This novel is the last in the Clare Crofton series, and is a sequel to Lucy Crofton. After the tribulations described in the previous novel, Clare is enjoying life again - especially marriage and motherhood. Her little boy, now turning seven, is amusingly portrayed with his own very distinctive personality.
There are however worries, especially of two young people she loves: Bertie, currently serving in India in dangerous situations; and Alice, who has been drooping, and at the age of 27 has turned from love matters to women's issues. Alice won't admit that she still thinks of Bertie, and it is not clear whether he still thinks of her.
Biographical and other notes
Alice personifies the first wave of feminism sweeping Britain and America (though the term "feminism" was not yet coined), with her "new-fangled notions" and her conviction that rather than marrying for the sake of a home, women could use their abilities to forge their own way. The character Clare views Alice's interest as a temporary fad. However lest it appear that Margaret Oliphant was anti-feminist, it should be noted that she had recently written Mrs Clifford's Marriage, which makes a strong case for women's rights, specifically for a married woman's right to her own property.
For more information on Margaret Oliphant's evolving views, see the theme "Women's Issues" below.
Clare's little boy Derwie is probably based on Mrs Oliphant's eldest son Cyril, who was the same age as Derwie at the time she was writing this novel.