Aspirations of a Lady’s Maid (Breaking the Marriage Rules)

Written by Eva Shepherd
Review by Ray Thompson

1895. Dominic Lockhart should be happy. His engagement to a duke’s daughter promises to elevate his family’s status in society and improve the marriage prospects of his three younger sisters. Puzzlingly, however, Lady Cecily Hardgrave seems ‘a little cool’ towards him, though she assures him she has agreed to the match. Perhaps they need time to get to know each other better? But then he meets Nellie Regan, a former lady’s maid, now proprietress of a successful hair salon. And remarkably pretty. And lively. The attraction is mutual, but he is already engaged and she is aware of the gap in their stations. Can a happy ending be attained? It can. It is.
The portrayal of the relationship between different classes in late Victorian England is perceptive: aspirations of a rising middle class, struggles of an increasingly impoverished aristocracy to maintain its privilege, resentment of the lower social orders. Dominic and Nellie are attractive characters, but they do spend an inordinate amount of time obsessing about each other. These passages slow the plot. The obstacles to the happy ending, moreover, do melt away rather conveniently. An uneven performance.