Gossip forces Maggie O’Grady to flee Ireland with her brother in 1859. She finds a job as a maid in Boston, where she falls in love. Her employer returns her affection until she becomes pregnant; his family will never permit him to wed a Catholic. A henchman uses her wayward brother as leverage to force Maggie to work as a maid in a Gloucester brothel. As time passes, she raises her son and takes on additional duties. It’s not the life she ever imagined, but she accepts it in spite of the folks who look down on her and her son.
His parents want a different life for their son, but Raymond Stevens just wants to be a fisherman. The night he first sees Maggie, tragedy strikes his family. After the boat’s owner attempts to cheat his family, Maggie and her girls help him. Ray and Maggie fall in love, but getting his mother to accept her causes almost insurmountable problems. Then a decision involving Maggie’s son opens old wounds and causes new ones both now and in the future.
This story unfolds over a span of twenty-seven years. Bagshaw artfully weaves an intricate web of life in a fishing village where men risk their lives doing perilous work and women face the harsh realities of survival when their menfolk don’t make it home. In a stunning climax that pits son against father, Bagshaw shows how little things have changed between then and now. His growing up in Gloucester, working in the maritime world, and being a maritime lawyer enrich this tale, transporting readers into the past until they become part of the fabric making up Maggie and Ray’s world.