Charlotte Mary Yonge (1823 - 1901) was an immensely prolific author, producing around 90 novels, plus writing or editing 150 biographies, textbooks, (natural) history books and translations. Many of her books were bestsellers in their day, and apparently she "is cited more times than Jane Austen in the Oxford English Dictionary’s most quoted female sources (sixth overall, with George Eliot top of the list)." (I found this information, as well as pictures of Miss Yonge, her house and the room where most of her writing took place, here. She is said to have been held in high esteem by Anthony Trollope and Lewis Carroll, Virginia Woolf and Barbara Pym, among others.
"Henrietta's Wish; or, Domineering" was published in 1853 and is very much a typical example of Victorian girls' literature. If you can't stand constant reference to Christian morals, you better not read this book. But if you like family stories about friendship, and how different members of a family deal with changes in their lives, and don't mind the (to our ears) rather silly-sounding dialogues that sometimes go on a bit, you'll probably enjoy this book. (Mine was of course a free kindle-edition.)
In short, Henrietta and her twin brother Frederick grow up fatherless, but with no financial worries. Their mother was widowed one week after their birth, and saw only one way of coping with the untimely loss of her beloved husband: moving away from the village where everyone and everything reminded her of their happy years together.
The book starts when the twins are sixteen, and Henrietta makes it her goal to have the three of them move back to the heart of the family, much against her mother's wish at first. Eventually, she succeeds, and involuntarily sets in motion a chain of events that lead to much unhappiness, some danger and even death.
Until the more dramatic events begin to unfold (more than halfway through the book), all seems bright and beautiful: the twins get along greatly with their cousins, like their aunts and uncles and are very fond of their grandparents. Their mother seems to settle in well, and takes interest in buying a house in the village and having it renovated for them. The plan is to stay at the big house with her parents-in-law until their own place is ready.
In the meantime, there are walks, visits, ice-skating, charades, church-decorating, singing and all sorts of innocent entertainment deemed appropriate for young people from wealthy families. The boys have school matters to discuss, and the girls are forever rushing upstairs to fetch their bonnets before going out.
I must confess I was getting a bit bored with all the merry-making (of course sprinkled with moralistic hints all the time), but then an accident happens that changes things for everyone involved.
From then on, I began to care a bit about the characters. Sometimes, I would have liked to shake them and scream at them for being so set in their Victorian narrow-mindedness.
Altogether, the story left me with mixed feelings. I do agree with many of the values Miss Yonge outlines, but I can not abide the moralizing.
By the way: you are still very welcome to contribute to our blovel!