Flowers for Miss Pengelly
In 1911, Effie Pengelly, a comely young maidservant, has few opportunities to pick wild flowers, much less to converse with a young man; her time belongs to her employer. Effie is careful not step out of line with the woman, who is capable of ending her livelihood and her good reputation. When a stranger comes asking for Effie by name and is later found dead, Effie, who does not know the man, is alarmed. Young constable Alex Dawes not only believes Effie, he is also attracted to her. Alex comes from the upper middle class, however, and Effie’s father is a miner. They are both warned to remember their station.
Ramifications of the murder shake the entire village. The lack of communication between genders and social classes permits deceit and causes misunderstandings. Even when Effie is absolved and her lying employer is discredited, she and Alex still have much to overcome.
Aitken is at her best describing lives most of us have never known. Servants can be dismissed on a whim. Readers beg for books to borrow. Miners live in fear of an accident. Offhand references to the sinking of the Titanic and the 18-year-old Prince of Wales remind us how remote the village is and put security—and flowers—for girls like Effie Pengelly in perspective. Recommended for fans of Aitken’s popular Cornish series (A Cornish Maid, 2009) and anyone who enjoys seeing love overcome adversity.