This is a Regency historical romance with several twists. Jane Bailey is a lady’s maid, proud of her service to Lady Marianne Kingsford who featured in an earlier book by Tinley. Robert Kendal is a young man who effectively runs his elderly uncle’s estate. The two are thrown together in difficult and bewildering circumstances, and in this novel there are several twists and turns. The life of a servant is well reflected in this clever novel in which an educated and proud young woman is placed in a household in a way that she never expected. The development of a romance is a main part of the narrative, but also the element of a fish out of water, a daily realisation that roles are reversed.
There is a lot of research evident in this novel, as the roles of servants, especially lady’s maid, is painstakingly explored. The life of a maid is far more complex than usually supposed, consisting of dressing and undressing her mistress through the changes of clothes suitable for the time of day, caring for her clothes by way of washing, mending and refurbishing, and making sure all her needs were met. The physical side of the work is well demonstrated as Jane’s hands take some time to recover from the washing and other irritants. The insecurity of employment of those in service is emphasised as even Jane, with her special link to Marianne, goes in fear of doing something to lose her post, or otherwise being put out of a job. There is also an interesting element of remembering an attack that has affected Jane’s life, and may have an effect on her future ability to enjoy a relationship. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this multi layered book.
The book opens in 1800 with the death of Jane’s father. For Jane and her mother it begins a difficult time of poverty and the fortunate finding of a position in a wealthy household. After a point at which everything seems to be uncertain, even dangerous, their loyalty is rewarded. Jane’s mother is in charge as a housekeeper, while Jane becomes the personal maid for the mistress of a well off house. Meanwhile Robert is being dispatched to find the young woman with only the vaguest of instructions. It is not as easy as he expects, and there is additionally a very detailed and significant account of the journey they undertake together. Their arrival at the House involves encountering some of the characters that live there, as well as Jane’s confusion as to her status.
I found this a very readable book with a sure touch in revealing character, attraction, status anxiety and much more. The importance of the distinction between servants and those that they serve is well demonstrated. Jane’s insecurity is more about her concern for her role than her undoubted attraction to Robert. However, their growing relationship is beautifully drawn, and there are many surprises to be enjoyed on the way. This is a most enjoyable read and a fine example of a well researched historical romance novel.