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The Lady's Maid

The Lady's Maid - Dilly Court

In the quiet of a warm summer's evening, two young mothers are forced to give up their babies. Whilst Kate grows up knowing only poverty and servitude, Josie's world is one of privilege and luxury. 

Despite the differences in their circumstances, Kate and Josie have been friends since childhood. But their past binds them together in ways they must never know. 

Until a chance meeting forces Kate and Josie to confront the truth of that night nearly twenty years before - a truth that turns both worlds upside down and threatens to destroy their friendship forever... (source)

I really wanted to love this book, for so many reasons. For starters, it's by Dilly Court. I read one of her other books, The Best of Daughters, recently, and enjoyed it very much. I hoped that I'd be just as thrilled if not more by this novel. Also, it has gypsies, and how are gypsies not a fun time? And it's British historical fiction. On paper, this should have been a fantastic book. 

 

And yet, it wasn't. 

 

There are so many things that led to my less than enthusiastic reaction to The Lady's Maid. I think the most significant factor was that it simply was too long. This is a problem that was shared by The Best of Daughters, but I think that I felt more connected with the heroine in that book, so I didn't mind quite as much. It's not that I don't like lengthy books; I actually prefer when books are longer. But the length should be necessary. I think that Dilly Court feels a need to provide her readers with these super long books that include every single little detail of her main characters' lives... and it's simply not necessary. There were so many passages that could have easily been cut from this book - they added very little to the story and simply served to make the book drag on. In the case of this book, I was not appreciative of the extra length. 

 

Additionally, the plot was very predictable. This is a typical predicament of romance novels: we know from the moment that the love interest is introduced that he'll end up with the heroine (or in this case, heroines). This book could have easily avoided this though - both Kate and Josie had multiple suitors. If Dilly Court had made any of them more appealing to either girl, she could have made her story much more riveting. As it was, I knew who each girl would end up with in the end and at no point did I second guess my predictions. Predictability sadly was not limited to love interests. It also became very clear how other aspects of the plot would turn out, especially regarding each girls' family background. I honestly think that I correctly guessed every "plot twist" that Court attempted to include, which is a tragedy, since if they had been better executed, they could have been really fantastic. 

 

And the final contributing factor to my lack of enthusiasm regarding The Lady's Maid was that I wasn't attached to either Kate or Josie. As I mentioned in my progress update, Kate's a prude and Josie's a brat. Court went way overboard in trying to demonstrate how reserved Kate is and how wild Josie is, and as a result she created one very boring character and one very annoying character. I do have to admit, I did like Sam a lot, but as for Harry, I found him to be static and boring - which, I suppose, is fitting, considering how things end up. Also,

while I was able to believe in Josie and Sam's love for each other, I still am at a loss to see the attraction between Kate and Harry. While they seemed fond of each other and at the end are clearly in love, their love seemed to just sort of happen. There was very little development of it. There wasn't much for Josie and Sam, either, but given their backgrounds, it's easier to believe that there was simply always a latent attraction there and they finally just caved to it. 

(show spoiler)

 

In all honesty, this book wasn't terrible - which is why I gave it 3.5 stars. It was okay and I actually did like reading it. But it didn't sweep me away and I doubt that I'll re-read it - it was only okay. I appreciate that, as in The Best of Daughters, Dilly Court refrained from including random sex scenes. I believe that she created a classier romance novel as a result, and in that aspect, this is reminiscent of the British classic romances such as Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre. As was the case in works such as those, there is no need in The Lady's Maid for Court to delve into graphic details - she's able to convey love and affection in a tasteful manner. I also liked the storyline with Boy, though I wish that more had been done with it. There truly were some good things about this book. Unfortunately, there just weren't enough to save The Lady's Maid from mediocrity. 

 

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book from NetGalley, but in no way did this impact my review.