The Water Horse by Julia Gregson Orion, HK$104 Julia Gregson has written a strapping and enjoyable saga of a woman escaping a harsh and claustrophobic background. Rather than marry her way out of trouble, however, Catherine Carreg swaps her life in 19th-century rural Wales for 19th-century urban London - and a job with Florence Nightingale. Before she can say: 'There, there old chap, we'll have your leg off in a jiffy,' she is whisked off to the Crimean war where all sorts of storylines come together. These mainly revolve around Catherine's childhood love, Deio. The son of a cattle drover, Deio plays all sorts of tomboyish games with 'Catrin', most of which involve a horse in some way. Deio is made of stout stuff - although I confess, every time I read his name my mind added: 'Daylight come and me want to go home'. While Catherine tends to the sick of England and later the Crimea, Deio (Dei-ei-ei-o) mends his fractured heart and joins the army, putting his horsemanship to good use gathering intelligence around Sebastapol. With story contrivance like this the poor boy hardly stands a chance ... and before long he is wounded and shipped off to you'll-never-guess-who.