The book was written in the 1860s. Trollope was a contemporary of Dickens.
Lady Mason is a widow living her twenty one year old son, Lucius. Twenty years earlier, she was tried, and aquitted, of forging her husband's will to gain some property for her infant son. She has lived a blameless highly respectable life ever since. Her neighbors and friends are Sir Peregrine Orme, a wealthy nobleman, and his widowed daughter in law, whose son is the same age as Lucius. The trouble begins when Lucius arrogantly threatens to displace a tenant from one of Lady Mason's farms. The tenant goes to Lady Mason's stepson, also Lucius' half brother, with evidence that Lady Mason did forge the will all those years ago. The stepson who hates Lady Mason then obtains a prosecution against her. Then the question is, will she acquitted or convicted and she and her son forever disgraced.
In the meantime, Sir Peregrine has fallen in love with Lady Mason. His peers think he has disgraced himself because although she is a lady she is of a lower class, while Sir Peregrine is of a very old family. On top of everything else, there is the coming trial? Will his love survive the revelations of the trial?
Sir Peregrine's grandson is also in love with a beautiful young lady, as if one of the lawyers defending Lady Mason. Will the young lady choose the rich aristocrat or the poor but intelligent and ambitious attorney.
Trollope's style is wordy but easy to read at the same time. A little slow going at first, but ultimately fascinating. It is part fascinating psychological study of the effects of suspicion on Lady Mason. Another part is about love and love versus honor. The third part is about the legal structure of England, about how it is not necessarily designed to find the truth. Readers will be impressed with how much the system them is like the system in the US today.
This report prepared by Fenella