We have updated our Privacy Policy Please take a moment to review it. By continuing to use this site, you agree to the terms of our updated Privacy Policy.

Their Bohemian lifestyle and intertwined love affairs shockingly broke 19th Century class barriers and bent the rules that governed the roles of the sexes. They became defined by love triangles, played out against the austere moral climate of Victorian England; they outraged their contemporaries with their loves, jealousies and betrayals, and they stunned society when their complex moral choices led to madness and suicide, or when their permissive experiments ended in addiction and death. The characters are huge and vivid and remain as compelling today as they were in their own time.

The influential critic, writer and artist John Ruskin was their father figure and his apostles included the painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti and the designer William Morris. They drew extraordinary women into their circle. In a move intended to raise eyebrows for its social audacity, they recruited the most ravishing models they could find from the gutters of Victorian slums.

The saga is brought to life through the vivid letters and diaries kept by the group and the accounts written by their contemporaries. These real-lie stories shed new light on the greatest nineteenth-century British art.


'Riveting . . . Moyle captures vividly the texture and colour of this vital world'
Independent on Sunday
'The jauntiness of her approach is a refreshing antidote to the incestuous, dreamlike claustrophobia of these interlocking lives. Her book is powerful, absorbing and, well, rather jolly'
Sunday Times
'This has been well-covered before but she retells it with exceptional vigour and with fine detail culled from original sources'
Daily Express
'Particularly impressive is the way Moyle returns to a key moment...at various points to consider it from different angles...it will remind you of how all those wild young men and marginal girls fitted together in a nexus of mutual need and exploitation...it's got television written all over it, and in a good way, too'
'The book is highly readable and admirably free of bias and prurience'
For sheer, scabrous fun it is hard to imagine a better offering than Franny Moyle's Desperate Romantics ... an utterly gripping read
Sunday Express
It all bears retelling and Franny Moyle fleshes it out with some new material and shrewd surmises ... the book is well illustrated and researched, as well as crisply written
Irish Times
'Very well researched . . . Moyle achieves an unusual level of empathy . . . the story is certainly inflammatory'
Time Out
'This should be fascinating TV viewing ... a scandalous saga'
'The age of the Romantics is alive and well in this fascinating book that accompanies the BBC series of the same name'
"A hectic tale, packed with sex and dark drama...not so much an extension but an explosion and an echo of today's celebrity culture"
West End Extra, Gerald Isaaman
'Desperate Romantics is a gripping read and far more than a historical biography. It's like reading a modern-day soap opera. Franny Moyle writes as if she'd been transported from 1848 to the present day to report on their fascinating lives',
Now, Clare Nasir
'Read about the truth behind John and Effie Ruskin's unconsummated marriage . . . and a host of other seemingly respectable 'Blue Plaque' names who lived their lives at a pace that would leave Damien Hirst and Jake and Dinos Chapman breathless'
The Resident
'Moyle's book captures all the sex, madness and addiction, making modern-day sagas seem downright dull!'
The book is packed with colourful illustrations and drawings, while the words are pretty darned colourful too'
Birmingham Post
'Moyle tells the story with great verve, and the forthcoming drama based on her book should be one to look out for'
'Solidly researched book . . . Desperate Romantics is a cleanly written and evocative work that concentrates not only on the PRB as a group, but as individual geniuses'
Sunday Herald Magazine
'Look out for the major TV series which coincides with this book about the bad boys of the Victorian art world'
Unite Magazine
This makes for a thoroughly absorbing book, well illustrated with pictures...excellent material...if the BBC2 drama, which is scheduled to follow in the summer, is as well researched and presented as the book, it will be unmissable
Morning Star
'For sheer, scabrous fun it is hard to imagine a better offering than Franny Moyle's Desperate Romantics ... an utterly gripping read'
International Express
'Vivacious book ... perfect material for a BBC2 drama tie-in this year ... all the elements for notoriety ...and entertainment!'
Lancashire Evening Post
Sir John Ure is absorbed by an account of the Pre-Raphaelites . . . Franny Moyle [is] a scholarly and highly entertaining chronicler of their unruly exploits
Sir John Ure, Country Life
'This should be fascinating TV viewing ... a scandalous saga'
'Drama, romance and Victorian morality aplenty'
Wharf, Giles Broadbent