“Elizabeth, know your place. Poor relatives can’t afford the luxuries of price or anger. Be meek, bend your head, say thank you, take what they offer.”

New York City, 1914. Elizabeth Meredith should have had it all, but her father was more interested in the arts than running the family shipping business and got himself disinherited. Years later with her parents dead, Elizabeth takes the lowly position of housekeeper so she can still take care of the Meredith family home and give it the loving attention she feels it deserves. The treatment she receives is as miserable as her pay, but when cousin William brings home a very young and beautiful new bride things start looking up – Judith seems like nothing more than a fairy godmother. Or does Judith have an ulterior motive for buttering up poor cousin Elizabeth? Yes she does, but that big ole’ betrayal just might come with a hefty price tag as there’s no messing around with poor cousin Elizabeth and her goal in life of getting back some of that family money for herself.

I’ll not spoil by going further, but this was a lot of fun and there were some wickedly funny moments along with the sad ones (oh, that use of the hatpin on the condoms in hopes of an unexpected pregnancy). Elizabeth is very much one of those do what needs to be done kind of characters, so there are times you may not exactly agree with her actions, but I sure did enjoy waiting to see what she’d pull off next. The characters were well-developed (even the secondary ones – loved Aunt Van), and it was very interesting watching Elizabeth’s changing relationship with cousin William from that of mutual hatred to eventual respect and maybe even a bit of family fondness? No worries, there’s still William’s nasty nasty son Alan to deal with if he ever ends up in charge of the family business…

“Tough, Elizabeth thought, but one cannot afford mink and an oak coffin on the same day.”

Don’t mess with cousin Elizabeth, whatever you do. Just don’t.

 4/5 stars.