This novella is part of Milan’s Worth Saga but it’s been long enough since I read any of the other novels or novellas in the series that I honestly couldn’t remember these characters from the other books. All I knew going in was that it followed two older/elderly women, and I had made an assumption about who one of the characters might be based on After the Wedding, but I was incorrect.
Miss Violet Beauchamps has devoted her life to managing a rooming house for the Toggert family, and the owner has fired her, only a few months from when he would owe her a life long pension. He uses lowered profits as an excuse but those profit issues are because he wouldn’t let her kick out a useless tenant who doesn’t pay his bills. Mr. Toggert was playing (and failing) a long game because the useless tenant is the lone heir to a large fortune.
As a result of her situation, Miss Beauchamps decides to take a gamble, and visit the aunt of this heir, Robert Cappish, to claim his debt by posing as the owner of the boarding house. After all, it’s not as if the owner was ever going to collect the money, and he owes her for a life of devoted service. Unfortunately for Miss Beauchamps, Mrs. Bertrice Martin hates her nephew and has already lost patience with paying his bills years ago. In fact she refuses to refer to him by name, and only calls him “the Terrible Nephew.”
However, after some thought, Mrs. Martin decides that it might be worth paying her nephew’s bill if she can also go to London and make his life miserable for a while for using her name quite so freely. The novella includes a series of more and more absurd inconveniences that the women plan for the Terrible Nephew.
However, while the advanced pranks against the nephew are funny, much of the novella is also contemplative as the two women reflect on their lives, as women and eventually elderly women. They have always been ignored, judged by their looks, deemed insignificant, and society’s ability to disregard them and their importance has only become worse with age. While the women are from very different social statuses, and don’t share all the same fears, they have seen their value diminished again and again because of gender and then age and gender.
Overall, I enjoyed this novella, but it felt like a bit of a stand alone to me because as I mentioned I could not remember how they related to the main series. However, in addition to following a family/characters, Milan has very much been using this series to explore people who have been told by society that they have no worth, and show that they do, and within that, the novella is very much on theme with the rest of the saga.