When Thomas Rose discovers Ling, a young French girl who has run away from the circus, his life is suddenly and irrevocably changed...19th-century Lincolnshire: Thomas, who is dyslexic, has never met anyone remotely like Ling - wild, care-free, determined - and he falls in love. Ling's horse, Belladonna, has been stolen and Ling fears she is in the hands of the painter Mr George Stubbs, known for flailing horses to learn about their anatomy. When Thomas and Ling pay Stubbs a visit, they learn the true whereabouts of Belladonna, and Thomas is offered a job with Stubbs, who also teaches him to read and write. Thomas and Ling devise a plan to steal back Belladonna, knowing, if caught, Ling could pay with her life. Mary Finn's remarkable ability to paint with words is reminiscent of Tracy Chevalier; her love for horses, of Jane Smiley.
Mary Finn is Irish and lives in Dublin. She used to be a journalist but is now a parliamentary reporter - a very different job - in the Oireachtas, or Irish houses of parliament. Although she is very fond of the eighteenth century, and has set two books in that period - Anila's Journey and Horse Girl - the reason is not the clothes, the swords or even the horses, but the feisty characters who demand that their stories be told. She thinks in pictures but can't draw so words must do the job instead.