Bertha M. Clay Fetters of Fire (London: Robert Hale & Co.; n.d. [c.1937])
Bertha M. Clay is a pseudonym of Charlotte M. Brame (1836-1884) although it was also used by other writers and this potboiler certainly seems to be one of those hundreds (!) of books issued under the pseudonym. There's a nice bit on the various Clay suspects in the New York Times of 1914. If I had to guess, I'd say Fetters of Fire was from around 1910 but there are no absolute giveaways. I can't see it in any catalogues before 1912 and this edition seems to be from sometime in the later 1930s. It is an ex-library copy which happily retains a bit of glued on dust-jacket:
In a fit of foolhardiness the heroine Margaret Thornton marries the dastardly George Aston, despite not liking him and, indeed, despite saying this when he asks for her hand:
I don't think I even liked you, Mr. Aston. To be perfectly truthful, I was rather afraid of you, and avoided you. A clergyman's daughter, placed as I am, has remarkable experiences. My father is too poor to pay a curate, and a great deal of the out-door work devolves upon me. I have heard of you among the workers, and you are well hated everywhere. A hard and cruel man they call you. And once I saw you beat a horse unmercifully. It was I who wrote to the Prevention of Cruelty authorities.
Of course, Aston is a thorough brute ("To my mind he's got the face of a murderer"), and jealous, and the rest of the book describes the lengths Margaret must go to escape these "fetters of fire" which bind her to the odious Aston. Divorce is nigh impossible for a wronged woman of this era.
I'll break you -- I'll smash you -- ruin you and your family -- in a social sense. And she shall feel the full force of my hatred and vengeance.
Margaret flees to an old school-friend in London who is by far the most interesting character in the book: Edith Janson, a self-sufficient lady journalist who specialises in interviewing celebrities. She has "never yet seen the man for whom I would give up my freedom, and glorious independence." Quirkily, in another scene we read that, "Long practice had given her the agility of a man in jumping from moving vehicles".
Luckily for Margaret, Edith interviews the celebrated engineer and inventor Patrick Ward who needs a "refined young lady to be a companion to my little daughter" and Margaret is dispatched to the safety of the countryside. Patrick Ward also has secrets and the household includes a mysterious mad wife, a devious Indian ayah, a handful of loquacious old servants and the child Dolly. And how the coincidences pile up: Patrick has had unfortunate business dealings with the crooked Aston. Will Patrick defeat his enemy and regain his wealth? Can Margaret hide her attraction for Patrick ("She had the usual subtlety of women, and her powers of intuition revealed something deep down in her heart which filled her with sorrow and dismay")? What will happen when Aston finds his runaway bride? Whose child is Dolly really? Why do madwomen always have access to deadly weapons? Why don't people slap the thoroughly irritating heroine when she faints all the time?
I swear that there shall be no divorce, Margaret Aston... I coveted you months since -- I laid little traps to win you; I won you, and I am going to keep you. You are a desirable woman, Margaret, and I admire your splendid spirit. You are not one of those wishy-washy creatures to be broken into subjection...
A strangely addictive load of tripe.