It’s 1864 in downtrodden Lowell, Massachusetts. The Civil War has taken its toll on the town—leaving the economy in ruin and its women in dire straits. That is, until Asa Mercer arrives on a peculiar, but providential, errand: he seeks high-minded women who can exert an elevating influence in Seattle, where there are ten men for every woman. Mail-order brides, yes, but of a certain caliber.
Schoolmarmish Josephine, tough-as-nails Dovey, and pious perfectionist Sophronia see their chance to exchange their bleak prospects for new lives. But the very troubles that sent them running from Lowell follow them to the muddy streets of Seattle, and the friendships forged on the cross-country trek are tested at every turn.
Just when the journey seems to lead only to ruin, an encounter with a famous suffragist could be their salvation. But to survive both an untamed new landscape and their pasts, they’ll need all their strength—and one another.
Recived this book for review from netgally and the publisher in exchange for an honest review this has in now way affected my opinion
This is historical fiction based on actual events, and so it provides an interesting glimpse into US history and women’s rights. The settling of the west, the difficulties of travel, and social conventions are all extremely well portrayed throughout the book.
I found the characters fascinating. We have three very different women fleeing from one end of the country to the other, each for unique, personal reasons. Their ideals conflict and they have their secrets, yet they become close friends. This first part of the story, as they came together in the westward journey, was, for me, the most compelling part of the story.
Once the women arrive in Seattle, I thought the pace slowed and the story lost some of its zest. The women go their separate ways, in interests and goals rather than in distance, and we lose much of the bond that drove the first part of the book. We also have a lot of detail on life in the early west. No doubt the author knows her history and did a lot of research, but the bits and pieces of each woman’s life felt too disconnected.
Then the last part of the story completely shifts gears, almost as if it’s a different book. We skip ahead seven years and get heavy into the Suffragist movement. The three women do come back together in this, and we see their growth and how this changes them. But the jump ahead in time and the expansive material is a major jolt after the slow pace and narrow time frame of the rest of the book.
For my taste, the story was perhaps a little overreaching in its content. That being said, this book does offer a compelling look at life for women back in the mid to late 1800s.