“She had come to the New World, but freedom hadn’t been granted her; freedom was somewhere else, off in the future, in a place and time where she would be strong., when the stuff of her dreams would not be stifled by the world of men.”

Maura O’Connell flees her family, marries and sets sail with her new husband for a better life in America. Conditions in steerage are horrific and her husband becomes one of its many victims. After going through the hell that is immigration at Ellis Island Maura trusts one of the ship’s mates who promises her a job – bad move – she’s sold into prostitution to a notorious gangster. Since she doesn’t take this lying down (pun not intended) she’s forced to *service* the gutter dwellers until she learns to behave and obey orders and then she can move on up to a brothel that serves the a better class of client.

Will Maura succumb to temptation and let handsome and ever-so-wealthy Kevin take care of her? Is she willing to prostitute herself again for a comfortable life? What would you do, take the easy way out or face life in the sweat shops for the meagre sum of $4 a week? Not such an easy decision, is it?

“And worse, far worse, was the secret, tiny longing within her eighteen-year old soul to just give up, drop everything, and let this handsome young man sweep her away, let him take her anywhere he wanted, just so she would no longer have to think.”

I liked this a lot, and a refreshing change from the usual rags-to-riches story one normally finds in this period. Despite the hell Maura goes through, she’s not one to give up. She’s smart enough to know she has to wait for her chance at freedom and play the game to survive in the meantime. This story does have some disturbing moments, and there is some sex, although it is appropriate to the story and is not gratuitous. And despite the cover, this isn’t a bodice ripping romance with a pair of star-crossed lovers, but one about a strong-willed woman with the determination to build a new life on her own, without prostituting herself to any man. Four stars.

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