Ann Victoria Roberts. Contemporary, $19.95

Purchased with much hoopla for a record sum, this is a savory, intricately wrought tale of a tangled romantic triangle in repressed Victorian England… Tiny, colourful details lend authenticity: a neighbour pulls away her skirts at Louisa’s approach, there’s a shifting of balance between Louisa and Moira, a lower-class maid who ‘marries up.’ Though the plot sometimes slows, the novel is carried by Roberts’s evocative imagery, which immerses the reader in both the splendour and poverty of the gaslit, cobblestoned Victorian era, and in particular, the atmosphere of the ancient city of York. (150,000 first printing.)