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Wild Romance: A Victorian Story of a Marriage, a Trial, and a Self-Made Woman Hardcover – March 16, 2010

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Walker & Company; 1 edition (March 16, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802717365
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802717368
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,386,571 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Contemporary women raised in semi-feminist-friendly Western cultures owe a large debt of gratitude to a host of nameless women who struggled mightily to effect social change during the rigid Victorian era. Schama has plucked one of these basically anonymous females from the scrap heap of history, breathing new life into the story of one woman’s dogged determination to salvage her tattered reputation and forge an independent life for herself in the aftermath of a publicly debated scandal and a failed marriage. Although Theresa Longworth, a typical nineteenth-century Englishwoman who craved a home and a husband more than anything else, was on the surface an unlikely feminist heroine, circumstances forced her to take a very public stand when her ne’er-do-well husband abandoned her and denied their legal union. Waging her battle through the court systems of England, Ireland, and Scotland, she eventually prevailed, but her hard-won victory cost her the chance of ever experiencing a socially acceptable life as a wife and a mother. Instead, she traveled the globe chronicling her adventures and carving out a career for herself as a noted travel writer. --Margaret Flanagan


“Schama spins a fine story herself.”—New York Times Book Review

“Chloë Schama gives Longworth Yelverton her due in insightful and entertaining style. She is a star on the rise.”—Town and Country

“A nonfiction debut most writers only dream about … Chloë Schama’s retelling of the history of one of Victorian England’s most notorious scandals reads like a novel itself … history buffs and those who enjoy a good, old-fashioned scandal will find charm here.”—Library Journal

“Schama breathes new life into the story of one woman’s dogged determination to salvage her tattered reputation and forge an independent life for herself in the aftermath of a publicly debated scandal and a failed marriage.”—Booklist

“Schama tells Longworth’s story well, keeping a steady eye on the sources and placing her firmly within whatever extraordinary context she [Longworth] found herself.”—Bookforum

“Chloë Schama will delight her readers. She writes with confidence and passion, yet with a sensitivity for her subject which is wonderfully appealing. I finished the book with regret, wanting more and impatient for a sequel.”—Amanda Foreman, author of Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire 

Wild Romance is a book that will take you for a whooping ride from the highlands of Scotland to the majestic beauty of Yosemite to the mystical power of Hong Kong Harbor.  Our heroine, Teresina, is a woman who fights for a life of conventional marriage, yet in her struggle, discovers she is destined for much more.  This is history that reads like quality, page-turning fiction.  It is at once riveting and enlightening.”—Elin Hilderbrand, New York Times bestselling author of Barefoot and The Castaways

“Bringing together a Victorian novelist’s reach and richness with the discerning intelligence of a twenty-first-century literary biographer, Chloë Schama creates a thrilling narrative that locates the themes of Victorian scandal and adventure within contemporary feminist values of courage and autonomy. Schama’s fine acrobatic grace enables her to tread the tightrope between the constraints of history and the wild romance of an unfulfilled life.”—Homi K. Bhabha, Anne F. Rothenberg Professor of the Humanities and director of the Humanities Center at Harvard University

Customer Reviews

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16 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Ellis Bell VINE VOICE on March 16, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Wild Romance is the true story of the life of Theresa Longworth, a woman who, in 1852, met William Yelverton aboard a steamship. Their romance was a mostly one-sided affair, which concluded with two secret marriages. When Yelverton later abandoned Theresa for marriage to another woman, Theresa instigated the first of several court cases to determine that her marriage to him was valid.

On the whole, this story of this book is stretched a bit thin. Only half of this 250-page book is devoted to the "romance" and trial; the rest to Theresa's travels throughout America and Asia. I was expecting something meatier, something that would explain why Yelverton led Theresa on to the extent that he did. It's quite possible that all he was after was sex; but in that case, why would he go so far as to have two weddings to her? The rhetoric of the court suggested that Yelverton was seduced by Theresa, and was led astray by his desires, but I tend to think that things were much more complicated than that. I guess the largest problem I had was that Yelverton as a person never really came across. In fact, he's hardly mentioned in the second half of the book as Theresa went abroad. I'd love to have known, too, what his wife, Emily Forbes, thought of the whole affair. After all, if Yelverton had been forced to take responsibility for his actions, he would basically have been committing bigamy, and his children with his second wife illegitimate.

Although the reader was privy to Theresa's thoughts and actions, I never really empathized with her. I'm not sure that I agree with the author's assessment of her; in fact, I'm not sure that she wasn't simply out for her fifteen minutes of fame, frequently making an exhibition of herself, making her look flighty at best and stupid at worst.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Leffler on March 10, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book is a true story that begins with a scandal involving a soldier and a young woman who met by chance on a boat crossing the English Channel in the late 1800s. It apparently received world-wide attention and was quite a huge deal back then, but has long since been forgotten with the passage of time. The author begins by explaining how she became fascinated by these two people and what the events surrounding their story revealed about social structure, morals, and attitudes during the Victorian era, and decided to write this book as a result. While it is an interesting enough story as far as scandals go, I don't feel as though she was able to convey exactly what it was that made these people come to life for her. It was certainly difficult for me to understand why this guy was so attractive to Theresa in the first place. I never really got a feel for him and what he was like, other than being a self-serving jerk. The scandal itself is somewhat murky as far as what really happened, and I doubt that anyone would be able to say who was definitely in the right, either then or now. I am sure that the author did the best she could with what information she could ferret out after all this time, but the trial kind of fell flat for me.

However, after the dust settles, the author follows Theresa's life from that point on up until her death, and that is a whole story unto itself. She travelled all over the world, and did and experienced a lot of things that would be considered out of the ordinary today, much less for a woman in that day and age. She is an enigma in many ways, and the life she led was certainly not one that anyone would have thought possible in a time when women were essentially considered to be nothing more than a man's wife and mother of his children.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By H. Rieseck VINE VOICE on March 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I decided to read/review this book because the title of the book screams SCANDAL - and everyone loves to read about a good scandal! This was certainly quite the scandal, but the book overall didn't quite pan out that way I would have liked.

The first half of the book focuses on detailing Theresa's relationship with Yelverton and then going into the various trials that ensued in Scotland, Ireland and England that were to prove whether these two were actually married or not. This section of the book I found the most interesting. Most striking were the legal rights and the differences between a married, single, or an abandoned woman. Theresa had to tread carefully along these lines in carrying out her case. The mental characters that I created of Yelverton and Theresa is that they were both, to some degree, crazy. Theresa was fixated on Yelverton and I wouldn't put it past her to have made up some things as she went along. Yelverton, on the other hand, would constantly verbally push Theresa away, but he would always keep coming back - talk about mixed messages! Reading about these two people kept me glued to the first portion of the book.

The second half I didn't love much at all and I lost a lot of interest. The second half focuses primarily on Theresa as a Victorian travel writer following the outcome of her trials. We follow her through the US National Parks and meet John Muir. I know that travel writing became a big thing in the Victorian days and the idea is somewhat interesting to me, but I think the execution wasn't spot on here. The transition from the trial to the travel writing was somewhat awkward and not nearly as exciting. It also was dominated by more of a description of women travel writers than specifically about Theresa's travels.
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