“We are trying to locate the owner of an earring and/or ring of this description: a large blue diamond in a setting edged with engraved symbols of ancient origin.” A local Notary Public was listed as the party to contact.
At first, Stacey did not give any serious thought to this notice. Then she realized that among her deceased mother’s belongings was an odd-looking single earring with a large blue stone. Stacey had nothing better to do, so she dug up the earring, placed it in her pocket, and walked over to the Notary’s office. When the bespectacled Notary saw it, he dropped his glasses, and quickly shuffled over to a hidden wall safe.
The earrings turn out to be a perfect match. Stacey may inherit a large fortune as a consequence of this, as well as many other twisted events, covering centuries, countries and circumstances.
Two timelines, one modern, one historical, begin to intertwine at this point. Stacey’s adventures in modern day Athens parallel those of many ancient characters from Alexander the Great onward to our millennium.
During the 3rd Century BC, a Greek seaman found rare blue diamonds in South Africa and presents them to King Ptolemy II of Egypt as a tribute for allowing access to Egyptian waters. Queen Arsinoe falls in love with these diamonds and immediately orders Prabhakar, her Hindu jeweler, to fashion a set of earrings and a matching ring. She also befriends the Greek seaman because of this unusual tribute and when the seaman’s wife gives birth to a baby girl, naming her Arsinoe, the Queen presents the diamond earrings and ring to the baby in a gesture of generosity.
The Hindu jeweler, a master of arcane knowledge, engraved the Greek letter alpha on the surface of each diamond, but in a way that it is only visible at a certain angle. It turns out that the names of all the women of baby Arsinoe’s bloodline have for generations started with the letter ‘A’. The craftsman also carved an inscription into the setting of each piece: “Hope is the only Goddess a person can count on,” a quote from the Ancient Greek poet Theognis of Megara.
The story describes the fate of various women inheriting this jewelry, taking the reader through time to ever-changing regions and circumstances. The words of the inscription continue inspiring the female descendants of baby Arsinoe. Then, in the Middle Ages, one of the women, a Greek, and her twin daughters are enslaved by Barbarossa, the Mediterranean pirate. The mother passed on the story of the jewels to her daughters. She then gives each twin one earring and keeps the ring for herself.
All three are separated and will eventually be freed. One will settle in Italy, another saved by a member of the Order of Malta and the third, after being sold at the Istanbul Slave Market, will miraculously escape and through a bizarre chain of circumstances, move to Russia. (I would indicate which of them is the mother – where she ends up).
The modern day segment of the story line is of a detective genre. The earrings are stolen from the Notary’s safe and replaced by look alike fakes. After many collisions and foibles, the genuine earrings are finally returned to their rightful owner. As the story winds to a close, another matching ring will be found as well. And, of course, the heroine’s love story will be crowned by a “Happy End.”
Understanding that the purpose of marriage is to further her family, Lady Juliana nevertheless rejects the ageing and unattractive - though appropriately wealthy - suitor of her father's choice. She elopes, instead, with a handsome, penniless soldier and goes to Scotland to live at Glenfarn Castle, his paternal home. But Lady Juliana finds life in the Scottish highlands dreary and bleak, hastily repenting of following her heart.
After giving birth to twin daughters, Lady Juliana leaves Mary to the care of her sister-in-law, while she returns to England with Adelaide. Sixteen years later, Mary is thoughtful, wise and kind, in comparison to her foolish mother and vain sister.
Following two generations of women, Marriage, first published in 1818, is a shrewdly observant and humorous novel by one of Scotland's greatest writers.