Nightingale, I was disappointed to find that her character was only anecdotal in the story. My disappointment was offset, though, by the unconventional view of Miss Nightingale that the author presented. It made me want to study this historical figure more, to see what her personality was actually like. My only other disappointment came at about the halfway point in the story, where a potential love triangle appeared that I felt was not necessary to include.