The ladies of Priorsford, "a busy, brisk community" in the Scottish Borders, pay calls on one another, knit socks, make marmalade, buy pan drops in Miss Smart's sweetshop, and live in rooms full of books and flowers with views over the Tweed valley and the hills at their backs. Much as in Cranford or Tilling, their days are passed in habitual fashion with newcomers ever a talking point and little to properly ruffle feathers; that said, they are not blind to the concerns of the wider world, and even douce Priorsford cannot keep misfortune at bay, but the reader knows from the off that all will be well in the end for that is the kind of good-hearted book O. Douglas's* novel is.
Lady Bidborough, formerly young Jean Jardine, has come back to spend the winter in her family home. Her husband has taken an invalid friend abroad to aid his convalescence, so Jean and her children leave the splendours of their Cotswolds mansion for the plainer comforts of The Rigs in Priorsford where housekeeper Mrs. McCosh ministers to them, and old friends welcome steadfast Jean's company once more. "There's something finer than the ordinary about [Jean]; a gentleness that goes right through, a deep clear sincerity, and with it, a great sense of the ridiculous, and a liking for the queer waifs of life ...". With the help of her secretary Miss Barton she has an inherited fortune to manage, that is, to give away to deserving cases and causes, but her absent husband and her small children are her main concerns and the source of her delight in life, and as such her hostages to fortune.
Little happens in Priorsford and pleasure is taken in the simpler things, whether a good walk on a blithe and bonny day, or a heartening talk with a wise old friend, but the novel doesn't set out to be anything other than a charming portrait on a small scale and it's none the worse for that. One character, novelist Mirren Strang, writes "pleasant books with a Scots flavour", "the sort of books you'd leave on the table if you expected the vicar to call". How like the author herself Mrs. Strang is I couldn't say, but the description of her work fits this novel perfectly, and I'm glad to have read O. Douglas at last.
*Greyladies currently publish two of her works.