The heiress Aurora Floyd is the apple of her elderly father’s eye. At 19, she is dark and high-spirited, with a flashing eye and an air of pride. She has just returned from finishing school in Paris when Captain Talbot Bulstrode notices her.
From a family that prides itself on its blemishless past, Bulstrode is looking for a pure and wholesome wife. He is disdainful of Aurora’s interest in horses and racing. Altogether, he feels he would like his wife to be more like her cousin, Lucy Floyd. Nevertheless, he can’t take his eyes off Aurora even though there seems to be a shadow over her.
Aurora has another admirer, John Mellish, a large, bluff Yorkshireman who worships her at first sight. In the beginning, Aurora pays little attention to either man. Then she seems to favor Captain Bulstrode.
Aurora has a secret, however, that will threaten her happy future. It is not a difficult secret for the reader to guess, but when a murder is committed, she finds that it must come out.
Mary Elizabeth Braddon was a writer of popular Victorian sensation novels, combining melodrama, intense emotion, and crime. Her best-known work is Lady Audley’s Secret, so if you are familiar with that, you know what to expect. The story evokes some true suspense, and the main characters are either likable or despicable, as intended. Occasionally, Braddon departs into little lectures, some of them loaded with literary allusions. They reminded me of some of Dickens’s writing, only I found them a little cumbersome and overbearing. Still, this novel is readable and generally moves forward at a good pace. I enjoyed it.