I enjoyed Dombey and Son, although i wouldn't say i loved it. I put it in the same category as Little Dorit, Nicholas Nickleby and Martin Chuzzlewit--good, even entertaining, but not his best work.
I agree with you about Evans and her portrayal of Daniel Deronda--i find that i cannot for the life of me understand what she is trying to get at with him, and he seems to be rather too good to be true. Gwendolen is obviously her most detailed portrayal, but not, for me personally, a very sympathetic character.
There is a book I originally read in the early 60s, Opus 21, by Philip Wylie. While it cannot be put in a category with Melville or Dickens, it appealed to me so much that, when an elderly woman gave me her copy a few years ago, I read it again with the same affection. It is told in the first person by the author, a novel in which he is central. With just the weekend to edit a story for a magazine, we follow him almost moment by moment through the tribulation of awaiting the biopsy on a throat growth as he espouses his philosophy on the state of man. His nephew breaks in on him, a young scientist who has just lost his love (a prostitute, it turns out) and feels suicidal). There is Soccer Melton, the new age minister, who knocks at the door and is startled when Wylie invites him in, clad in just his underwear (It's summertime in Miami).
There is a man a restaurant scene in which a boor gets put in his place, Wylie socks a man for humiliating a girl walking on the sidewalk -
He visits an old friend, who happens to be a madam, and they discuss morals in current society, sex in particular.
Quite a full weekend.
I am a fan of Mary Ann Evans....I have several copies of some of the Hougton Miffln 1908 editions. The plates in them are gorgeous, especially Daniel Deronda. My favorite of hers is Middlemarch.
For me as well, I didn't find the heroine very sympothetic and Daniel was a dreamy character. I have often wondered what really was the inspiration behind the novel.