These accounts of four western women and how they lived in exotic lands serve best as an introduction, not as a particularly authoritative reference. Definitely more high-brow than romance novels, if only by virtue of being true personalities, this book is a welcome bit of romantic escapism. Despite the fact that the author clearly admires and reveres these intelligent and adventurous women, the book disappoints on a couple of fronts. The writing (nearly half a century old) is peppered with somewhat embarassing colonial language about native beauty, genetically determined intelligence, and primitive sexiness. No blatant racism here, but plenty of indulgent speculation that comes off poorly today. I found it annoying that the author used French liberally but without any attempt at translation; this usually appears in quotations and with a disclaimer that the flavor of the original language would be lost in any translation. I disagree: a skilled translator could handle it beautifully. I personally enjoyed these accounts of the lives of women who ventured beyond the realm of other western women, who supported great men, or who even changed the course of history. But I felt I had received only part of the stories. I have yet to find more writings about these women, but I am sure they are out there. A very entertaining introduction to each subject's life.