The adventures of a foundling who embarks on a treasure hunt in Victorian England.
An infant is found in a snowbank near Hatville Court, an estate in Surrey, by the landowner’s only daughter, 8-year-old Aurelia. This is the prologue to a novel that will follow the fortunes of that infant, christened Amy Snow. Aurelia’s parents, Sir Charles and Lady Celestina Vennaway, are far from cordial to this interloper. Only Aurelia’s obstinacy prevents Amy from being cast out, and her status wavers uncomfortably between that of lady’s companion and servant. As Aurelia blossoms into a lovely young heiress, her parents see only an opportunity for a profitable marriage and press her to entertain the usual unappealing suitors. When, in her early 20s, Aurelia is diagnosed with a weak heart, she embarks on a trip, convincing her dismayed parents that it may well be her last chance to see the world, or, at least, England beyond Surrey. Amy, 13, is left behind. After a year away, Aurelia returns home. Upon her rescuer’s death three years later, in 1848, Amy is expelled from Hatville. She is, however, armed with Aurelia’s legacy: a carefully plotted itinerary, with strategically placed letters as signposts, which will lead her to discover truths Aurelia kept even from her, including the real reason for her absence. Aurelia’s instructions, accompanied by beautiful clothes and a large bequest—secret and in cash, to deter grasping Vennaways—take Amy from Hatville to London, thence to Twickenham, where she meets the Wisters, a welcome contrast to the frosty Vennaways. Then it’s on to Bath, where she encounters the novel’s only truly entertaining character, the octogenarian socialite and protofeminist Mrs. Riverthorpe. As the last leg of Amy’s quest beckons, romantic entanglements threaten, not very convincingly, to interfere. The book is padded with Amy’s ineffectual ruminations about courses followed or not followed, and a crucial revelation comes about via the hackneyed device of an overheard conversation.
Far too predictable to be truly suspenseful.