According to Netgalley’s info page for The Lady’s Maid Dilly Court is one of several British authors whose ebooks were made available in the US for the first time in 2013 as part of Random House UK’s international marketing platform Great British Reads.
I got hooked on trying one of Dilly Court’s three Netgalley novels because the email invite suggested that her writing might appeal to viewers of the immensely popular British TV series Downton Abbey. I have been an avid viewer of the show since series/season 3, so I read the descriptions and chose The Lady’s Maid as sounding the most interesting.
Josie and Kate were born on the same day, but they couldn’t have grown up more differently. Josie is the only pampered daughter of the noble Damerells; Kate has grown up the daughter of a farm labourer/stable man. Somehow they have been friends throughout their childhood, but as the girls reach adulthood love and the stresses of the class divide strain their friendship. The past also simply waits to reveal itself, and the truth of each girl’s heritage could change everything.
If I could pick one word to describe Dilly Court’s writing style it would be “warm.” Even the harshest circumstances felt like the literary equivalent of a fuzzy bathrobe. It’s the type of writing and story that never inspired great emotional highs or lows because I trusted that somehow everything would work out for both Kate and Josie in the end. For me I definitely would classify The Lady’s Maid as a comfort read because of my sense that the world would be set to rights even if I couldn’t see the solution immediately. I don’t see a direct corollary to Downton Abbey though except that it shows the class divide between the nobles and peasants in Britain. However, I could see an argument calling the writing a blend of Jane Austen’s class commentary with the modern take presented in Downton.
My only real complaint with the book is that Kate came across as overly good throughout most of the plot while Josie often was too wild and petty. It didn’t help that Kate is blond and fair i.e. angelic while Josie is described as having dark hair and being darker complected due to her Romany heritage. Admittedly, a lot of Josie’s bad behaviour is the direct result of being overly indulged by her parents and never having to care for herself. It still got a little old when Kate acted in a particularly saintly way while Josie was completely thoughtless and without regard for consequences. The truth about each girl’s background almost seemed to imply that the upper classes were all restrained innocence while the lower classes were naturally hoydens.
Overall, I liked The Lady’s Maid and finished it quite quickly, but it’s not a book that I want to read repeatedly. It’s the type of thing I would reach for when I want a comfort read to soothe my emotions and mind. At the same time I think the warm milk quality of the story will appeal to many readers who don’t want to be put through the emotional wringer. Yes, there is a happy ending, and sometimes that’s all a reader asks for.
4 Significant Engagement Rings out of 5