Miss Million’s MaidOctober 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.