posted at Monday, March 10th, 2014 at 8:00 AM | Adult, Audiobook Reviews
I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Daring Ladies of Lowell by Kate Alcott
Narrator: Cassandra Campbell
Length: 10 hrs, 39 mins
Published by Random House Audio on February 25, 2014
Genres: Historical, Romance
Amazon • The Book Depository • Audible
From the best-selling author of The Dressmaker comes the warm-hearted and enthralling saga of a bold young woman caught between two worlds-the vibrant camaraderie of factory life and the opulence that a budding romance with the mill owner's son affords-as the murder of her best friend sends shock waves throughout the town.
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.
Alright, I try to resist talking about books by comparing them to other things, but today I simply cannot. See, The Daring Ladies of Lowell reminds me of one of my favorite miniseries (and of the book upon which it is based but which I do not like nearly so well), North & South. Though set in the US rather than England, both center on cotton mills and the working conditions therein and a romance that’s not necessarily looked on favorably by society. Am I thrilled? Why yes, indeed, I am.
Alright, so, to be clear, The Daring Ladies of Lowell doesn’t even read like a retelling of North & South, but there are similarities to be found. Alice Barrow, the heroine certainly has the spirit and determination of Margaret Hale, but not the upbringing. Alice moves to Lowell to escape the drudgery of living on a farm, exchanging it for the glamorous life of a mill girl. Okay, so mill work isn’t remotely glamorous and was in fact quite dangerous, but, hey, it allowed her some small measure of economic freedom.
Alice settles in and makes friends. Though somewhat appalled at the working conditions, particularly the accidents and the fact that people regularly cough up cotton from their lungs, Alice is fairly happy. She’s living independently and the women of her housing unit are a close-knit group. One girl called Lovey is especially delightful, daring and outspoken, and she soon becomes a favorite of Alice’s.
As the blurb says, so don’t yell at me about this, Lovey is found murdered in a field. What’s interesting about this mystery is that pretty much the whole time, Alice is fairly certain she knows who committed the crime, so it’s actually more of a legal drama. Initially, Lovey’s death is dismissed as a suicide, despite plenty of obvious evidence suggesting a struggle. The Daring Ladies of Lowell really delves into the legal difficulties of the time and the paltry rights afforded blue collar laborers.
Running through it all is the budding romance between Alice and Samuel Fiske. Now, I do think the blurb is misleading, because it makes her sound like she was scheming for a wealthy husband, when all she wanted was independence. I love this about Alice. The romance is adorable, partially because of how much it doesn’t sweep the plot away. Both Alice and Samuel do seem to have true feelings for each other, but they still make decisions based on more than just their hearts. Like Sam’s grandma, who is the best, I totally ship it.
Cassandra Campbell’s narration works perfectly for the story. She captures characters without being too over the top, and is very good at different nuances. Listening to the story was great because I find it helps smooth me through the bits that might have bored me somewhat in print. It’s not easy or tempting to skip in an audiobook. :-p
Social reform! Romance! Murder! This book has so much awesomeness. It’s probably for a somewhat patient reader, given that there’s a lot of mill stuff and a trial covered and it’s not the fastest pace, but I think The Daring Ladies of Lowell is fabulous.
Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy: