The novel is a rather grim (“pale” according to Henry James) study of a single woman’s attempt at self-fulfilment on the lower borders of the class of “gentlemen”.
Margaret Mackenzie has spent her life until the age of 35 nursing her father and brother, both of whom have lived restricted and selfish lives as minor civil servants. The death of her brother leaves her with a comfortable fortune and she decides to use it to live more enjoyably and, if possible, get married. Rather than stay in London with her other brother Tom, a slowly failing shopkeeper, she takes charge of one of her nieces and moves to the spa of Littlebath, thus setting up the one satisfying and useful relationship in the book and escaping her …
Shaw, Philip. "Miss Mackenzie". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 14 June 2007
[http://www.litencyc.com/php/sworks.php?rec=true&UID=3565, accessed 21 February 2017.]