Rags-to-Riches Wife by Catherine Tinley
A thoroughly enjoyable Regency romance which does a really deep dive into the gulf between the gentry and the servant class in the era. Lady’s maid Jane Bailey knows her father was disowned by his family when he married her mother, but when a mysterious stranger comes to visit her employer and requests Jane accompany him to Yorkshire to meet the grandfather she’s never met, her curiosity makes it inevitable that she go.
The setup between Jane and Robert is obvious from the beginning… to everyone except the two of them, and it comes as an ugly shock when Jane’s grandfather’s will is read and their joint inheritance is conditional upon a marriage between them. Robert reacts particularly badly, having been the subject of a great many of the old man’s manipulations over the years, but to his credit he’s mainly angry on Jane’s behalf, because she realistically has much less choice in the matter than he does. He’ll still be perfectly comfortable even if he doesn’t inherit; she will not.
The examination of Jane literally living out a Cinderella story is fascinating, not least because of how very uncomfortable Jane is, the discomfort caused in part by those around her not treating her terribly well but also because Jane has very set ideas about what her own place in the world is and from the very first, she’s pushed way outside of her comfort zone. She’s happy and fulfilled as personal lady’s maid to a countess who is obviously fond of her, and doesn’t ask for anything more from life. The glittering society world opening up to her is alien and intimidating, and were it not for Robert, I could absolutely see her walking away from it with a certain amount of relief.
This is a very interesting and unusual story despite the obvious Cinderella trope, because of these careful examinations of the class structure of the era through the eyes of both Jane, who has a foot in both worlds, and Robert, who comes to a much greater awareness of what goes on below stairs as he gets to know Jane and understand what matters to her. I thoroughly enjoyed it and am delighted to award it a full five stars.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via Rachel’s Random Resources.