About The Book
Title: Bowery Girl
Author: Kim Taylor Blakemore
Genre: Women’s Historical Fiction
From WILLA Award winning author Kim Taylor Blakemore…
“…inspiring and poignant historical fiction novel that will engage readers that are looking for an insightful, yet entertaining read. ” 5/5 stars, Luxury Reader
“lends credence to the millions of historical and contemporary girls who dare to dream in the face of extraordinary challenges.” – Starred Review, Kirkus
“Gang violence, raucous carousing, sex, accidental pregnancy, and crime–not what most will expect from Victorian-era historical fiction. But that’s exactly what they’ll find in this tightly plotted novel…” – Booklist
NEW YORK, 1883: Gamblers and thieves, immigrants and street urchins, Do-Gooders and charity houses, impossible goals and impossible odds. The Bowery is a place where you own nothing but your dreams. And dreams are the only things that come cheap for pickpocket Mollie Flynn and prostitute Annabelle Lee.
Pleasure is fleeting – and often stolen. Nights at Lefty Malone’s saloon, sneaking into the Thalia Theatre. Then it’s back to their airless, windowless tenement room and the ongoing struggle to keep a roof over their heads and bread in their stomachs.
The Brooklyn Bridge is nearing completion, and things are changing in New York City. The two women fantasize of starting a new life across the East River. Nothing but a flight of fancy, perhaps, until wealthy Do-Gooder Emmeline DuPre, who has opened the Cherry Street Settlement House, steps into their lives with her books, typewriters, and promises of a way to earn a respectable living. Despite Mollie and Annabelle’s fascination with the woman and what she offers, is Emmeline helping or meddling?
Is it really possible to be anything other than a Bowery Girl? Mollie and Annabelle will have to decide exactly who they are, and what sort of women they want to be.
Kim Taylor Blakemore writes women’s historical fiction and romance that explore women’s lives and brings their struggles and triumphs out of the shadows of history and onto the canvas of our American past.
She is the author of the novels Bowery Girl, and Cissy Funk, winner of the WILLA Literary Award for Best Young Adult Fiction. Her interactive historical romances The Very Thought of You and It Don’t Mean a Thing, are out now on Kindle and SilkWords.com.
Her current novel, Under the Pale Moon, is due for release in Fall 2015. Set in post-World War II Monterey, California, it explores the relationship of a married woman breaking the bonds of conformity, and a combat nurse haunted by the ghosts of war.
She is a member of the Historical Novel Society, Women Writing the West and Romance Writers of America.
Bowery Girl (Amazon): http://amzn.to/1EVyoxs
DOWN THE STREET STRODE a young woman, who could have been anywhere between thirteen and twenty. She didn’t know her own age, so she had decided on sixteen. She was not pretty, nor was she plain. Her hair was brown, not dirty and not clean, and she kept it in a loose bun. Her eyebrows were dark and full, and from beneath them, her winter-gray eyes missed nothing. A matchstick hung from the corner of her mouth, and every so often she shifted it to the other side, then back again to its original spot. She had been told by several do-gooders at several charity houses that this was a reprehensible habit, which was why she never stopped doing it.
Her dress was neither this year’s fashion nor the last; it was patched in places, and frayed along the bottom. The material was coarse brown cotton, solid and indifferent. With each step, the young woman, whose name was Mollie Flynn, admired the black sheen of her new boots. Mollie was quite proud of them. She’d pinched them a week earlier from Friedrich’s Secondhand Shop on Chambers Street. They were bright as black could be, and she polished them every night to keep them so.
An Elevated train rattled above, drowning out the rat-a-tat from the shooting gallery, the shouts of drivers as they jockeyed their carts and horses for a bit of space, the competing songs of violins and out-of-tune pianos floating from saloon doorways.
She walked by an old woman in an alcove, selling buttons she’d probably picked out of trash bins. Another woman trundled slowly past, a huge pile of fabric balanced on her head. Two boys played hoops and sticks, laughing and shouting to each other. The boys’ laughter, the woman’s determined footfall, the call to buy buttons, the wheedling song of pullers-in trying to tempt passersby into the billiard room, the dancehall, the used-jewelry store, the pawnshop—the rhythm made Mollie dizzy.
At Maud Riley’s vegetable stand, a tall man bargained over a rather measly cabbage. He nodded, a deal struck, then fumbled in the inside pocket of his coat for his wallet. Maud wrapped two cabbages and a few potatoes in newspaper and pulled a bit of twine tight.
Mollie sucked a bit on her matchstick and narrowed her eyes. She wasn’t looking at Maud Riley’s slaughter of a poor cabbage. She was watching the man’s wallet, which flapped open, hung about, and generally looked like it was going to jump right out of his incompetent fingers.
Now that, Mollie thought, would be the easiest wallet to pinch in the world.
At the new and rapidly expanding Cherry Street Settlement House, one was not allowed to exit the door through which one came. No, Mollie and Annabelle, who had come only for baths, were forced to trot by shining new classrooms, wherein sat women learning English (“How Do You Do?”) and politics (“What Makes a Republican?”) and proper raising of children (“Never Let the Child Rule”). The board near the exit was filled with many pieces of paper, offering lectures and classes on everything from the question of “the women’s vote” to typewriting.
“Anything of interest?” There was a rustle of silk behind them. The woman who spoke was not much taller than Mollie. Her eyes were light blue and sharp behind her glasses.
The Do-Gooder. Miss DuPre. The rich bitch who had apparently just fired all the under matrons upstairs. One of those odd ones, with money and a college education, hell-bent on changing “the Poor.”
“I’d be interested in knowing where we’re gonna take baths,” Mollie said, “now that you’ve removed them all.”
“Just making room. As you can see from the board, we’re adding classes. Sewing, reading, mathematics, typewriting, morals, housekeeping.”
“I know cleanliness is next to godliness, but typewriting?”
“You teach reading?” Annabelle asked.
“And we have a board for jobs.”
“We’ve got jobs, thank you,” Mollie said. “I’m a thief and she’s a whore. We could teach classes if you like.”
The Do-Gooder frowned. “I thought you were an opium runner.”
“Isn’t that what you said last week?”
“I did?” Mollie shrugged. “Change in career.”
“Are you a good thief?”
“Not too bad, if I do say so myself.”
The woman looked as if she might laugh, but then her gaze flicked over Annabelle’s stomach. She pulled a flyer from the board and offered it to Annabelle.
Mollie grabbed the paper. Annabelle grabbed the other end. “If you give it to me, I’ll read it to you.”
“If you come here,” the woman said to Annabelle, “you can read it yourself.”
On the way home, Annabelle stopped in the middle of the sidewalk. “I want to learn to read.”
“I want a better life. If I learn to read, maybe, just maybe—”
“So I’ll teach ya. You want to be preached at all day by some do-gooder? Reading? Christ, Annabelle, what’s happened to you?”
“I ain’t going to jail again.” She squeezed the bridge of her nose; her cheeks flushed pink.
“Aw, you gonna cry? You don’t gotta go to jail again. Look, it’s all right. We’re gonna go meet the boys and have fun and everything’s gonna be the way it was, all right?”
“But it’s not the way it—”
“I know already. I know.”