I have not long finished reading this piece of historical fiction, set in the “company town” of Pullman Illinois in the mid 1800’s. English kitchen maid Olivia wanting to escape the frightening amorous advances of Lanshire Hall’s chef, being duped by the spoilt/selfish Lady Charlotte she find herself on her way to the America’s little knowing the lies upon which she will be forced to build her new life.
Lady Charlotte neglected to mention that she was pregnant, by the handsome wealthy Mr Randolph Morgan and her rosy romantic idea was to seek him out, declare herself, they would be married and live perfectly. Charlotte also forgot to say that the jewels Olivia had sold for her to fund their trip were in fact the Countess’s, but Charlotte merely viewed this as using her inheritance a little early.
Arriving in Pullman, a town where the Pullman Palace Cars are made, where everything is governed by the company, more lies are needed, a forged letter of reference so Olivia can find work in the palatial hotel as Chef’s Assistant [a job for which she is under educated and under knowledgeable]. That Charlotte is a young widow, expecting her dead husband child. When it is discovered that Mr Morgan is already married with an aristocratic wife and several children Charlotte spirals into spite and selfishness, totally inconsiderate of how their position is, not realising that one wrong word they would be homeless, without work, without funds and not a soul to turn to.
Olivia meets and befriends her cousins landlady, whose son Fred in enamoured of this english rose and sets to court her, but he has a rival, a dangerous powerful one. Mr Samuel Howard the Town Manager subtly uses his position to cause problems, Olivia’s cousin gains a promotion but her beau Fred gets moved to permanent night shifts. Mr Howard appears and engineers ways to be with Olivia, but she does not want his attentions, but how do you let down the man who controls everything in your [and your friends] world? When Olivia has to move and he organises for her to take a room in the house next to his, in the affluent sophisticated area of town, she feels even more trapped by him and further away from her friends.
As she confesses her lists of lies she can but hope that Fred, his Mother and Samuel will understand and forgive her, but at what cost and consequence.
The book was a comfortable read, over some of the story lines it labours and with others it quickly skips [like when Charlotte decides to up and leave]. As to the ending, well it didn’t really end, it just stopped, so many questions unanswered so many issues unresolved.
This book is the first in the Pullman series, I might consider trying book 2 especialy if it is free or just a few pence for the kindle version, but it is not a book I would invest funds in as i am unlikely to want to reread it, as entertaining as it was.