Arabella and Mariana have fallen on difficult times. With the death of their parents and with no money, it was a difficult life in Victorian times. They were living with their Aunt who ran a Magdalene house. Something that was horrifying for the oh so genteel English women and something that would always be a blight if they wanted to be accepted socially.
Their father was an overseer on the Holdaway properties and when the Crawford family opened their home and hearth to Arabella as an adopted daughter it was very puzzling. Why would this family behave like this, bending over backwards to make Abbie comfortable and welcomed. Why all the effort to make her an accepted part of society. It soon becomes apparent that she is being groomed to be Ruskin's wife and on her part it is only a matter of accepting Ruskin's offer. Half of Arabella wants to accept and get accustomed to the luxury and the world of being his wife will offer but the other half is skeptical. Abbie wants the workers of Holdaway Hall to get a good deal and this is her bargaining chip. Do all this for them - increase the size and quality of their homes, increase their land holdings and allotments and give them a fair deal. Ruskin is not interested in modernizing or giving in to labourers requests. He thinks as the owner of the estate he can do what he wants but he does not realize that social change is in the air.
The story was very good in that unexpected help came for Abbie from within the family itself. James and David two brothers of Ruskin disliked their elder brother's manner of coercing Abbie as well as his way of running the estate. An unexpected uncovering of an earlier Will shows everyone the actual reason why the Crawford family wants Arabella so eagerly. How to break this news to Arabella without making her feel obliged to accept Ruskin through a feeling of guilt is David's and James's predicament.
How the situation is resolved and sorted out brings the story to its climax.
Very descriptive of the social changes of the times, the hypocricy that seemed prevalent in Victorian times and how families lived and worked this was an interesting story to read. The Magdalene home was something I was unaware of so I was keenly interested in that as well.
This was a book I downloaded from Amazon on a recommendation on FB. So very glad I got to this one.