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.
- Alice Barrow is determined to be self-sufficient. A year after her mother's death, she leaves the family farm to travel to the Lowell factory to be a Lowell Mill Girl - a classy, hard working city girl who makes her own wages and is independent. Once at the factory she is thrown into a world full of difficult work, hazardous conditions, and a wonderful group of women whose friendship is the key to making it through the day. Although the hours are long, the rules are strict, and the women come from a variety of backgrounds, they have one important thing in common ... they all need the job.
Alice is truthful, brave, and remains dignified in the face of controversy. It is at one of these moments, when questioned by the Vice President on the dangerous working conditions of the mill, that she first catches the eye of Samuel Fiske. The eldest son of the Fiske family and heir to the family fortune, Samuel is intelligent, handsome, and lives in a drastically different world than the mill girls. His father rules industry with an iron first where money and family loyalty trumps all. In an era where whispers of reform drift on the breeze and civil unrest is growing, a romance between a Fiske heir and a mill girl blooms amiss the chaos.
Upon starting at the mill, Alice is quickly befriended by Lovey, a more seasoned and slightly out spoken mill girl. Lovey is full of adventure, spirit, and kindness. She is first to aid the other girls at the mill when danger strikes. However, when the danger turns towards Lovey, she is not so lucky. As news of her death rocks the already unstable mill world, Alice and Samuel quickly find themselves at odds when each must protect their own. Alice seeks justice for the life of her friend and safety for the women she works with, and Samuel is pressured to support his family.
What follows is a heart stopping trial, where love, life, and justice are on the line.
Kate Alcott has a talent for writing characters with depth and conviction. The characters in this novel have honorable strengths and realistic struggles.
Cassandra Campbel does a beautiful job narrating the novel. Her voice is soothing and brings the reader on a journey back in time to the 1800s where the story takes place. She gives Alice a voice and a persona that is fits her written description beautifully. Campbel has a talent for seamlessly switching between characters making the novel easy to listen to. Her voice adds strength to the passions of the mill workers searching for justice and reflects sorrow at the tragedies they face. Campbel's narration is a strong addition to a beautifully written novel.
For readers who prefer a fast paced, hot and steamy novel, this will not satisfy. For those more interested in historical and clean romance novels, this is a nicely written story. I tend to prefer somewhere in the middle and found the book interesting, although a bit slow at times. The ending was well suited to the style of the novel, but I personally would have preferred more resolution with less left to the imagination. This is a story you can share with your mom, and not one that will leave you up at night dreamy of a dark and dangerous hero. The part I found most interesting was actually the author's note at the end that many of the events - including the murder and trial - were based on a true story. While the actual characters of Alice and Samuel are purely fictional, the tragedy surrounding Lovey was true and adds some credence to the novel. Overall a good read, but not a favorite.