Two young women from very different social classes cope with changing conventions and life-altering events in 20th-century England.
Eighteen-year-old Grace Campbell travels to London from Carlisle, a city in the northwest, to find employment as a secretary in order to provide financial assistance for her parents and siblings. But jobs are scarce, and she is forced to take a position as a maid in the Masters household. Unwilling to disappoint her family, Grace feels compelled to lie to her parents and to her brother, Michael, a clerk residing in London, about her circumstances. Beatrice, the youngest daughter of Lady Masters, recently was jilted by her fiance, John, and she is expected to quickly find a new suitor and marry. Although she and Grace are from disparate backgrounds, both girls find themselves chafing at the constraints of traditional society. Bea, caught up in the excitement of the suffragist movement, joins an underground organization that supports suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst. Grace engages in an uncharacteristic and desperate act to assist her family and to hide from them the truth about her employment. Meanwhile, Bea becomes involved with a mysterious man who rescues her from potential harm during the violent protests, and Grace is strongly attracted to Joseph, another servant employed by the Masters. But when World War I intervenes, both young women’s lives veer in unforeseen directions, in part due to circumstances over which they have no control, and in part because of the decisions they make. A poignant and fascinating story, Osborne developed the plot for her first novel after researching a book about an ancestor (The Bolter, 2009, etc.). She masterfully intertwines the lives of her heroines with historical events and figures, which lends credibility to the plot and the characters she has created.
Osborne’s efforts are solid, and her book will appeal to both historical fiction buffs and romance enthusiasts alike.