Love, family and survival . . .
Life is tough on the cobbled backstreet courtyards of Abbey Street, Warwickshire, in the 1840s: boys are destined for the pit and girls for the mill. Despite this, clever, feisty Maryann is happy there – until her mother dies. Her family collapses, leaving Maryann coping with everything, exhausted and lonely. Especially as Toby, the boy she is set on marrying, insists they wait.
When things are at their bleakest, Maryann is offered a lifeline: a position as nanny to the daughter of the mill owner, Wesley Marshall. Though the house is filled with secrets and heartache, there is kindness, too, and to Maryann’s surprise she grows close to Marshall. But their relationship has not gone unnoticed and it threatens to unleash a world of problems on them all . . .
A warm and captivating story of fighting for love in the face of adversity, from much-loved author Rosie Goodwin.
Received from Netgalley in exchange for a review.
Well I’ll say it for this book: it’s packed full of more soap-opera story lines than you can shake a stick at. Deaths, suicide, lesbianism, romance, brothels, murder, rape, slave labour, extortion……to name but a few.
Maryann finds her family falling apart when her mother dies in childbirth, with some coping better than others. She works down the mill with her father, until circumstances find her out of a job. “Luckily” she has come to the attention of the mill owner, who hires her as the new nanny for his disabled child (reminisces of The Secret Garden, with added heart defects). She is immediately in conflict with Marshall’s sister, who resents her niece and keeps her drugged and tied to the bed – not quite having the nerve to kill the child.
Marshall falls in love with Maryann long before she admits to loving him. There is much to be gone through in the big house, as well as down in the town, where Toby (the man who lives next door) fails to grasp the fact that Maryann is slipping away from him due to his inaction. Meanwhile Toby has his own problems with his younger brother, which results in something deadly for one of them.
The plotting was good, it was well written, and gave a good indication of what life might have been like for those living hand to mouth in cramped conditions, whilst facing a future working in the mill, the pits, on the streets or in the workhouse.
However, I came through it feeling *exhausted*. There is so much packed into this book, it did feel like a soap opera, and it did beg the question of whether some of the sub plot lines could have been dropped.
In the end: good, clean romance, with plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader paying attention