Cruelty, greed and sexual entitlement. Sound familiar? But in the seventeenth century women had far more to fear from powerful men. This darkly evocative and fast-paced novel - complex and glittering as a tapestry, its blackness lit by flashes of humour - challenges contemporary notions of race and class to chart the career of a manipulative mogul and the women who staked everything to overcome his attempts to destroy them. Two women, one white, one black. Zenobia, born in poverty, grasps that her only hope of controlling her own life is to capitalize on her looks; Lily, brought to London on a sugar and slave ship as a `toy', educated alongside her mistress but used by her master, lives as a kept woman. As the complex story weaves and folds through a murky and merciless London, both find themselves pitted against a ruthless magistrate the world knows as John Crace. Late seventeeth-century London's festering but rich possibilities as a rapidly-changing multinational city are breathtakingly painted. Pungent milieux range from plague pits to prisons to pastry kitchens - and Pickled Herring Wharf. Cruelty, greed and ruthless ambition seethe under the surface of a society where life is cheap and feelings are ruthlessly exploited.