This is based on a real case in 1870 involving Ernest Boulton and Frederick Park. But it also involves the huge newspaper coverage of the scandal and letters that Barbara Ewing's research uncovered. The letters quoted in the book are genuine. These men dressed as women and paraded themselves at fashionable parties often frequented by the nobility, members of parliament and even royalty (The Prince of Wales).
But the story is fictionalised by the addition of the characters who tell the story: Mattie Stacey and her mother who run the boarding house used occasionally by Boulton and Park to house their wardrobes and to dress up for their parties. Both women are strong characters and prepared to speak out on behalf of their lodgers. Their home is named in the papers as a “bordello” or bawdy house, and they become the victims of abuse: Graffiti written on their walls “Sodomite Lovers” etc., Mattie is described as “a crippled whore” (she has a deformed leg and walks with a limp). When they are caught up in the scandal they are obliged to give passionate evidence at the trial.
It is a very good read with endearing characters – almost Dickensian – Elijah and Dodo, Billy the parliamentary clerk, Lord Arthur Clinton's mysterious death and subsequent cover-up, and the “smuggler”/fisherman Mackie. Wonderful characters. A great read and thoroughly recommended. Four and a half stars!