In her first novel, Ms. Donnelly enthralls the reader with a gripping tale of love, loss, gut-wrenching heartache and glittering success. The setting is the Whitechapel section of London in 1888, where 17-year-old Fiona Finnegan works long hours packing tea. She and her brother Charlie work hard to help make ends meet, while mother Kate takes in wash, and father Paddy works at the docks. Ever present is the fear of Jack the Ripper, whose merciless killing of prostitutes has dumfounded police and frightened residents of London's East End.

Fiona's eyes remain focused on her dream of marrying her love and best friend, Joe Bristow, and starting their own shop. As better employment takes Joe to a different section of London, misunderstandings cause them to lose touch with one another. In one fell swoop, it seems Fiona loses all she holds dear. Joe is lost to her, tragedy destroys her family life, and she is forced to flee for New York with young brother Seamus.

In the tradition of an epic historical novel, Ms. Donnelly's tale pulls the reader into its emotional depths and refuses to let go. Fiona is a remarkable heroine, remaining true to her principles no matter the cost. (Oct., 560 pp., $24.95)

Reviewed by: 
Sheri Melnick