Duchess of Fifth Avenue
In 1885, during a rough crossing from Ireland to the United States, Lana Dunleavy made a promise to her best friend, Siobhan Riley, upon the birth of the latter’s son. Should anything happen to Siobhan, Lana would take care of Colin, his father having already revealed his feckless nature. Both women barely scrape by in 19th-century New York City, with Siobhan working as a laundress and Lana as a barmaid, so when Siobhan is killed and her son taken to an orphanage, Lana knows she must change her fortunes to honor her promise to her friend. Enlisting the help of Jesse Jordan, a charming barfly who passes as the Duke of Umberland, she is made over as his cousin, Lady Alana.
Although ostensibly a romance and age-old tale of mistaken identity, Langan most effectively highlights the divisions between the classes, with Lana’s employment as a housemaid hanging on the whim of her employer and her inability to adopt Colin due solely to her circumstances. Granted, both the haves and have-nots are painted with broad, unsubtle strokes, the haves being cruel and superior and the have-nots being the warm, salt-of-the-earth types, but this was a lively, engaging story, and I breathed a sigh of contentment when Lana got the boy and the man (although was there any doubt she wouldn’t?).