Frances Hodgson Burnett. The Making of a Marchioness (1901).
Having long loved the girlish classics A Little Princess (1905) and The Secret Garden (1911), I was delighted to spot her name on this volume in the library. I enjoyed the charming story of Emily Fox-Seton, a not-so-young woman of good family but little means who is supported by making herself useful to more fortunate members of society. She is extremely tall and large, over thirty, very poor, and very humble. Her patience and simple goodness have an impact on most people she meets. When Lady M. invites her to spend a country weekend assisting with her house-party, Emily is delighted. At the house-party she helps her hostess a great deal, but finds leisure to watch the efforts of the other single women present to capture the attentions of the widowed–and impervious–Lord Walderhurst.
The second part of this novel, written later, follows the story of the unlikely Lady Walderhurst and her husband. There is an unsatisfactory man and his wife who stand to inherit the entire Walderhurst estate–should Lord Walderhurst die without an heir. When Lord Walderhurst is called away on business, his Lady is left undefended against these connections–who are carried away by their greed. The second half is a bit darker–and very Turn-of-the-Century-Mystery-Story-a-la-Wilkie-Collins meets Mildly-Sentimental-English-Country-Tale.