As she mourns the death of her infant son, Charlotte Edgerton finds the gray skies and gritty poverty of an unfamiliar city almost more painful than she can bear. London in 1846 is far from the gracious society Charlotte and her husband Daniel had imagined. Dark skinned strangers from Britain’s far-flung empire are demanding justice, but the young Queen Victoria and her court seem unwilling to listen. Even worse, Charlotte’s naive brother Tom is being drawn into a radical political group that Charlotte fears will lead him to violence and perhaps death. Meanwhile the city is growing more and more crowded with impoverished immigrants from famine-stricken Ireland. When one of her young Irish friends—a kitchen maid—dies in a tragic fire, Charlotte believes it was no accident. But uncaring policemen scoff at her suspicions and refuse to investigate. Charlotte discovers that she must search for the villain on her own.
In volume 3 of the Charlotte Edgerton Mysteries series, Charlotte and Daniel have left the boisterous streets of New York and moved to London where Daniel takes up a new job on a weekly newspaper. After their adventures in New York City (which you can read about in volume 2 of the series, Death Visits a Bawdy House) they find themselves in a city even more dangerous than the one they left behind.
During these past months while I was finishing this book the U.S. presidential campaign was in full swing. I couldn’t help thinking about how today’s campaign echoed what was happening in London more than a century ago. Some things never change—when famine and war devastate a country, people move on to more prosperous places. But often they find little welcome there. Wealthy men struggle to hold on to their traditional privileges, while working people fear their jobs and way of life will disappear. But all is not doom and gloom even in London. Charlotte Edgerton and her family find new friends and new hope as they struggle for greater justice and freedom in an old country.
To celebrate the publication of this third volume in the Charlotte Edgerton Mysteries series, I will send a free copy of the book to the first three people who write a comment on this blog post. I hope you enjoy the story!
When Charlotte Edgerton moves to New York City from staid Boston in 1843, she finds the crowds on Broadway and the attractions of P.T. Barnum’s new American Museum thrilling. She is young, idealistic, and in love. The future looks bright for herself and her devoted Daniel. But when first one and then another of the glamorous “sporting girls” who work in the city’s famous brothels is murdered, Charlotte becomes aware of the darkness that lurks behind the bright glow of the city.
In a city where abolitionists are not popular and suspicion of free blacks runs high, the arrest of a black man for the crimes stirs high emotions. Charlotte and Daniel discover even police can be prejudiced, politicians are not always honest, and kindness can lead to danger. When a ruthless murderer tricks her into becoming a prisoner, Charlotte must rely on her wits to save herself and a helpless child.
I am happy to announce that my second Charlotte Edgerton Mystery book has been published and is now available in print and Kindle format at Amazon.com. Death Visits a Bawdy House paints a picture of New York City as it was in the years before the Civil War. Young men and women from the country were flooding into the city looking for jobs and trying to build new lives, but often what they found was poverty and corruption.
While I was researching background for this novel, I learned a great deal about life in New York during the tumultuous 1840s. New York was becoming the commercial center of America, but the commerce depended on a supply of cheap labor. Women especially were expected to work long hours as milliners or dressmakers at wages so low they often could not pay for a room in a respectable boarding house. If they took a job as a servant in one of the wealthy houses, they often had to fend off the advances of their employers or other men in the family. No wonder that many young girls envied the prostitutes who strolled up Broadway flaunting their beautiful clothes. Were those women better or worse off than the married women who struggled to take care of their husbands and children in the over-crowded slums of the city? That’s not always an easy question to answer.
I have been surprised to see in the past week or so that the question of whether prostitutes should be treated as criminals, victims, or independent sex workers has come up again in the news. At its world conference this month, Amnesty International, a global human rights organization, passed a resolution proclaiming that Sex Workers Rights Are Human Rights. After two years of studying the issue, Amnesty International has decided to call on governments to decriminalize consensual sex between adults. That’s a radical position and there has been lively discussion and much opposition to this decision. Nothing about the issue is clear cut. I certainly find it difficult to decide what we should do about sex workers. How can we protect women against sex trafficking, but still allow them to choose to be sex workers if they wish? It is fascinating to me that the question that was a lively discussion back in the 1840s is still being debated now.
But we don’t have to spend all of our time debating great issues. Take some time off and read the story about Charlotte and Daniel and their life in New York City—Death Visits a Bawdy House.
The merry month of May has been a bright one for me because my mystery story A Death in Utopia is finally published and available on Amazon.com Two years ago when I started working on the story of Charlotte Edgerton and her life at the Brook Farm Community in 19th century Massachusetts, I wasn’t at all sure that the book would ever see the light of day. Now at last is has!
The impetus that kickstarted my story was the wonderful NaNoWriMo month of November 2012. Those of you who have never heard of National Novel Writing Month may not know of this online meeting place for writers. For those of us who sign up for NaNoWriMo the month of November becomes one long writing workshop. The goal is to write 50,000 words in a month and to help the effort there are group forums, pep talks from successful writers, and general camaraderie along the way. If you’ve ever wanted to write a novel, it’s a great place to make your dreams come true.
Of course one month of heavy-duty writing does not produce a novel. After November ended there was rewriting, editing, sharing drafts with friends and family, finding a book cover artist, and all those other chores that take so much time. I enjoyed every minute of it—well almost every minute. As the story of Charlotte Edgerton and her adventures as an immigrant from England in 1842 built in my mind, it became more vivid and real. I have long admired the real life people who built Utopian communities like Brook Farm in the hopes of finding a truly fulfilling and democratic life for Americans. Imagining the story of what might have happened in that struggling community with so many idealistic, but sometimes impractical, dreamers has been a joy. Now the story is ready for others to read. You will find a few more details on my Death in Utopia page on this blog and the book itself is available on Amazon.com. I hope you take a look.
For the next several weeks I will be posting blogs about some of the historical figures who appear in A Death in Utopia. It’s a gallery of men and women you might want to meet.