I love Francis Marion Crawford but this book earned my "Oh dear" rating of two stars.
Here's the basic storyline:
Two young men are in love with the same woman. Being that they're good friends, one man gallantly steps aside and lets the other woo and marry her. Of course its the wrong man. The husband becomes a monster, drinking and beating his wife and son.
The son, from too many blows on the head, is mentally simple, but he grows into a strapping man. It was at this point that he got tired of the abuse and gave his father blow for blow. (Yes, he kept track. Every blow was recorded with a drop of ink on his building blocks ...creepy, right?) In fact it may have been this violent crescendo that addled the father's brain, putting him in an insane asylum where he spent the next several years...
Its at this point that lover #2 (the good guy who has been pining for the last twenty years) enters the story and tries to get the woman to divorce her husband and marry him. She won't. And then, by some strange twist of fate, husband regains sanity and is due for release....
And that's all you really need to know. The rest is implausibly far fetched with a lazy plot conclusion.
The sad thing is that this actually had a really good storyline. But oh my goodness, what happened? The author destroyed the potential of this with rambling, mind wandering tangents that took the story way off course or stalled it completely. I know. I'm being harsh. But really, Mr Crawford, you leave me flabbergasted.
Don't let this be your first sampling of this author's work. Try "A Roman Singer" or "The Children of The King" or even "The Heart of Rome". But give this one a miss.