An unworldly reporter finds danger, romance and professional fulfillment when she probes a baffling murder in New York City’s 1880s red-light district.
It’s not always easy being a society reporter, as Ladies Gazette staffer Amanda Whitney finds during an uncomfortable interview with the proud parents of lovely bride-to-be Jessamyn Spencer. Jessamyn is in attendance but looks distracted and says nothing, except when Amanda overhears a heated argument between Jessamyn and her imperious father Everard. Shortly afterward, Jessamyn is found strangled and clad in her complete wedding ensemble in an alley off the “Ladies’ Mile,” an area frequented by prostitutes. The Gazette doesn’t cover such stories, but Amanda’s empathy for the girl and her reporter’s curiosity cause her to look further, at great risk to her job and personal safety. When Amanda crosses paths with Ross Buchanan, the dashing private detective Everard Spencer has hired, sparks fly. Haviland cuts back and forth between them as they scour the city and form an evolving relationship. Amanda learns of an illegitimate baby Jessamyn had with a stable hand, but it’s not until Ross and Amanda pool their resources that their investigating leads them to a solution that involves blackmail and more victims.
Though Haviland (Fortune’s Daughter, 2000, etc.) sometimes seems more interested in spinning words than keeping up the pace, she creates a compelling heroine and an appealing portrait of a bygone era.