In this novel there's trouble at t' mill. Robert, the mill owner is forced to lay-off some employees, and there are threats against him. Meanwhile, little orphan Caroline comes to live with her uncle the Reverend Helstone - if you can believe that. Sounds like a cuss word. She falls for Robert greatly and gets sick when she thinks he's for someone else. She also becomes great friends with a fellow orphan, now wealthy girl about town, Shirley. Note that this was in an era when Shirley was a man's name. I know what you're thinking: Surely, you're Joe King? I jest ye not.
Anyway, Shirley tries to help the laid-off mill workers both out of charity and out of fear for Robert's life. Caroline thus imagines Shirley and Robert ending-up together in a tryst and it's too much for her poor fluttering heart to bear. Thus are the comings and goings which ramble on forever, but of course Caroline weds Robert in the end.
It's really a redux of Jane Eyre, with a few details changed, and nowhere near as entertaining. Robert ain't Rochester. He's more like Gravesend, which is northeast of Rochester, but still in the same county of Kent. I grew utterly bored with Bob the Blunderer in the first twenty percent and ditched it. Caroline is no Jane. I can't commend it based on the tedious portion I mistakenly subjected myself to.