"A plague on both your houses!" cried the dying Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet. Indeed, all self-respecting romantic legends have wrestled with huge obstacles in the name of their love. The protagonists of The Lieutenant's Lover follow the same routine: Misha and Tonya – the noble tsarist aristocrat and his beautiful, blushing Bolshevik – are cursed by the bloody Russian revolution.
Harry Bingham crafts his story well, handling sharp emotional manoeuvres with skill: infatuation, despair, separation, ecstasy. Yet beyond these soap-opera tactics, Bingham falls short. He is frustratingly content to submit to Russian clichés, pitching himself as a Dr Zhivago disciple, when his writing requires more confidence. Never does a shadow of a question pass over this romance; instead, a happy reassurance pervades. The lovers' fate is always secured and our reading pleasure shall not be compromised. It is sweetly melodramatic stuff that is best enjoyed, crumpet in hand, on Sunday-night television.
Although Bingham addresses some weighty subject matter, his descriptions are lacking. The reader, though entertained, can remain detached. They did have a tough time, those Russians. I am glad it wasn't me. Next?