With this novel Sharon Penman moves to a new set of characters and to 12th Century England and the early civil war between Stephen and his cousin, The Empress Made - A long fight to won the English throne. Stephen was handsome, unreliable and beguiling. Maude was courageous, beautiful and insanely arrogant. They fought for twenty years and devastated England. Their flair for dramatic events and immense catastrophes made sure that they were never boring.