Billy McKenzie, A Story of Love is a beautifully written tale of love and intrigue. The novel moves between the lives of two women, Flora Lijak and Ozzie Hosseini. Flora is a nineteenth century English writer and anti-Tsarist revolutionary. Ozzie, an American, is a twenty-first century scholar of English Literature.
Flora's abuse at an early age has seemingly rendered her numb to sexual pleasure, but in the prime of her life – and much to her surprise – she has an incandescent love affair with an American Anarchist named William McKenzie. Their romance takes place in London in the summer of 1895. But McKenzie, on a mission to Paris to assassinate a Russian general in that city, is killed. The loss devastates Flora.
Ozzie, too, has lost a love, her husband Tom. When we first encounter Ozzie she is still grieving and has no interest in finding another love. But then along comes Mark Morehead, a decoder working at NSA. Ozzie falls crashingly in love with Mark.
Linking Flora's story and Ozzie's is the indecipherable yet erotically-charged Lijak Manuscript, named for Flora's husband, who discovered it in an out-of-the-way monastery in Italy.
Mark's interest in decrypting the ancient document leads him to visit Ozzie in her office at Georgetown University – he mistakenly thinks she's an expert on Flora. The encounter is the beginning of their romance.
Mark's visit also piques Ozzie's interest in Flora and her life. By tracking down records and artifacts – a marriage certificate, an old photograph or two – Ozzie manages to piece together Flora's story, including her affair with McKenzie and her final love for a younger woman.
Ever in the background is the Manuscript, which Ozzie comes to realize is an exposition of "good witchcraft" and a treatise on love, likely penned by women.
A radical plot twist at the end - which ambushes the reader - brings the novel to a most satisfactory conclusion.
Billy McKenzie, A Story of Love has strong, sympathetic, believable characters. The novel draws a vivid picture of late Victorian London and the city's revolutionary circles and will appeal to lovers of literary and historical fiction alike. Both stories – Flora's and Ozzie's – end happily.
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