A Very Modern Marriage (The Ladies of Carson Street)

Written by Rachel Brimble
Review by Susie Helme

On the occasion of Nancy’s wedding, Octavia and Louisa are discussing the future of their brothel on Carson Street.  Meanwhile at his gentlemen’s club in Bath, William Rose discusses with other men the prospects for his textiles business. He is losing business due to not being a family man. To truly succeed in the business world, he must have that token of respectability: he must have a wife.

William visits Octavia at Carson Street, but what is to be the nature of this relationship?  Octavia desires that aura of respectability, too; she yearns to be a ‘woman of business’. She wants to invest her hard-earned (though questionably sourced) earnings in his Manchester mills. She also wants him to teach her the rudiments of business. The two enter into a mutually beneficial arrangement, but was falling in love part of the bargain?

William is disappointed when Octavia doesn’t see his Manchester cotton mills as the havens of happiness he wants them to be. Octavia’s desire to forge a new life and leave the past behind is going to require more than just a ring on her finger and moving to a new city. For a true meeting of the hearts, William needs her to love herself as much as he loves her. All’s well that ends well, and the three ladies of Carson Street look forward to a new future with husbands on their arms.

The characters in this story are credible and likeable, and the love story is interesting. However, the congenial society outlined here is a jolly fantasy. I doubt it reflects the depth of the social opprobrium meted out to whores in Victorian times, the hardships and the dangers they faced, nor the degree to which the whole idea of ‘women in business’ was frowned upon. This is Book 3 of the Ladies of Carson Street.