Friday, June 6, 2014

Review: The Daring Ladies of Lowell

The Daring Ladies of Lowell
by Kate Alcott

Why did you choose this book? I enjoyed The Dressmaker by the same author
When did you read this book? April 2014
Who should read this book? readers of historical romance
Source: library ebook
Here is a synopsis of Daring Ladies of Lowell  from Goodreads

From the best-selling author of The Dressmaker comes the warm-hearted and enthralling saga of a bold young woman caught between two worlds-the vibrant camaraderie of factory life and the opulence that a budding romance with the mill owner's son affords-as the murder of her best friend sends shock waves throughout the town.

Determined to forge her own destiny, Alice Barrow joins the legions of spirited young women better known as the Mill Girls. From dawn until dusk, these ladies work the looms, but the thrill of independence, change in their pockets, and friendships formed along the way mostly make the backbreaking labor worthwhile. In fact, Hiram Fiske, the steely-eyed titan of industry, has banked on that. But the working conditions are becoming increasingly dangerous and after one too many accidents, Alice finds herself unexpectedly acting as an emissary to address the factory workers' mounting list of grievances.

After traveling to the Fiske family's Beacon Hill mansion, Alice enters a world she's never even dared to dream about: exquisite silk gowns, sumptuous dinners, grand sitting parlors, and uniformed maids operating with an invisible efficiency. Of course, there's also a chilliness in the air as Alice presents her case. But with her wide, intelligent eyes and rosy-hued cheeks, Alice manages to capture the attention of Hiram's eldest son, the handsome and reserved Samuel Fiske.

Their chemistry is undeniable, soon progressing from mutual respect and shy flirtation into an unforgettable romance. But when Alice's best friend, Lovey, is found strangled in a field, Alice and Samuel are torn between loyalty to "their kind" and a chance for true love.

My Review

This was a fascinating story; a little bit romance, a little bit murder-mystery, and a whole lot of history! I first picked it up because I’d read the author’s previous book, The Dressmaker. And of course, I like the cover! But when I read the synopsis I knew I wanted to put it high on my TBR pile!

I enjoyed reading about the Mill girls and that period of our history, when women were first entering the work force, and the challenges they faced. They didn’t make a lot of money, and working conditions could be very dangerous, but for many, it was a better situation than they’d had before. The history of how the mills were developed and about the labor strife as workers sought better conditions was interesting, and eye-opening when you compare are the regulations in place to protect worker safety today.

A major part of the book is devoted to the death of Alice’s friend, Lovey, whoe is found hanged. This based on a true event, the murder of Sarah Cornell, and subsequent murder trial of a Methodist minister, Ephraim Avery. This was ‘the crime of the century’ at the time it took place and got a lot of attention because the mill owners did not want the bad publicity. They feared if people considered the young women vunerable, parents would no longer allow their daughters to seek employment at the mills. If this aspect of the story interests you, I found a couple of good articles about the event.
Methodists vs Millgirls in the Murder Trial of the Century at the New England Historical Society

One part of the book that fell a little flat for me was the romance between Alice, a mill girl, and Samuel, the son and heir apparent of the mill owner. It just felt a little too contrived, with Samuel immediately being taken by Alice and his family shocked, except for his grandmother. I was also disappointed that the grandmother, as strongly as she seemd to feel Samuel was right to pursue this relationship, did not confront her son, Samuel’s father, and make her feelings known. After all, she was by rights, the family matriarch, but treated by the family as a worn-out simpleton; a non-entity.

While I feel the book would have been stronger had the romance been omitted, I did enjoy this book. If you enjoy history and crime stories, this is definitely one you will want to check out!

My Rating:  ★★★1/2   3-1/2 Stars

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