200 pages in and Shirley finally showed up. She's a rich heiress who likes to think of herself as a "he"- shades of Vita Sackville West- which makes her sound more interesting than she actually is. She and the insipid heroine have just spent a couple of long chapters failing to pass the Bechtel test. They've both obsessed with the very dull hero- the good-hearted mill-owner who treats his workers like dirt but is kind to cats.
Bronte is in the grip of second novel syndrome. She set out to write something gritty and political but it's not really her style and she's lapsed back into romance. And now she's treading water, killing time, noodling; there are three volumes to fill and she's got nothing much to say.