Sunday, 2 February 2014

Review: The Daring Ladies of Lowell by Kate Alcott

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.

ebook, 304 pages

Expected publication: February 25th 2014 by Doubleday 
Genre: Historical Fiction

Kristine's Thoughts:

* I received an advanced readers copy of this book from Random House Doubleday via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.*

This book is about independence, friendship, love, truth, convictions, equality and so much more. It tells the story of Alice as she makes the brave decision to leave her family farm to work in a cotton mill in order to gain her freedom and independence.

As one of the "mill girls" she becomes part of a tight knit group of girls who work treacherous hours in dangerous and harmful conditions. She develops a close friendship with a girl named Lovey and they spend their evenings talking, laughing and dreaming of the future. Somehow Alice finds she is the voice for the mill workers and is sent to talk to the Fiske family about their concerns. Although her voice seems to go unheard she does find a friend of sorts in the eldest son Samuel. During this visit the unimaginable happens to her dear friend and so begins a series of events that forever change her life.

This story takes place in 1832 and Alcott does a beautiful job at describing the working conditions of that time for these women. You could almost feel the stale, damp air in the mill and taste the cotton in your lungs. Her attention to detail was spectacular in her descriptions of the mill, machines and the town of Lowell.

If I had to critique anything it would be that it is a tiny bit predictable and it would change points of view from Alice to Samuel unexpectedly throughout the pages which confused me at times. I would have to re-read some parts to figure out what was happening.

All in all I really enjoyed reading this book. It's always nice to read about a bunch of strong minded women from a time that I can't even begin to imagine surviving in. Job well done!


About the Author
Kate Alcott, a pseudonym for author Patricia O'Brien, was a newspaper reporter in Chicago and covered politics in Washington, DC. She is a graduate of the University of Oregon, is married, and the mother of four daughters.

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