By P. D. Edwards, M. E. Braddon
With Lady Audley's Secret, Mary Elizabeth Braddon had established herself, alongside Wilkie Collins and Mrs Henry Wood, as one of the ruling triumvirate of `sensation novelists'. Aurora Floyd (1862-3), following hot on its heels, achieved almost equal popularity and notoriety. Like Lady Audley, Aurora is a beautiful young woman bigamously married and threatened with exposure by a blackmailer. But in Aurora Floyd, and in many of the novels written in imitation of it, bigamy is little more than a euphemism, a device to enable the heroine, and vicariously the reader, to enjoy the forbidden sweets of adultery without adulterous intentions. Passionate, sometimes violent, Aurora does succeed in enjoying them, her desires scarcely chastened by her disastrous first marriage. She represents a challenge to the mid-Victorian sexual code, and particularly to the feminine ideal of simpering, angelic young ladyhood. P. D. Edward's introduction evaluates the novel's leading place among `bigamy-novels' and Braddon's treatment of the power struggle between the sexes, as well as considering the similarities between the author and her heroine.