Debut author Leslie’s sweeping historical romance examines the increasingly complex role of women in marriage, politics and the workplace at the end of the 19th century.
Irish by birth and American by temperament, Margaret Sullivan is a rising star in the Chicago newspaper scene (using male pseudonyms) who’s not afraid of the world of men. In fact, she marries her husband, Alex, not for love or obligation, but as a career move—a way to enter certain social circles. On a solo voyage to Ireland to research the country’s turbulent history, she begins an emotional affair with Michael Davitt, a daring Irish rebel, that skirts the line of propriety. As Michael’s fundraising and boycotting efforts earn him notoriety abroad, Alex rises to prominence in Chicago as the head of the Clan na Gael, a group working closely with the Irish Republican Brotherhood to secure Irish independence. Quick-tempered Alex soon becomes increasingly violent toward Margaret, and she must eventually make a critical choice between Alex, with his powerful but dangerous allies, and the elusive Michael, with his intoxicating charm. Which would be best for Ireland, the land of her ancestors? This well-developed and complex, if slightly soapy, novel uses historical details to create an educational and quite enjoyable read that raises complex themes. For example, Alex doesn’t object to Margaret’s job, yet he—and shockingly, Margaret herself—believes that it’s his right as a husband to dominate her with violence. The modern-day mindset cringes at the thought, but Margaret’s internal conflict between freedom and confinement fuels the plot and adds an additional layer of intrigue. Readers can opt to be carried on waves of romance as Margaret copes with her unhappy marriage while longing for a dashing escape, or they can elect to dive into an examination of her precarious position as a determined woman in a male-centric world.
An appealing examination of a turn-of-the-century woman who valiantly strives for personal and political change.