Wonderfully entertaining stuff - this is essentially a pre-television soap opera, much like the novels of Dickens or George Eliot.
The essentials of the story are as follows: our hero is a young painter hired as tutor to a young heiress. The lady in question is remarkably pretty, innocent, sweet-tempered (etc etc) and inevitably our hero falls for her hook, line & sinker. Needless to say the path of true love doesn't run smoothly and not only are they separated, but the heiress is subject to the wicked plots of marvellously nefarious villains.
Sounds cheesy as anything, I know; but the story is fast paced, convoluted and frequently (intentionally!) very funny. Because Collins employs a first person narrative technique, telling his tale through one character's diary then another one's letters, we are allowed an insight into the thoughts and speech patterns of a wide range of characters. Some of them are downright hilarious - particularly our heroine's outrageously camp uncle. As so often happens, it is the secondary (and indeed bit-part) characters who are the most entertaining - the fabulous Marianne (just wait till you read that initial description of her appearance! The contrast between standards of beauty now & then is remarkable...although granted it sounds like she needed immac for that top lip of hers) and the indomitable Count with his pet white mice scampering around, to name my two favourites - and undoubtedly your own. What are you waiting for?