A Modest Independence (Parish Orphans of Devon)

Written by Mimi Matthews
Review by Ray Thompson

1860. As companion and close friend to Lady Helena, Jenny Holloway saved her distant cousin from the machinations of her wicked uncle and was rewarded with ‘a modest independence.’ Determined to return this generosity, she decides to travel to India to find Helena’s brother Giles, Earl of Castleton, reported killed during the Indian Mutiny. To her (and his own) surprise, her solicitor, Tom Finchley, insists on accompanying her. On the long journey their mutual attraction develops into love, but she is reluctant to surrender her independence by marrying. The journey fulfils her longing for travel, but will she recognize that much of the pleasure results from sharing it with someone she cares for and who cares for her?

Perceptive social insights enrich this Victorian romance: into law practices, class and racial prejudice, pressures on women to conform to social conventions, snobbery and the casual assumption of privilege by wealthy and aristocratic elites. The route, by ship, train, and dak cart, is traced in authentic detail. The behavior of the characters is justified by past experience. Jenny and Tom are admirable and their willingness to make sacrifices for each other’s happiness wins our sympathy. Strongly recommended.