However, one can't help but think that the story has been told before. Think 'Titanic', think Jane Austen, think prime-time television drama for ITV... it is a well told and very subtle novel that is a very easy read.
Could the main body of the book have been forgone, allowing the true secret of the Hartford sisters to spill forth without the 80,000 word socio-historical context? Probably. But that isn't the point. For romantics with time on their hands.