His observations are often acute, not surprisingly. Who would have thought to find a character in George Eliot’s “Romola” who seems to have stepped out of a Dumas novel? Choosing “Romola” as one of the two historical novels he read in May is itself a surprise. I wonder how many of Eliot’s admirers, some of whom claim Middlemarch as the greatest Victorian novel, have read this book set in late 15th century Florence. Abell finds much to like, even while admitting it is heavy going at times, overburdened perhaps by research like so much historical fiction. All the same he leaves me thinking it might be worth having a go at it; and this surely is one of the things one hopes to get from a book of this sort.