In the late 19th-century marriage was the desired and only goal for a woman. With it came financial security, social status, children and, maybe, happiness. Without it a woman's life and future prospects were poor.
But in England women of marrying age outnumbered men four to one. The plain, the over 25 or, shudder, the educated, didn't stand much of a chance. Many cast their net wider.
This was the last flowering of the Raj and vigorous empire-building rendered India home to British men - lots of them.
Every autumn ships cast off from England, brimming with young women in search of husbands - the Fishing Fleet of this title.
Enriched by first-hand sources, Anne de Courcy's chronicle moves between luxury and hardship; adventuresses and innocents. Romances bloomed at sea then foundered on land. Marriage could bring a life of ease or the harsh reality of a remote posting. Entertaining, revealing and, however well some fared, likely to make most of today's women feel glad to be living in the 21st century.