Wilkie Collins is justly famous for his works "The Woman in White" and "The Moonstone". He wrote many other novels, perhaps not as great but some worth reading by folks who enjoyed the above two titles. And since they are all pre-copyright (originally published before 1923), anyone can read the digitized novel online, for free.
I picked one of the author's novels at random: "Man and Wife". Once again Wilkie Collins turns out vibrant character portraits that compel the reader forward. The plot structure itself is not always so intriguing. We get quite an earful on the poor state of Scottish marriage law as it existed in the 19th century. There is also considerable argument over whether young gentlemen of the era spent too much time at athletic and gaming endeavors, at the expense of their moral and intellectural development.
What is really interesting is the author's devotion to the plight of women in regards to marriage. An unmarried woman could be exposed to scandal and denied lodging just for traveling alone. A married woman was subject to the abuse of her husband. Only women with money of their own or rich relatives/friends could escape from a bad marriage. (Wilkie Collins didn't adhere to the Puritanical standards of the time in his personal life and it's obvious he doesn't care much for hypocritical and empty ceremony.)
As to the story: two young women, the best of friends, become separated over an unfortunate series of events. One is seduced, effectively deserted, and tricked into being "married", or at least the appearance of being married, to the other woman's fiance. Are they really married? Will the seducer be brought to heel? There is a horribly delightful Deus Ex Machina in this story which brings a delightfuly horrible yet satisfying conclusion.
Warning: there is some sexist discourse sprinkled here and there. The racist portrayal of a minor character makes a brief appearance. It's unfortunate, but books of this era sometimes need a little nose-holding on the part of the reader.
I wouldn't call "Man and Wife" the best novel ever written. But if you're looking for a nice 19th century novel to spend time on, the conclusions for several characters and Collins' delightful writing style make for an entertaining read.
There are several places to find the novel online:
Or, you can check out volumes 3 & 4 of The Works of Wilkie Collins, PR 4490.W6.
Image taken from Hathi Trust 1870 edition, p. 32.