One of those fatly satisfying Victorian tales taking place in comfortable London digs, this time by British advice columnist Rayner, author of many such stories of domestic travail with lively and knowledgeable period ambiance (Clinical Judgements, 1990, etc.). Here, the much put-upon, timid female who's battered emotionally by nasty males (and females) but who in the end will manage to shake free, settle scores, and come into her successful own is one Little Tilly. The girl had a miserable childhood--father was a noisy bully, mother a useless alcoholic, and Tilly herself the vulnerable victim of the mean-spirited, greedy maid Dorcas, daughter of housekeeper Mrs. Leander (of an unsavory past, as it turned out). But, sadly, marriage for Tilly at a young age is no better. Husband Frank, whom she discovered on her wedding day in flagrante with Dorcas, is generally awful, and due to financial problems (Tilly was a commodity in a money transaction), the couple is forced to live with Papa. Then, however, there's liberation in a way. Frank dies of a stroke during a drunken fury, and Papa--who's left all his money to Mrs. Leander, his mistress--expires in disgraceful circumstances. With Dorcas and Mrs. Leander gone, Tilly begins to rally. And thanks to the help and affection of another oppressed waif, Eliza the scullery maid, she--even faced with homelessness--gathers her inner forces. There will be a duel with lawyers; the appalling return of maid Dorcas; a new venture; a birth; and marriage to a dying man. At the close, Tilly is ceremonially seated at the head table of a grand new dining room full of cherished guests: ""The bedrock of fortunes...only peace and prosperity to come."" For Anglophiles who enjoy watching nice guys finish first.