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Miss Million’s Maid

October 5, 2010

Well, I’ve found something I like, and it is terrible.

I suspect Miss Million’s Maid is the kind of book written for servant girls and such, although my only reason for thinking that is that the writing feels sort of cheap somehow. And then, Berta Ruck’s portrayal of the actual servant girl character isn’t terribly flattering. But hey, I have no idea what I’m talking about, so whatever.

Beatrice Lovelace and her Aunt Anastasia are the descendants of a ridiculously aristocratic family, but they have no money. And Aunt Anastasia is the snobbiest of snobs, so, because they can’t afford to associate with their own class, she won’t allow Beatrice to associate with anyone at all. The only people Beatrice speaks to are the maid, Million, and the attractive man who lives next door, who Aunt Anastasia insists must be a bounder and a cad, mainly because he lives in their neighborhood. Beatrice really wants someone to die and leave her a lot of money, but when someone in the house does inherit a fortune, it’s Nellie Million.

Million — Beatrice keeps forgetting to add “Miss” a the beginning — has no idea what to do with her money, so Beatrice becomes her lady’s maid, to the horror of Aunt Anastasia. She helps Million buy the right clothes. move to the right hotel, etc., but she can’t stop her from quickly falling in with a bad crowd — vulgar comedienne Vi Vassity, impoverished Irish younger son James Burke, a Jew (horrors!) and various other inappropriate people.

The Honorable James Burke, in particular, is very obviously a fortune hunter, although his personal inclination is more towards Beatrice than her employer. Beatrice, though, has another suitor to worry about — Reginald Brace, her boy next door, turns out to be the manager of the bank where Miss Million has opened an account. He quickly loses the sense of humor I thought he had and develops a passionate desire to take Beatrice away from her offensive surroundings.

Additional complications arrive in the form of a jewel robbery — Miss Million and Beatrice are the main suspects for fairly inadequate reasons  — and Miss Million’s American cousin Hiram Jessup — he has come to England  either to marry Miss Million, or, if that doesn’t work, to attempt to legally deprive her of her fortune. Meanwhile, Miss Million has fallen in love with Jim Burke, who continues to flirt with Beatrice whenever possible. It’s hard to blame her, though — Miss Million, I mean — because it’s very difficult not to like Jim Burke.

It’s a fun read, although the writing seemed lazy at times, and I still don’t understand why a Cockney girl brought up in an orphanage is so much more naive than a girl who has been reared in near-seclusion by a spinster aunt. I have other quibbles, too, but none of them really got in the way of my enjoyment of the book. It’s fluffy and silly, and one of those books that pretend to be enlightened about class issues but aren’t at all, and everyone ends up pretty happy, except for a rejected suitor and some people standing inconveniently in the way of a title.

I’m pretty sure Miss Million’s Maid has no literary merit whatsoever, but that’s no reason not to read it.

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3 comments

  1. Although this was a rather silly book, it was fun and sometimes that’s all I want in a story. It certainly was ridiculous and, as you said, the character’s of Beatrice and Million didn’t really make sense – one thing that annoyed me was how Beatrice kept going out alone with the various young men and then being surprised at other’s reactions although I think that was more plot device to create romantic misunderstanding than anything else.

    I did enjoy how the relationship between the two women changed in some respects over the course of the novel. I think it would have been dull if Million had simply been transformed into a more conventional heiress. My other favorite bits were the romance and Jim and how the narrator seemed to know she was in love and yet be in denial and of course her ideas of happiness with Reginald Brace… Also, her initial horror coming to the Refuge had me smiling. The bit about the acquisition of the title at the end was a bit unfortunate – again it felt more like an excuse for a funny line than anything else.

    I just finished reading another book by the same author called “A Land Girl’s Love Story” out of curiosity. I found it better in some aspects but overall at about the same level. I did end up learning more about the war effort at home in England and the Land Girls, of which I had never heard about, and I thought Berta Ruck had some interesting ideas about masculine and feminine characteristics. I’m not sure if I would recommend it exactly or not. It was enjoyable, but mostly in the same way Miss Million’s Maid was, so “no reason not to read it” if you want that kind of story.


    • There’s definitely something to be said for good, simple fun. This one very narrowly escaped being too bad for me to be able to relax with it, but it did escape, and that’s what counts. I’m glad you enjoyed it, and I’ll keep an eye out for the land girl one.


  2. It’s up here: http://www.archive.org/stream/alandgirlsloves00ruckgoog#page/n8/mode/2up



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