In introducing County Chronicle, I find it impossible to avoid spoilers for those who have not read the previous book, The Old Bank House. So, beware.
The novel begins where the previous one left off, if not slightly before that, with Lucy Marling wondering how her parents are going to take her engagement to Sam Adams, the wealthy older ironmonger who is not from her class. They take it comparatively well. It is her beloved brother Oliver who tries to flatten her excitement with his disapproval, so that Lucy realizes for the first time how selfish he is.
Speaking of selfish men, Francis Brandon is now happily married, but he’s been taking his mother for granted and is even rude to her. His mild-mannered wife Peggy is distressed by it but doesn’t have the courage to say anything. Others are beginning to notice, and Mrs. Brandon realizes it was a mistake for them all to live together.
Isabel Dale, a cousin of Robin Dale, takes a job with Mrs. Marling to help her with Lucy’s wedding and stays on to help her with her correspondence. She also sometimes helps Oliver with his book.
Although the Barsetshire set have tended to stay away from the Omnium Castle crowd, Francis and Peggy Brandon have been spending time there doing amateur theatrics with Lady Cora and Lord Silverbridge, the Duke’s heir. We find the ducal family impoverished but very nice. Eventually, Isabel and Oliver are introduced to the family by Roddy Wickham.
Although I didn’t like this one quite so much as The Old Bank House, it was still good. Several characters’ problems are resolved in a satisfying way, and the two romances are as sweet as they are understated.