The title "Moths" is allegorical for Society's women, who either spend their lives munching on ermine and gravitating to flames of corruption, or, as so rarely happens that it's notable when it does, rising to the stars in innocence and purity.
Vere grew up with her grandmother in the wholesome English air. But when she reached the age of 16, she was sent to the Riviera to live with her mother, Lady Dolly, a well liked but ammoral dame of Society. Having Vere under her roof is a thorn in Dolly's side, making her feel old; and Vere's solemn eyes and disapproving demeanor cramp Dolly's spontaneous frivolity. So on the advice of her shallow friends, Lady Dolly decides to get Vere wedded as soon as possible.
She, in effect, sells Vere off in marriage to the highest bidder; a cruel, selfish, loose-living but immensely rich Russian Count. In his depravity, he attempts to singe "The Moth" into becoming like all other society women. Vere stays true to her principles and to her innocence's true love, a famous opera singer by the name of Correze.
This novel is a real indictment on Society and Society's marriages which were often little more than a matching of names and titles but had no love, respect or honor. Both husbands and wives freely embarked in flirtations and "discreet" affairs while whittling away their time, money and usefulness with travel, castle hopping, gambling and more dress changes than a one-man theatre production.
As is usual with Ouida, the writing is impeccable and rich, but very wordy and at times repetitious. She sometimes bends to the weakness of thinking for her readers even when the meaning is indisputable. I found this a bit frustrating. Also, we are made to wait until the last gasping breath for a whiff of a "happy ever after" and for me it was a case of "too little too late".
Bottom line: Not one I would reread any time soon but still a finely crafted novel
SEX: None shown, frequent talk of mistresses
VIOLENCE: Very mild
PROFANITY: Very mild
MY RATING: PG (for thematic elements)