First published in 1876, My Own Child explores Florence Marryat’s preoccupations with Spiritualism, Catholicism, and maternal love. The novel is dedicated to her second child, Ethel Maude Church, later Mrs Edmund Alpe:
To my own child, Ethel Maud Alpe, and to her husband, Edmund Nicholas Alpe, I offer this faint reflection of a feeling impressed on my heart in colours which neither time nor circumstance will have the power to fade.
Katharine Arundel elopes with her wealthy Irish lover, Hugh Power, against their families’ wishes. When Hugh dies of typhoid fever, he leaves behind a young pregnant widow who is at the mercy of her scheming in-laws. After the birth they take control of baby Mary, who is to be heir to their great fortune. Despite their interference, the bond between Katherine and Mary becomes ever stronger.
When a neighbour, Lord Eustace, starts paying attention to Katharine, Mary becomes intensely jealous, begging her never to remarry. Katharine reluctantly agrees, rejecting her suitor, who receives the news with decidedly ill grace. She visits Paris in order to relive the memories of her honeymoon, where Hugh appears to her as an angel in a powerful vision, telling her that she made the right decision, but warning that a disastrous fate will befall someone close to her.
When Mary comes of age, Lord Eustace quickly courts her, encouraged by Lady Power, who sees him as an advantageous match. Katharine is appalled, but powerless to act. The marriage goes ahead, with disastrous consequences. Lord Eustace is unfaithful and physically abuses his young wife. When a furious Katharine confronts him, he explains that his behaviour is revenge for her having rejected him. The abuse continues, and eventually he tells Mary the reason why he married her. She escapes from his clutches, only to die in her mother’s arms.