It’s 1883 in cold and dreary Michigan. Lily Young is working as a photographer’s assistant and traveling from lumber camp to lumber camp. While her job is as an assistant her mission goes far beyond just photography. Lily is desperate to find her younger sister, Daisy, who ran away and, Lily believes, found a job in the prostitution trade. No saloon is too small, no hen house too dangerous for Lily to search for her dear sister. She’s vowed to do whatever it takes to find Daisy. Along the way she’s been helping girls escape prostitution. Fiery and brave Lily fights for girls at any cost.
Arriving in the town of Harrison as winter is settling coldly upon Michigan, Oren, the photographer, and Lily have to stay put for awhile. Lily refuses to stay anywhere that doesn’t practice temperance. Her stubbornness and the lack of temperance in the town cause quite a spectacle whereupon our hero of the story, Connell McCormick, enters the scene. Connell finds this headstrong beautiful woman quite intriguing. Wanting to protect her from herself, he finds himself stepping in to rescue her.
Connell was raised with Christian values and is the son of a lumber baron. He’s become quite apathetic and defeated by his father’s constant bullying. His father says the lumber camps must make more money and Connell is in town to figure out how to make that happen. Little by little, he is excusing things that his moral upbringing would never have allowed. When Lily sweeps into town on a mission to do away with all the brothels, Connell has to put a stop to her. No women means no men, and no men means no lumber money.
One particularly evil brothel owner is seducing women to work in his “hotel”. He wields power and wears brass knuckles as a part of his wardrobe. The whole town is scared of him except for Lily. She’s desperate to find Daisy and she’s sure this man knows something. Lily reminds Connell of his morals and his ethics and bids him to join the fight.
What follows is a storyline that will keep you reading well into the night. Fraught with evil, good, love, suspense, and mystery this is a page turner. Hedlund has quickly become one of my favorite authors. Her ability to weave a good tale while teaching history is truly an art craft. I found myself quickly swept up in the story and gasping at each unexpected turn.
However, when all was said and done I took a step back and realized that while I had been wrapped up in the sensationalism of the book it seemed to be missing something…or maybe it had too much of something. It was sensational — in a penny dreadful sense — with over the top plot lines, unrealistic feats, and predictable heroes and heroines. Overall I very much disliked Lily. As a character she was young, legalistic, and obnoxious. I wanted to like her but I couldn’t. She never grew on me. Connell was protective and everything a hero should be which I found to be…..annoying.
We do get insight into the sex trade taking place in the late 1800s. Both heartbreaking and real. For some readers, I fear you will feel a line was crossed as things are described in detail. Hedlund does not handle this particular subject with as much class as one would desire. Perhaps I’m jaded by past reads of Hedlunds that have had both depth and a good plot line. Either way, while not a terrible read in the least, this book had me wishing for more and wishing for less all at the same time.
My thanks to Bethany House Publishers for sending me a free copy of this book in exchange for my real and honest review.
Rated PG-13: Strong sexual references
Review copy provided by the publisher. Thank you!