Original date of publication:1891
My edition: 1987 (Virago)
Why I decided to read: LibraryThing recommendation
How I acquired my copy: Awesomebooks, February 2011
The Three Miss Kings of the title are Elizabeth, Patty and Eleanor, three young women from provincial Victoria, Australia. After their parents die, the three sisters move to Melbourne, chaperoned by one of society’s matrons, who, having no children of her own, adopts the girls as her own. While in Melbourne, the sisters become acquainted with Paul Brion, a newspaperman towards whom Patty instantly develops antagonism. The novel follows the girls through a year in their lives as they deal with the ins and outs of Melbourne society—developing, as they do so, romantic interests.
It’s a novel based on the classic Victorian sensationalist format; these books invariably have a case of hidden identity, a thorny legal problem, and a “will they or won’t they get together?” romantic storyline. This novel has all three of them, including a family mystery. Ada Cambridge’s style is less refined than, say, Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s, but she’s a good storyteller, and even though I thought I knew in the back of my mind what was going to happen, I was still a bit surprised. Still, there was a bit of predictablility to the plot; anyone can see from a mile away that Paul and Patty will end up together. Also, everything is wrapped up nice and neatly at the end; almost too nicely and neatly. The ending is typically Victorian, too; not many women today would make the exact same choices that the King sisters do (or they would make them for different reasons).
Cambridge is skilled at drawing characters; there’s a strong delineation between the three sisters, although poor Eleanor gets short-changed in favor of her more interesting sisters. Amonst the love interests, I thought Kingscote Yelverton was a bit of a bore. Paul Brion is the real hero of the story, and his relationship with Patty is the most interesting of the three romances in this book. Another favorite character of mine was Mrs. Duff-Scott, the society matron who adopts the King sisters, a true mother even if she has no children of her own to lavish affection on. The novel was interesting to me also as an example of Australian literature, and how Melbourne society tried to hard to emulate European ideals and interests; sometimes while reading the book, I forgot that it was set in Australia! This is an enjoyable novel, but rather quaint.