The Disgrace of Kitty Grey
By Mary Hooper
Published by Bloomsbury
ISBN 978 1 4088 2761 1
Mary Hooper is a popular writer of soft-centred, light historical fiction for readers who like the past passed through a niceness filter. This is history with well-defined young heroes and heroines who know their place in a romantic tale where virtue will surely win out over villainy.
Kitty Grey works as a dairymaid, milking cows and churning butter in the dairy of Bridgeford Hall, the aristocratic mansion of Lord Baysmith and his family. Her life is quite comfortable because His Lordship is a master who looks after his staff well.
We are in the English countryside at the beginning of the 19th century. A female writer called Jane Austen has just published a novel called Pride and Prejudice that is all the rage with aristocratic young ladies who have been taught how to read, like Sophia and Alice, Lord Baysford's daughters.
Kitty looks up to the sisters, who have had so many chances she's been denied. In some ways, this makes the maid a much nicer person. But disgrace is waiting just around the corner.
Kitty falls in love with handsome Will, the young ferryman who takes passengers from one side of the river near Bridgeford Hall to the other. All is going very well, with loving glances and coy smiles exchanged whenever they meet.
But one day, Will disappears. Kitty knows he has gone to London to seek fame and fortune; but how can he have just upped and left without asking her to join him?
When Kitty is asked to go to London on an errand for the family, she jumps at the chance to track down Will. She has no idea that London is a city teeming with people and danger, and that she has as much chance of finding Will as she does of finding a needle in a haystack.
As soon as she arrives, Kitty falls victim to pickpockets who spot the naive country girl and steal her money and belongings. Kitty has lost her only means of getting home and now faces a terrifying future, trying to survive in dark and dangerous London.
The Disgrace of Kitty Grey is a quick and undemanding read that dishes up the right amounts of history, adventure and romance for readers who like this sort of thing. Hooper writes to her own successful formula, and while the ending is a little bit hard to believe, even by Hooper's standards, Kitty's quest to find her loved one does offer some gentle thrills along the way.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com