In 1852, on a steamer from France to England, nineteen-year-old Theresa Longworth met William Charles Yelverton, a soldier destined to become the Viscount of Avonmore. The flirtation that began on board soon blossomed into a clandestine, epistolary affair, and five years after their first meeting they married secretly in Edinburgh. Then, that same summer, at Theresa's urging, they married again in Dublin - or did they? Separated by circumstance soon after they were wed, Theresa and Charles would never live together as man and wife. And when Yelverton then married another woman, an abandoned Theresa found herself forced to prove the validity of her marriage. Multiple trials ensued - in Ireland, England and Scotland - and for months their scandal captivated society: every detail of the proceedings was reported in the press, songwriters dedicated ballads to Theresa, and novelists, Wilkie Collins among them, borrowed the courtroom melodrama for their plots. Over the course of a very public ordeal, Theresa lost all hope of the private married life she so prized.
Thrust into the spotlight, she travelled the globe and made a name for herself as a writer, blazing a trail for independent women and their rights - and the changes in attitude the twentieth century would later bring. In this brilliant debut, Chloe Schama unearths both a forgotten tabloid spectacle full of steamy intrigue and the chronicle of how one woman made a life for herself as an unmarried woman in a society that made no allowance for her. "Wild Romance" is the inspiring tale of a woman who never gave up, and who held on to her ideals of independence, self-reliance and - despite everything - love.
Chloe Schama has written for the New Republic, New York Sun and the Guardian. She lives in Washington, D.C. This is her first book.