As I was reading this book I found myself getting extremely irritated at times with the ways in which the characters, male and female, just sort of assumed second class status for women as a given. Nobody batted an eye at the men throwing their weight (and orders) about the place in ways that made me want to brick em. In fact often the characters seemed to rather like the posturing of the big manly men with their big manly ways. For awhile I thought I was going to downgrade it a star for the sake of that annoyance.
But in the end I actually liked the heroine more for her humor and determination in the face of a world that casually assumes she is born to play a supporting role in her own life. I found myself transported into a time and place when just about everybody has it tough in one way or another, and nobody fusses much about it. They just get on with pursuing whatever goals they have set themselves, and deal with people as they find them.
I also just love the way Mary Stewart writes about the countryside her characters inhabit. Its not obtrusive, she doesn't go off for pages and pages of lyrical description, but the book is firmly anchored in a particlar place with particular plants, weather, animals, buildings all described with real affection and understanding.