In the Company of Secrets
After kitchen maid Olivia Mott, employed by the Earl and Countess of Lanshire, is sexually menaced by the famed Chef Mallard, she suddenly finds herself bound for Pullman, Illinois, in the company of Lady Charlotte, her employers’ spoiled daughter. Charlotte has her own urgent reasons for wanting to travel to America, where she supplies Olivia with a forged recommendation that allows Olivia to find work as an assistant chef at the grand Pullman Hotel—and that threatens to ensnare Olivia in a web of lies.
Olivia, the competing suitors she soon finds, and her other new acquaintances are well drawn, convincingly flawed characters. I did, however, find it jarring that fresh from her lowly position at Lanshire Hall, Olivia is every bit as well spoken as Lady Charlotte. Moreover, she would surely not use words like “missive” and “plethora” in ordinary conversation.
This aside, Miller paints an interesting picture of an 1890s “company town” where spies abound and few secrets are safe. This book is the first of a planned series set in Pullman; I’m looking forward to seeing how Olivia and her fellow characters develop.