This fifth novel in the Barsetshire chronicles has, as often with Trollope, an almost stupefyingly simple plot: Lily Dale is courted by the 'swell' Adolphus Crosbie who then, not one month after their engagement, drops her for the daughter of an earl. Lily is heartbroken but resolves she still loves Adolphus and therefore can accept no other man, even though a much worthier man soon presents himself in the person of John Eames.
In a nutshell, that's all there is to it. But, as also always seems the case with Trollope, out of this simple plot he weaves a beautiful tale that keeps you turning pages although nothing much really happens (definitely not by today's standards). How so? For starters, Trollope is a master at analyzing and describing the thoughts and emotions of his characters (most of them ordinary people like you and me), which makes them leap of the page like real-life people you know in the flesh and, often as not, you find yourself identifying with one or more of the main characters, wishing them well and hoping they'll succeed in their endeavours as if they were your own. In this case too, although you know from the start that nothing will come of it, you cannot help but hope that Lily will give up her stubborn behaviour and accept the man that truly loves her.
Secondly, altough in this case the main plot gives little room for mirth Trollope does introduce quite a lot of humour by means of the various subplots and secondary characters (the head-gardener Hopkins for instance, or earl De Guest). It's rarely the laugh-out-loud kind of humour (although there's a few hilarious scenes) but mostly rather subtle, which makes it none the less effective.
Last but not least, Trollope writes in a very fluent, easy style, describing everything in plain everyday language which makes it all the more 'real' and accessible. And for the odd reference to classical literature or other you can simply refer to the excellent notes at the end.
All in all, a very satisfying experience even though there's no happy end, making me start the sixth and last novel in the series ('The Last Chronicle of Barset') with that most odd mixture of feelings: happy to begin a new book that you know will be good, and simultaneously sad knowing it's the last in the series!