Like so many, I found out about this wonderful, but more obscure, writer through the BBC miniseries recently made of her works. And after falling in love with Richard Armitage's portrayal of John Thornton, I decided I must read the book.
Granted, Gaskell's writing is on a different level from better known 19th-century, female authors such as Austen and the Brontë sisters, but nonetheless, this novel is a wonderful piece of writing many contemporary romance authors would struggle to write. The characters are as nuanced as any of Austen's and includes a more rounded view of Milton's society since it incorporates the problems of the lower class. Whereas Austen tends to disregard the working class, Gaskell's Margareth Hale interacts with them.