The Girl Who Came From Rags

Written by Gracie Hart
Review by Elizabeth Hawksley

Leeds, 1869. This book, the third in the series, follows the fortunes of Eliza Wild, once a half-starved child from a mining family, and now the co-owner of a dressmaking business, set up with the help of her wealthy friend, Grace Ellershaw. It’s meant that Eliza has been able to buy a small house and give her sister’s illegitimate daughter, Victoria, a home. Eliza’s sweetheart, Tom Thackeray, is the manager at the Rose Pit, a coal mine supposedly run by Grace’s brother, George, a ne’er-do-well, who refuses to invest in the pumping machinery the pit desperately needs. When old Mr Ellershaw dies, unexpectedly bankrupt, there is a chance for Eliza to buy Rose Pit; but should she buy the pit for Tom, or should she buy out Grace, and keep her dress-making business? Tom wants to marry her, but Eliza knows that she risks everything she has fought for – by law, all the money and property a woman owns becomes her husband’s on her marriage. Parliament is currently debating the Married Woman’s Property Act which would ensure that the pit remained hers. Will Tom wait?

I read this book very happily, but I confess that I found Eliza very much the also-ran in the story. The book opens with Eliza’s elder go-getting and shocking sister, the wealthy Mary-Anne, who now, after her struggles in the previous books, is the mistress of William, the new head of the Ellershaw family, a man she is determined to marry – to the horror of the local wealthy families. Every time the sexy, level-headed, ambitious and slightly repellent Mary-Anne pops up, she grabs the reader’s full attention; what will she do next? It wasn’t until I read the blurb on the book’s back cover that I realised that Eliza was, supposedly, the main protagonist.