I read Signa and Bebee and enjoyed them immensely. This story just didn't work for me. The overall tone is so depressing it makes Les Miserables or Tess of the D'Urbervilles feel like Pollyanna.
I don't mind some darkness if there's a glimmer of hope, but this isn't that kind of story. I counted one sympathetic character, a cripple and outcast who dies soon after his introduction. Other than him, they are to the last man, woman and child either downright evil or soul-destroyingly indifferent.
I'm the first to admit that understanding allegory is not my strong suite. And this book is rich with them. To a more intellectual mind, I can imagine its worth. But unfortunately, I was blinded by the misery. If there was a moral to this, the only two I took home were that "evil always conquers good" and "there is no God but gold". Not very cheerful.
In a nutshell: a fatherless child (read: spawn of the devil) is brought up as a slave to her evil grandfather and abused by him and every other person she meets. She eventually comes upon a painter starving to death in a tower and comes to his aid. She falls in love with him but he is only in love with his art...
I have a GR friend who adores this book (Its his favorite Ouida) and I'm so reluctant to say anything against it. But my fragile emotions couldn't handle this. Thankfully, there are plenty of other Ouidas for me to choose from.