I am in two minds about this book. The concept and execution; the writing and the style; the pace and plot are all very good. But, again, it’s a book that promises so much to my vivid imagination and high expectations, and it doesn’t deliver fully. Venetia’s potion, the age-restoring Viper Wine, doesn’t take on the mystical, glamorous qualities I wanted it to. Eyre reduces the wine to a gritty realisation: a phony concocted by conmen. Eyre removes all the fun of the wine and makes it really quite revolting. But that’s not what the book is about, really. It’s a history and a story of beauty, ageing and love. It’s a tale of survival, reputation and standing. Venetia Stanley’s husband, Sir Kenelm, sticks out for me as one of the best characters I read in recent years. He’s sensitive, ambitious, and masculine. His past and his links to the Gunpowder Plot are investigated well and Sir Kenelm’s shame for this history drives and fuels him to new lands and discoveries and the hunger for more and more and more knowledge; for more and more distraction from his past for his critics. He has moments of tyranny and then of kindness in his wrought emotional state at certain parts of the book and I like him ever better for them. His love for Venetia is passionate and strong. He’s a good egg. Don’t be put off by the “conceptual” aspect of this novel; it’s non-invasive and seasons the pages very enjoyably so. I wouldn’t read this again, but I can remember it vividly. A good book.