"In creating my [the author's] own story of Alfred and Dorothea Gibson, I have taken a novelist's liberties as I explored an imaginative path through their relationship. . . . Inspired by "threads of Dickens's own preoccupations with things strange, romantic, and melodramatic rather than realistic ... at times, characters from his novels make a transmuted appearance as characters in his life. ... Above all, in Dorothea Gibson I have tried to give voice to the largely voiceless Catherine Dickens, who once requested that her letters from her husband be preserved so that 'the world may know he loved me once.' " -- Author's note.