The Making of a Marchioness (Persephone Book No. 29) by Frances Hodgson Burnett of The Secret Garden fame is my quickest read this year: I started it Saturday afternoon and finished it around 1:30 this morning.
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this. It's written in 2 books and my initial thought was that the happy ending of Book 1 would have sufficed perfectly, but Book 2 grew on me. I was rather impatient with it at first because of Emily's naive, almost stupid innocence but the intrigue and plots resulted in a very satisfying happily-ever-after.
From the website:
Part I, the original Marchioness, is in the Cinderella (and Miss Pettigrew) tradition, while Part II, called The Methods of Lady Walderhurst, is an absorbing melodrama; most novels end 'and they lived happily ever after' but this one develops into a realistic commentary on late-Victorian marriage. 'Delightful... A sparky sense of humour combined with lively social commentary make this a joy to read' wrote the Bookseller. Kate Saunders told Open Book listeners that she was up until two in the morning finishing this 'wildly romantic tale whose hero and heroine are totally unromantic' (Daily Telegraph); the Guardian referred to 'a touch of Edith Wharton's stern unsentimentality'; the Spectator wrote about the novel's 'singular charm'; and the Daily Mail stressed the 'sharp observations in this charming tale.'