To Take Her Pride
Growing up in the Yorkshire countryside in 1898, Aurora Pettigrew has almost everything a young woman could want: adoring parents, a solid middle-class background, and the freedom to spend her days at leisure while servants cater to her needs. The only blight on her happiness is her separation from Reid Sinclair, her rich and handsome neighbor, and her insecurity about his feelings for her. His snobbish mother, Julia, looks down on the upstart Pettigrews and is determined to split them up. Julia’s scheming, and Aurora’s impulsive act to prove her love for Reid, prompt unwelcome results that drive Aurora out of her home and into the tenements of the big city. There she takes shelter with Sophia, a downtrodden barmaid, the woman she had always believed was her mother’s long-lost sister.
Aurora’s misfortunes are the reader’s gain. What seems at first to be a well-written yet standard Victorian romance transforms into a gripping novel about Aurora’s growing awareness about the realities of working-class life. She sheds her spoiled ways as the women of her dingy lane teach her the basics of running a household, like stoking a fire and shopping for food. Aurora’s adjustment progresses logically. She has no financial sense and mistakes the women’s helpfulness for rudeness initially, but her stint as a dishwasher in one of York’s best teahouses makes her appreciate their strength and friendship. She misses Reid but has little time to think of him… and then her past comes back to find her.
To Take Her Pride is the best sort of saga, one with a strong regional flavor and whose unexpected plot twists keep the pages turning through to a rewarding end. The text could use a thorough copy-edit, but this doesn’t mar the pleasures of a very entertaining read.